The Wizard of Oz

Interview with Aviva Tulley who plays Dorothy

What can audiences expect when they come see this version of The Wizard of Oz?
They can expect a fun, jolly and positive night out. The Wizard of Oz is an extremely exciting and vibrant show, with lots of spectacle. It’s a classic musical that everyone can enjoy.

What made you say yes to it?
Who wouldn’t want to play Dorothy? She is such a well-known and iconic character. Loads of people know Dorothy. I watched the Over the Rainbow TV series, the competition to find a Dorothy for the 2011 West End production, and I remember just loving it. Getting to play Dorothy myself now is a dream come true.

How would you describe her as she’s portrayed in the show?
She’s a strong, confident character. I guess you could also say that she’s strange but that’s because she’s different from her friends and family in Kansas. She stands out. She’s such a strong female character, which is beautiful to see.

Can you relate to her in any way?
I’ve always considered myself to be independent ever since I was young. I have always done things myself, my way, and I’ve always made a plan for myself, known what I wanted to do and then just implemented it. I’ve always been driven. Dorothy’s very driven and so am I.

Do you see her as a role model for young people in general and young girls in particular?
For sure. Because she’s strong and youthful, kids will look at her and go: ‘I can be that person too. I can be strong, independent and goal driven.’ And I do I think that’s what she is. She’s very goal-driven, for example, her desire to get home whatever it takes.

What challenges does the show present to you as a performer?
I’ve never been in a show before where I’ve hardly left the stage. Usually, you get a little break but with Dorothy there’s no break. You have to be in it and on it the whole time. Also, it’s such a well-known and much-loved show and she’s a well-known and much-loved character. I have to do it, and her, justice by being the best I can be. Hopefully people will like it and that they like what I bring to it. I didn’t get to see the show at the Palladium recently and I never saw Danielle Hope when she did it back in 2011, so it’s very much my own take on the character. It’s about showing her strength but making it seem natural, not forced.

Is there a song in it that you especially like singing?
Of course, it has to be Over The Rainbow. I’ve been singing that song my whole life so to actually do it on a stage in front of everyone is amazing. I also love the first time we sing Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead in Act One because that’s when you discover the Munchkins for the first time. And I have a little dance in there too, which is nice.

Can you recall when you first encountered The Wizard of Oz?
My mum had the video of the film with Judy Garland in it and I loved it. Loads of people say they were scared when they saw it as kids, but I wasn’t scared, I was just enthralled. I loved it from beginning to end and Judy Garland did such a beautiful job.

Why do you think it’s such an enduring story? And do you agree that there’s no place like home?
It’s a classic story and a timeless fantasy. It’s a bit like Friends in that it’s so relatable. Each character has their own story. And is there no place like home? There isn’t. I think home humbles you. Some people can leave home, discover new things and then they forget their base. Being an actress, travelling or touring is a very magical experience but then when I go home my family keep it very real. It’s like they take me back to who I really am. Home is where you are your true, authentic self.

What first led you into acting as a career?
I’m quite a shy person. I did a drama class when I was 12 and I remember reading a monologue and it really just took me out of my comfort zone. I was somebody else for those five minutes and that was my kind of escape from being reserved and shy. People always say when I’m on stage that I shine. You can be anything on stage and that really appealed to me. It’s the same with singing. It’s very therapeutic for me. And I always go for strong characters because it’s very contrasting to who I am. Well, I’m strong but I’m reserved and shy with it.

You were in Once On This Island at Southwark Playhouse. How was that experience?
I was 19 at the time and I think it was only for 30 days; it was a very short run. But it gave me a taste of what the industry is like – the audition process, the rehearsal process and then actually doing it. I didn’t play the lead but it’s such a beautiful show.

It must have been great fun doing the Book of Mormon tour?
It was amazing. I trained at The Brit School and the Arts Educational School, which are both in London, and I didn’t go to university, so I’d never left home before. I was 21 and I was thrown into The Book of Mormon. [Laughs] It definitely took me out of my comfort zone, but it was a fantastic experience.

You also did Roles We’ll Never Play at the Turbine Theatre. Apart from Dorothy, are there any roles you’d love to play in the future?
I’d love to be Eliza in Hamilton. I’d love to be in Les Miserables. And I’d love to play Ti Moune, who is the lead in Once on This Island. Like Dorothy she’s a very strong character, so I’d love to sink my teeth into that role.

What are you most looking forward to about taking The Wizard of Oz around the country?
When you’re in the West End, only people who live in London or can travel in get to see it. It’s a really nice thing to take theatre to other people around the country. And it’s nice to introduce kids to live theatre. I remember seeing my first ever theatre show, which was Matilda, and I was like ‘Oh my God, that’s what I want to do’. The fact that there’s kids who will come and watch the show and go ‘This is the path I want to go down’ is magical. I really hope that’s what happens. I hope they come and are inspired to follow their dreams.

Are there any stops on the tour that are dear to your heart?
My grandma lives in Nottingham and my mum is from there. I’ve been going to Nottingham every summer and every Christmas for as long as I can remember. It’s my second home. I took The Book of Mormon there and my grandma came to watch it. It was so amazing that she got to see me in a show and hopefully she’ll be coming along again, and I have loads of family members in Nottingham that can also come down and watch the show. My home base is London, so I can get friends and family to come to Wimbledon to see it. It’ll be my birthday when we’re in Belfast and I’ve never been there before, so that will be nice. I’m also really looking forward to visiting Birmingham. I hear it’s a huge city with so much to see and do.

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