Musical Theatre / “Wicked”. At Sydney Lyric Theatre until December 31. Reviewed by BILL STEPHENS.
IT’S rather wonderful to revisit a favourite show and discover it is even more impressive than remembered.
When it opened on Broadway in 2003 “Wicked” created something of a sensation, intriguing
audiences with its story about the rocky friendship between the two witches, Glinda and
Elphaba, originally minor characters in the story of “The Wizard of Oz”.
John Frost secured the show for Australia premiering in Melbourne in 2008. With its
haunting music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, clever book by Winnie Holzman, lavish
production values and an all-star cast headed by brilliant young Australian leading ladies,
Lucy Durack as Glinda and Amanda Harrison as Elphaba, “Wicked” repeated its Broadway
success, quickly becoming an audience favourite as it toured around Australia.
The production repeated this success with its 10th anniversary tour in 2014. This time, Lucy
Durack repeated her star turn as Glinda, while Jemma Rix created a small sensation opposite
her as Elphaba.
Therefore the excitement was palpable in The Lyric Theatre in Sydney for the opening night
of this latest iteration of “Wicked”, for which an all-star cast had been assembled, headed
by two new rising stars, Courtney Monsma as Glinda and Sheridan Adams as Elphaba.
The production itself has never looked better. Director Lisa Leguillou has taken advantage
of technical advances over the last 20 years to ensure the technical effects are even
more amazing than ever.
Eugene Lee’s extraordinary settings still miraculously evoke the fantasy world in which Susan Hilferty’s brilliant, other-worldly costumes remain as impressive as ever on the talented young ensemble who luxuriate in their individuality as they execute Wayne Cilento’s spectacular choreography.
When it premiered in Australia in 2008, “Wicked” confirmed the star-status of Lucy Durack
and Amanda Harrison as the duelling witches, Glinda and Elphaba. This 2023 iteration will
certainly do the same for Monsma and Adams, both of whom fascinate with the assurance they bring to inculcating their roles with their own unique talents while remaining true to the story of their complicated friendship.
From the moment she descends to the stage in a blaze of lights, it’s obvious that Monsma
has placed her own stamp on her role as the “deeply shallow and seriously self-absorbed”,
Still maddeningly sweet, this Glinda has a bag of physical and vocal tricks to unveil, which she does with particular aplomb in her rendition of “Popular”.
Watch out for the hilarious, quirky moves she inserts into the choreography, particularly, her slide off the bed.
Adams as the green witch, Elphaba, matches Monsma every inch of the way. Vocally dazzling, especially in the astonishing “Defying Gravity” which ends the first act,
Adams imbues her character with defiant, dramatic presence, heightening the interactions between the two, and particularly effective during “I’m Not That Girl” . Their scenes together are both absorbing and affecting.
However, good performances abound among this all-star cast. Robyn Nevin, as the
scheming Madame Morrible, looks gorgeous in her costumes managing to steal every scene
in which she appears with her ability to nail each laugh line with unerring accuracy.
Todd McKenney adds to his growing list of memorable cameos with his gentle interpretation
of the Wizard, who looks exactly like Todd McKenney but sounds just like Barry Fitzgerald
(younger readers might have to google Barry Fitzgerald).
His rendition of “A sentimental Man” is completely charming as is “Wonderful”, his second-act duet with Elphaba.
Shewit Belay is a stand-out as Elphaba’s wheelchair-bound sister, Nessarose, bringing a
strong voice and presence to the role, while Adam Murphy manages to imbue his role as the
schoolteacher, Dr Dillamond, with impressive depth despite being hidden behind a goat’s
As the object of the affections of both witches, Liam Head brings a handsome presence and
fine voice to the role of Fiyero, particularly affective in his lovely duet with Elphaba “As Long
As You’re Mine”, while Kurtis Papadinis is delightfully perky as Boq.
Particularly pleasurable during this production is the fine orchestra, conducted by David
Young, the clarity of Tony Meola’s sound design, which allowed the dialogue and lyrics to be
clearly heard throughout, and the stunning lighting design of Kenneth Posner.
“Wicked” remains one of the most popular Broadway shows ever. This stunning production,
with its outstanding Australian cast shows exactly why.
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