With the hit musical Wicked arriving in Auckland this month, actor Jay Laga’aia has many reasons to celebrate before the curtain even goes up.
The Auckland-born, Aussie-based actor, who became a household name thanks to parts on Water Rats and Home and Away, turns 50 this week – and hopes he can bring over most of his eight kids to see him play the Wizard of Oz.
“It’s so wonderful coming home with Wicked and bringing this show to my home turf for the first time.
“Sometimes, for me, it feels like I do a job just to be able to afford my kids to come and see it,” says the father of Jeremy (29), Matthew (21), Iosefa (14), Jessica (13), Tana (12), Georgia Rose (8), Katie (6) and Bella (3).
Jay, whose breakout role was on Xena: Warrior Princess, has been a presenter on Play School for 13 years, and jokes that he and wife Sandie “collect” kids.
Due to popular demand, Wicked is on until November, but Jay is unfazed about the long run, and says his years of experience as a dad have helped him with the role.
“Early mornings and late nights aren’t negotiable in our house, so I’m more than prepared for this,” he says.
“The show centres around the early life of Elphaba, who we know as the Wicked Witch of the West, but in this she’s a smart, fiery, emerald-green-skinned girl. I look at her and she reminds me a lot of my 13-year-old daughter in that
way that teenagers are so often misunderstood.”
Jay says he is honoured to play the Wizard of Oz, a role made famous across the Tasman by late Kiwi theatre legend Rob Guest. Jay also has a chance to perform at the Civic Theatre, which he’s loved since he was a kid.
“I remember going there in 1977 with my brothers to watch Star Wars, so the memory of Luke Skywalker, with the theatre’s elephants and starry sky, is very vivid in my head – and this is a dream come true for me.”
WICKED Auckland Civic Theatre from Sept 17