Maria Mercedes to play iconic role in upcoming musical at West Australian Opera

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Maria Mercedes will be taking on the iconic role of The Witch in Stephen Sondheim’s musical, ‘Into the Woods’ at the West Australian Opera (WAO) next year.

The award-winning musical will be coming to His Majesty’s Theatre for eight-performances from 23 March – 1 April.

Conducted by Jen Winley, the production will also feature Alexander Lewis as The Baker, and Samantha Clarke as The Baker’s Wife.

Ahead of Maria taking on the iconic role, The Greek Herald spoke with her about how she’s feeling.

How does it feel to be playing The Witch in ‘Into the Woods’? 

The Witch is an iconic archetype role to one of the most significant musicals written by the late and great Stephen Sondheim. As an actor/singer it is truly a role that many aspire to play… a dream role.

In fact, the role has the elements of duality. The Witch in the musical is perceived to be stereotypical of an evil character causing menace, casting spells, frightening the village people. A lot of fun and an opportunity for me to be comedic.

But there is also the heartbreak and dramatic element of the Witch because she herself has had a spell placed upon her, where she was turned from a younger woman into this old hideous creature. So, acting wise, it’s everything I could ask for. 

Then we have the magnificent songs I get to sing. Truly, it is the pinnacle of an actor’s performance career to play this role.

Photo: WAO2023 Into the Woods © Opera/Steffan Hill

What is the importance and relevance of the musical to you?

Though ‘Into the Woods’ is in the guise of our beloved fairytale characters, it is a study of human nature and the flaws of humans. When it comes to greed, selfishness, the sacrifice of all our morals and kindness so as we can achieve what supposedly fulfills us on a monetary and ambitious nature and level.

Disregarding the pain that we cause as humans to others. For a moment of ego based on delusional self-glory. In fact, it’s The Witch that puts the spotlight on ‘The world,’ the people of the village and forces them through toil and turmoil to look at the damage they have created in order ‘to gain the beans or to bear a child or to basically get away with murder’ within their lives.

This show for me, metaphorically, is a reflection of what we have all endured during the times of COVID-19 where we had to start caring for each other a lot more genuinely and humanely because we were in this dark period together, and only though love and kindness were we going to survive and understand what really is precious and valuable in our lives.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

I feel incredibly blessed and fortunate to still be finding gems of roles to play after a career that has spanned 49 years. Yes, you read that right.

I am thrilled to be working with the genius director Cameron Menzies in his acclaimed production of ‘Into the Woods’.

I also am excited to be working for WAO as they have chosen a sublime musical to produce. I hope West Australian residents understand that they are now leaders in the Australian Arts and that they come and support this show.

My only regret is my parents George and Dionisia Moutsidis are no longer on this planet to be able to see me perform a role that is as magnificent as the many roles I have played in the past. But I know they will be watching spiritually and will be very proud of me nonetheless. 

To learn more, visit: waopera.asn.au

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