Evie spoke to Alexia Khadime about Scott Alan’s music, Wicked, Diversity, and how the performance industry could make changes to benefit those in it.
Can you explain what this Song Cycle is?
It’s a collection of songs that Scott Alan wrote over a period of time. He’s brought them together to create a show. He’s telling the story of six individuals combatting, juggling and struggling through life, essentially.
Scott’s very big on showcasing topics like mental health, isn’t he?
He’s amazing at showcasing it. I sat and cried for about 15 minutes at one of the songs I’m currently learning because it evoked so much emotion in me. His lyric choices are so honest and raw, which is hard to get nowadays. Writing is too much about “does this rhyme with this” or “is this catchy enough”, but his writing is from his heart and his melodies are so passionate.
You’ve worked with Scott before haven’t you?
I’ve done two or three concerts with him. But I’m not singing any songs of his that I’ve previously sung. They’re all different styles with really different essences. Every single song I sing I love. With Scott’s work, you really do get a lump in your throat and the journey he gives characters are lovely.
Is Scott going to be involved in the rehearsal process?
Yes! And it’ll be the longest we’ve ever worked together.
If he’s bringing all his work together, it makes sense that he’s part of the actual direction!
Absolutely. He knows where everything organically came from and he knows the characters and the story so well. His input is going to be super important.
What’s your character like? Is she like you in any way?
She’s very different to me in some respects. She has a girlfriend who she ends up leaving. She holds onto that heart ache, but she does have a breakthrough. She also has depression but comes out the other end. She realises that she shouldn’t let her past hold back her future.
I connect because we all have moments where things have knocked us down. It may not be love, it could be anything. In those cases, you do feel like you can’t go on. It can be quite a big deal to get out of that mindset, so in that way I do relate to her.
Are the styles you’re singing in your comfort zone?
I love singing all types of music. The things I’ve done with Scott in the past have been edging towards ‘soul’ whereas now its broken up with a country and soft rock element. To be honest, some songs have more of a Musical Theatre feel, some more classical. It’s so nice because you don’t usually get such a mix of styles in a show. It gives it light and shade and the different feels of the music showcase specific moments and emotions in a character’s life.
It’s also nice to show people all the different genres you can do. It can get a bit stagnant when you’re doing the same style every time.
Do you have a favourite moment in the show?
Everyone has a solo but there are also duets and group numbers. My favourite moments are almost always with people though.
The cast is phenomenal, which doesn’t surprise anyone really. It’s only fair to showcase Scott’s work with the best of the best in Musical Theatre.
100%. It’s always fun when you’re around that pool of talent and energy. Scott’s talent in writing pulls that from you. We all got so excited and were chatting like, “oooo the scripts are here!”
Can you tell us a bit about your journey within the industry and how you got to where you are now?
I didn’t go to drama school – scary! I did drama classes when I was in school, but it was just for fun. I never really thought I would be an actress or a singer. Because I’d done those classes, I got an agent which was so lucky. Whilst I was at school I did TV and later on I started auditioning. I got The Lion King and after that things just started happening! I quite like that this industry picked me.
You did The Lion King when you were really young didn’t you?
Surely after doing a show of that calibre at that age you’d never want to go back to ‘real life’ afterwards?
I honestly thought I would go back to real life afterwards. It was only when I went back to The Lion King for the second time that I thought it could be a real career. It’s a super interesting one. As advice for anyone in drama school, I’d say it’s important to sharpen your tools. You have talent and that’s one thing, but you can’t rely on what your mama gave you. You have to keep it ticking over. The great actress; Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Viola Davis, they’re still learning and going to classes. It’s important to keep it fresh. Practice is important!
Can we talk about your role in Wicked? It still baffles me that to this day, you’re the only black woman to have played Elphaba full time.
Yes. There still needs to be a lot more diversity in casting. That’s what I think makes Hamilton so beautiful. The three sisters being from different parts of the globe is a perfect example of colour blind casting because they’re being picked for their talent and not their looks.
There’s going to be pieces that want specifically black people, or Asian people, or Caucasian people because of the setting. But, when you’re in Oz why does race matter? There should be a rainbow on stage. Look at The Lion King… the racial diversity was something I loved. When you look on stage there are people from Brazil, China, Japan, the West Indies, Australia. People seem to think it’s predominantly black people but it’s actually not. It’s black, white, Asian, everything! Audiences need to be able to identify with the people they’re watching.
I had people write to me when I was in Wicked saying that I inspired them and showed them that there was a place for them in the field. It’s so good but it’s also sad that they felt like they didn’t have a place beforehand. We need to see more of it because there is room for everyone and talent shouldn’t stop at race. It also means you can learn from each-others cultures which is beautiful.
You’ve toured, and you’ve been in the West End. If someone gave you the choice of a show in town or touring, which would you prefer?
In town. Easy. I’m going to be completely honest, I don’t like touring that much. That life isn’t for everyone. I’d love to see better things happening when it comes to cast members being looked after on the road. Like where you’re living, for example. You want to feel comfortable and it would be really nice to see positive changes. There are still horror stories that go on, sadly. When it comes to America and pay we could really afford to take a page out of their book. If the pay was better, performers would be a lot happier! Or mothers who can’t juggle long contracts and having kids.
The Matinee Club have just started child care on two show days for performers with kids.
Oh, that’s brilliant! They also need to do more role sharing. Six-month contracts or sharing performances per week with other mothers would be such a good idea.
I think sometimes we forget that performers are also humans.
We’re moving slowly but definitely in the right direction!
Where will we be seeing you after this show at the cockpit?
I’ve been going a real mixture of stuff. Some voiceover work and I did a commercial. I’ve been shaking it up and I love doing a bit of everything.
Why should come and see The Distance You Have Come?
Scott Alan writing really gets you in the heart. There’s something everyone can relate to. Other than the pool of talent on stage of course, his writing reaches out to everyone.