With less than a week to go until the curtain rises on Footlight Productions’ latest offering for Geelong audiences, Hayley Wood is gearing up for what is sure to be another show-stopping performance as the Madame de la Grande Bouche in this brand new production of Beauty and the Beast.
The walking and talking wardrobe who resides in the Beast’s enchanted castle, Madame de la Grande Bouche yearns for days gone by when she was a diva on the operatic stage and served as lady-in-waiting to the Queen.
Following her most recent stage outings as the mouthy, overworked maid Mrs. Brill in Mary Poppins in 2016 and the magical and mysterious headmistress Madame Morrible in Wicked in 2017, Hayley has quickly cemented herself as Footlight’s resident diva.
“In my few years as part of the Footlight family, I have been very lucky to be able to play some very strong, very sassy dramatic women!” says Hayley.
“When I moved to Geelong three years ago I was eager to get involved in the town’s theatre community. I booked an audition for Mary Poppins at the very last minute and was fortunate to not only be given a lead role, but to have found my theatre family in Footlight. With each production that I have been a part of, I have worked with the most fabulous and dedicated team of creative people.”
Much to Hayley’s delight, following their success with last year’s production of Wicked, director Alister Smith and musical director John Shawcross have both returned to Footlight for this production.
“Auditioning and accepting this role in Beauty and the Beast was a no-brainer, knowing that I would get to work again with the amazingly talented John and the visionary Alister,” says Hayley.
“I just love playing roles where I get to explore a range of emotions within the character, particularly comedy, and this role definitely allows me to do that,” says Hayley. “The character I play is larger than life and it is such a pleasure to be trusted so much by our creative team to explore the character and find an original way to bring her to life.”
Physically transforming into the Madame for each performance will be no walk in the park for Hayley, thanks to the expert detailing in both the costumes and wigs for the character, made possible by the supreme talents of Rhiannon Irving, Jo Aulsebrook and Mel Van Krieken.
“The costume is so big and fabulous and her amazing wigs are nothing short of feats of engineering,” raves Hayley. “They really allow me to transform into a fully realized diva. It is so great to work with people are so brilliant and passionate about what they do.”
With so many incarnations of the Beauty and the Beast story over the years, Hayley and her cast mates hope to remind audiences of the original meaning behind this well-known ‘tale as old as time’.
“While the theatre is often an escape from reality, it can also serve as a commentary on issues that still exist within modern society,” says Hayley. “When you go back to the original text, which is what we have done throughout this rehearsal processes, we are presented with a narrative that reveals to us all that being different and unique is actually a wonderful thing, it can lead you to amazing places, and first impressions are often wrong.”
The empowering message for women instilled within the show is not something lost on Hayley, who recognises just how topical this theme is today within contemporary discourse around gender roles.
“Strong women can do anything, we can break out of stereotypes and stagnant expectations to be whatever we want to be,” says Hayley.
You can see Hayley as the Madame de la Grande Bouche in Footlight’s Beauty and the Beast in the Playhouse Theatre at the Geelong Performing Arts Centre, this Friday, January 19 for a three-week run. Tickets are available via the GPAC box office on 5225 1200 or visiting

Hayley Wood was interviewed by Jacob Petkovic a member of the Footlight Productions marketing team.

Christian Cavallo