Milestone on hold for the Wizard of Oz

By Dionne Christian

Jay Laga'aia says the Wizard is a huge deal for him, and he is the first Polynesian to portray the iconic character. Photo / Jeff Busby
Jay Laga'aia says the Wizard is a huge deal for him, and he is the first Polynesian to portray the iconic character. Photo / Jeff Busby

Entertainer Jay Laga'aia turns 50 today but he is unlikely to mark the milestone by partying the night away.

The father of eight has started New Zealand rehearsals for the blockbuster musical Wicked in which he plays the Wizard of Oz, and says he's too busy concentrating on making it a great show to celebrate his birthday.

Laga'aia said he didn't feel as though he had clocked up a half-century: "I feel like I'm still in my 30s."

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Based in Sydney since the late 1990s, Laga'aia said his birthday wishes would be simple, in line with his Fathers' Day request for two tins of corned beef. "My family was in Sydney and I was in Melbourne doing the early rehearsals for Wicked so I wanted something that I find comforting and that's corned beef, which I grew up on. I guess you can take the boy out of South Auckland ..."

Laga'aia has been performing since his late teens and is perhaps best known for his role as Captain Typho in the Star Wars prequel films, as a regular in TV series Water Rats and Home and Away.

In Australia, he has hosted children's TV show Playschool since 2000 and has a legion of young fans.

He credits his get-up-and-go to his family, working in kids' television and enjoying what he does. He acknowledges being part of Wicked is a huge deal for him. Not only does it return him home to Auckland, but he's also the first Polynesian to portray the iconic Wizard of Oz.

"As someone who hasn't performed in the show before, to sit and listen to the others and see them doing their thing in the rehearsal room, I know I have to put on my performance hat and reach the incredible standards they have set."

Since its debut 10 years ago, Wicked has been seen by 36 million people and has won 35 major awards.

- NZ Herald

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