The Wicked Witch of the West will forever be one of the great villains of cinema - terrifying those who watching The Wizard of Oz.

To The Vivienne, she’s a “glamorous, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford-esque kind of character”.

“She’s fabulous, a strong woman and very misunderstood,” adds the drag star, who stars in a spectacular new production of The Wizard of Oz, heading to Bradford following a celebrated run at the London Palladium. The musical, based on L Frank Baum’s beloved story, sees RuPaul’s Drag Race UK winner The Vivienne play the Wicked Witch of the West, with Gary Wilmot, reprising his West End role as The Wizard.

The show features the original score from the Oscar-winning MGM film, including Over The Rainbow, Follow The Yellow Brick Road and We’re Off To See the Wizard, with additional songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The show is faithful to the original new story but offers something moreThe show is faithful to the original new story but offers something more (Image: Marc Brenner)

“The Wizard of Oz means everything to me, it’s the ultimate story of overcoming adversity,” says The Vivienne. “I first saw the movie aged five and I’ve probably seen it 100 times since. I played The Tin Man at primary school and skated to Over The Rainbow on Dancing on Ice so it’s fair to say I’ve had a life-long love affair with the story.”

Since emerging as champion of the first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, The Vivienne became the first drag star to appear on a major UK competition series; reaching the final of ITV’s Dancing On Ice, and she performed Waterloo at the Eurovision opening ceremony in Liverpool last year.

So what can audiences expect from this Wizard of Oz? “It’s very true to the original material, especially the movie we all know and love with the amazing Judy Garland. But it’s been brought forward by I’d say 20 or 30 years. It feels very 50s. It’s got this Vegas-y feel. The show is everything you know and expect, plus a whole lot more. When I saw it at the Palladium my jaw hit the floor. It’s beautiful, with the costumes, original songs and the new score. It’s a treat for everyone.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The Vivienne as the Wicked Witch of the West The Vivienne as the Wicked Witch of the West (Image: Marc Brenner)

Is this your first stage acting role? “I’ve acted on TV before but this is my first theatre role. It’s probably been the best experience of my life so far. The rehearsal process alone was wonderful - being surrounded by the most amazing, talented people, and for them to welcome me with open arms and enjoy what I’m doing with the role. I keep feeling like I’m the one that’s ended up in Oz and that I’m going to wake up in Kansas and realise it was all a dream.”

What makes the Wicked Witch such an iconic character? ”Speaking as a gay man, I was always obsessed with the villain. I wanted to be Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty and Ursula in The Little Mermaid. I was never bothered about the heroine, I wanted to be the evil one. And now here I am, literally painting myself green, playing one of the biggest baddies of them all. It’s fabulous.”

How do you channel your inner witch? “I’ve been watching some of my favourite witches throughout the years, like Bette Midler in Hocus Pocus, and I borrow from them. I’ve seen so many interviews where actors say we all steal and borrow from each other then put our own spin on things. So I’m borrowing from Angelica Houston in The Witches, Meryl Streep in Death Becomes Her, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, and Faye Dunaway in Mommy Dearest. I’ve made a concoction of all of them, along with Margaret Hamilton in the Wizard of Oz film, of course. I actually have a tattoo of her on my leg.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: TheVivienne is drawing on big screen goddesses to play the Wicked WitchTheVivienne is drawing on big screen goddesses to play the Wicked Witch (Image: Marc Brenner)

How fabulous are your costumes? “Oh, the costumes are out of this world! I keep saying it’s how it would be if the Wicked Witch of the West went to the Met Gala.”

What challenges does the show present?”I have a huge song that opens the second act. There’s the song, a big dance break then a reprise of the song, which is the big moment you expect in a musical like this - that big song from the villain. The challenge is doing that eight shows a week. The witch has iconic lines like ‘I’m melting’ and ‘Fly, my pretties’ and they’re screamed into the abyss. It’s about finding the places in my voice as well as looking after my health.”

When did you first encounter The Wizard of Oz? “Looking back, I’ve always had this kind of subconscious affinity with The Wizard of Oz. I loved it as a kid and watched it on VHS until it wore out. My mum found our family video camera one day when I was older and I’d reenacted the whole of The Wizard of Oz in my bedroom, every character. I was mortified watching it with her. I played the Tin Man at school; I auditioned for Dorothy but I got Tin Man instead. The song Somewhere Over the Rainbow holds such a dear place in my community’s heart - in everyone’s heart. It’s about finding yourself, growth, the human spirit, finding your tribe. The Wizard of Oz has so many themes running through it, everyone has their own personal thing they take from it.”

Is that why it’s so enduring? “It’s timeless. It’ll go on long after I’m in the ground. I used to work in a nightclub called Garland’s, named after Judy Garland, themed around The Wizard of Oz. Its influence is everywhere.”

What drew you to drag? “I fell into it! I don’t think anyone grows up and says ‘I want to be a drag queen’ or at least they didn’t back when I started. I moved to Liverpool when I was 16 to be a make-up artist and I worked in Debenhams. I started going out to nightclubs, I saw these drag queens and I was like ‘Wow, this looks a lot more fun than standing in the make-up department in Debenhams’. So I started doing drag for £30 and a couple of free drinks a night, and worked my way up. I never thought in my wildest dreams it’d lead to all this. I thought it was for bit of beer money then I realised ‘This is an art form’. Working in those clubs was my ‘university of drag’. It was treading the boards, getting changed in toilets and sitting on beer barrels waiting to go on.”

How did RuPaul’s Drag Race UK change your life? “Well, I’m talking to you from a dressing-room doing an Andrew Lloyd Webber written musical! I was very lucky to be on the first series, it put me on a platform. It showed that drag isn’t just having a laugh in a club. It was : ‘These queens can sew, do their own make-up, their wigs, put together a whole show, they have to learn how to cut music, they can make costumes’. There’s nowhere really you can learn drag. There are no courses at theatre school. You’ve got to learn yourself, that’s why you’re constantly evolving as a drag queen.”

* The Wizard of Oz is at the Alhambra, March 19-23. Call (01274) 432000 or visit