14th May 2023
Photography & Editor-in-chief: Owen James Vincent
Make Up Artist: Lois Lane
Interview: Ali Dhanji
Dresses: Millia London
Cover Design: Emily Curtis
Hiba Elchikhe is a multi-talented performer who is taking the worldwide stage by storm. From starring in the Disney musical ‘Aladdin’ in Australia as Princess Jasmine, as well as roles in the West End and LA as Pritti Pasha in the hit musical ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ and stage roles alongside Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo in ‘Antony & Cleopatra’ at the National Theatre, Hiba has an impressive collection of roles under her belt.
Now set to star in an upcoming stage musical version of ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’, due to debut at London’s Apollo Theatre in October 2023, Hiba will be taking on an exciting new role as Charisse.
We recently had a conversation with Hiba, who features as our cover star, about her previous roles, her exciting upcoming projects, including a solo stage show, and the importance of diversity in the entertainment industry as a MENA (Middle Eastern-North African) performer.
You played the role of Princess Jasmine in the Australian production of Aladdin: The Musical. So you’re part of a very exclusive group of people who get to say they’ve played a Disney Princess! How does it feel to be a real-life Disney Princess and what did the role of Jasmine mean to you?
I know it’s probably cliché to say this, but it was genuinely a dream come true to play a Disney Princess! Everyone that knows me - my family know how much I was obsessed with Disney growing up and I still am. So, it was so incredible to be part of the Disney production. Playing Jasmine was a cherry on top. For me growing up, she was the Princess that looked like me, she was feisty, and getting to represent that specific Princess in a theatre production just meant the world to me.
You’ve just come back from Dubai with Disney Princess - The Concert, how was that?
Getting to do it in the Middle East is honestly incredible because I was the first MENA (Middle Eastern-North African) to play the role ever, for me that was so important and exciting. I even got to speak a little bit of Arabic in the show – which always goes down a treat in the Middle East because they’re like, ‘Oh my God, she can speak Arabic!’.
It's so important for me to have positive representation. I also got to sing my favourite songs Disney Princess songs like Moana, Pocahontas, Jasmine and Mulan. So, that’s incredible.
Is there a particular song that you love to perform?
Honestly, I love to sing Colours of the Wind from Pocahontas. With the orchestra and the strings, and just how epic the song is, the message behind that song as well… it’s just so special and magical.
You’ll also be returning to the stage again this October for the musical adaptation of The Time Traveller’s Wife. Can you talk a little about how the stage adaptation differs from the previous iterations of the story?
Our source material is based on the book by Audrey Niffenegger but the incredible Lauren Gunderson has adapted it for the stage. It’s so special, the music in the show is epic - it’s by Joss Stone and Dave Stewart. Honestly, it’s bop after bop, everyone will come and enjoy the music in the show, and if you know the story or even if you know anything about the book you will still feel moved. I don’t want to give too much away as it’s not opened yet in the West End but we got to do an out-of-town try out in Chester and all the audience absolutely loved it, the set is epic we have some amazing illusions by Chris Fisher who does the illusions on Harry Potter and Ghost, he’s so incredible. The whole team on Time Traveler’s is epic and the person I work alongside the most is Tim Mahendran and he’s hilarious and we have such good chemistry onstage together.
You’re playing the role of Charisse. How has it been preparing to step into this role?
It’s been so much fun! It’s very different from any other part I’ve played before. Tim (Mahendran) and I have such a good on-stage relationship and we’re really good friends, so we can be silly and figure stuff out together. It’s been super incredible to be part of the original production and get to create the role.
In the books, Charisse isn’t fleshed out like she is in the show and it’s nice to explore that in the production and get to play around a bit with it. I have obviously been lucky to do shows before like Aladdin but Jasmine is such a beloved character that you’ve got to stay true to the source material and be exactly Jasmine. But with Charisse, I can create whoever I want this person to be. Our director Bill, choreographer Shelley, and musical director Nick have all been so amazing with figuring it out altogether.
You kind of teased the costumes on your Instagram, you’ve got a few costumes in the show - was that fun to play around with?
I mean yeah… who doesn’t like dressing up [laughs]. It’s so much fun! As you could guess from the title, we jump around time periods in the show and so it’s been super fun to wear stuff from the 60s, 80s, and the 2000s. Going into costume fittings and discussing the characters and figuring out what the characters would wear is so exciting. For example, in Aladdin, Jasmine already had her costume prepared, but for this, I get to be part of that process and consider what she would wear.
Ahead of your debut as Charisse in The Time Traveller’s Wife, audiences will actually have the chance to see you take to the stage in August for your very own solo concert! What can we expect to see (and hear)?
I had done a solo concert when I came back from Australia but this is my Crazy Coqs debut and also my first one since my West End debut. I wanted to put a show on in London and the title is “What I Know So Far” and it’s what I’ve experienced in the industry and in life and where I am currently. They will hear music from shows I did in the past, some Disney songs, and also some pop songs.
The conversation around representation and shows asking for talent from a diverse range of backgrounds is an ongoing one, for both stage productions as well as the entertainment industry at large. Do you feel like this narrative is changing and opportunities are becoming more equally available for talent across all backgrounds?
I feel like yes and no. This is such a layered question.It’s definitely changing and shifting but is it equal? Absolutely not. I feel like as someone from a MENA background and who is North African I can only speak on my personal experience. There aren’t many of us in musical theatre and the western entertainment industry as a whole. In Hollywood and on film the demographic seems to be more male than female as well. I struggle to name a single woman in Hollywood who is from a MENA background, Of course, that’s changing in TV and theatre. There are some TV shows out there are the moment like “Ramy” and “Mo” , things like that are coming out in America, and even the show We Are Lady Parts on Channel 4 that I absolutely loved. I was like, this is incredible, but I still don’t feel like this is enough. There are incredible actors and creators that are trying to get their name out there to showcase different stories. The dream for everyone i would hope is equality.
Well, you are happy to break those barriers and represent your culture beautifully and I’m sure it’s inspiring lots of people…
I really hope so! I just want little brown kids to come and see me and think that they can do that or see themselves reflected in me being Muslim and being a woman of colour being raised in London.
You’ve been able to showcase your talent in numerous stage shows such as Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and Antony and Cleopatra, as well as even recently being featured on the big screen in Disenchanted. Do you have any dream roles or projects you would love to pursue in the upcoming future?
I’ve signed on to Time Traveller’s for a while but I love to do a bit of everything. Being on the set of Disenchanted was incredible and a Disney film was a dream come true. I feel so lucky with the opportunities I’ve had so far but I would love to spend a bit more time filming and developing my craft as a screen actor.
You can catch Hiba at The Crazy Coqs on the 13th August. Grab your tickets here!