Two childhood best friends have landed the same starring role in one of the world’s biggest musicals.
Megan Gardiner and Caitlin Anderson are both playing Nessarose in Wicked – Caitlin in the London West End version and Megan in the UK touring production.
The pair used to sing songs from the Broadway musical together in their bedrooms while growing up in Dunfermline, so can’t quite believe they are both now part of the smash-hit show (which is based on the witches from The Wizard Of Oz) at the same time.
Megan said: “We met when we were 13 or 14 at CYT, a youth theatre group in Dunfermline, and we’ve been really close ever since. We loved Wicked and used to sit in Caitlin’s bedroom singing the songs together and at family parties.”
Caitlin said: “One of my favourite memories took place in Megan’s kitchen at her brother’s 18th birthday party where, in front of her whole family, we performed What Is This Feeling? from start to finish.”
The pair trained at the MGA Academy of Performing Arts in Edinburgh and both now live in London.
Caitlin continued: “We’re so blessed to be able to share this experience, but we have always joked that our lives are synced!
“When I found out I had been offered the role of Nessarose in the West End production, Megan was the first person I told after my parents, and as she was starting rehearsals for a show in London just a month before I was, we moved from Scotland together.”
Wicked has become a global phenomenon since it started on Broadway 20 years ago. It has won more than 100 awards and has been seen by 65 million people worldwide. A two-part big-screen version will be released in cinemas in November 2024 and November 2025.
Megan said: “When I got the call from my agent to tell me I’d got the Wicked job, I was on my way into the theatre in London to see Caitlin perform as Nessarose. So I watched the show and cheered Caitlin on while being so excited.
“Caitlin has been in the role for a year and is staying on for another year, so we’re doing the role at the same time. We can’t believe it – it’s a really crazy and extremely rare thing to happen.”
Caitlin, who hopes to see Megan as Nessarose when the tour stops a little closer to London, has some advice for her best pal.
“Nessarose is such a layered and complicated character and is such a joy to play. My advice to Megan is to live as her in your own way.”
‘Seeing my name in lights is Wicked’
Growing up in Fife, Megan Gardiner would often make the journey over the bridge to see shows at Edinburgh Playhouse.
So, it’s a surreal feeling, she says, to see her face on posters outside the venue as she prepares to make her debut on the theatre’s vast stage.
She is playing Nessarose in the latest UK touring production of blockbuster musical Wicked, which opens in the capital this week.
“Every time I walk past the theatre, I see my face up there on the front and it feels weird but amazing,” Megan smiled. “I’ve never performed at the Playhouse before but growing up I saw lots of different shows on tour here.
“I’ve been in the auditorium many, many times but I’ve never been on the stage until now. Looking out into the seats, it gives me goosebumps.”
Megan, who trained to be an actor in Edinburgh, said she has wanted to be in the business since she was a little girl.
“I’ve always loved music and always had a connection with it. When I was younger, I used to go and watch my brother perform in musicals. He was part of a youth theatre group but I was too young to join at the time.
“I remember very clearly going up to my mum in the theatre one day and asking her if people get paid to do this and if it could be a job.
“My mum said ‘of course’, so I knew from that moment it was what I wanted to do.”
Wicked runs at the Playhouse until the middle of January, meaning Megan – who lives in London – can spend Christmas and New Year at home with her family.
“It’s so rare to be so close to home for Christmas,” she said. “I’ve been on tour before and can remember being in Dublin one Christmas. We always get Christmas Day off, but normally we’re not near to family and friends.
“My parents live not far from the city, so it’s just great. My brother is in a panto in Portobello over Christmas, so it’s a busy time for the family but brilliant that we’re all close to home.
“I’ve had lots of people messaging me to say they are coming to the Playhouse to see the show, so it’s very exciting.”
Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman’s celebrated stage musical, based on the novel by Gregory Maguire, imagines a backstory and future possibilities for the lives of L Frank Baum’s beloved characters from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, revealing the decisions and events that shape the destinies of two unlikely university friends – Glinda and Elphaba – on their journey to becoming Glinda The Good and the Wicked Witch of the West.
The blonde and very popular Glinda and misunderstood green girl Elphaba begin an unlikely but profound friendship as sorcery students at Shiz University, but following an encounter with The Wizard, their friendship reaches a crossroads and their lives take very different paths.
Nessarose is Elphaba’s younger sister. Megan said: “Nessa has a lovely journey throughout the show.
“The story takes her through a journey from her dad treating her very well and her being very privileged, to then all of a sudden she doesn’t get what she wants and it’s about her navigating how to deal with that.”
The Tony Award-winning show premiered on Broadway in October 2003 and has now played more than 7,500 performances. It is the fourth longest-running production in Broadway history. In London, it premiered in 2006 and has played more than 6,500 performances at the Apollo Victoria Theatre.
This is Wicked’s third UK tour, having previously toured from 2013-15 and 2017-19.
Wicked’s UK tour opens at Edinburgh Playhouse on Thursday and runs until January 14
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