Wicked: a masterful recreation of a global phenomenon

A fantastical faraway world is brought to life with flawless casting, intricate sets and eye-popping costumes. 

A dragon looms overhead, lights twinkle before me and the rumblings of an opening number have me sitting a little straighter in my seat. Wicked has finally returned to Australia, and I’m hoping tonight’s performance lives up to the spectacular version I first saw in London many years ago. As soon-to-be flying monkeys start to climb the stairs framing the stage and the curtain rises, I’m confident Wicked in Oz will be every bit as wonderful – and more. 

The ensemble of Wicked.
The ensemble of Wicked. © Wicked The Musical / Photo by Jeff Busby

Wicked: The untold true story of the witches of Oz first premiered on Broadway 20 years ago. Based on the stories of The Wizard of Oz, and the 1995 novel Wicked: The Life and Times of The Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire, the musical showcases masterful music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. Clever, witty and heartwarming, the musical has gone on to win a Grammy Award, the Olivier Award, six Helpmann Awards, three Tony Awards, six Drama Desk Awards, and has been performed in 16 countries around the world. It’s now the fourth longest-running show in Broadway history – surpassing Cats  – and for good reason. 

Madame Morrible, Nessa and Elphaba.
Madame Morrible, Nessa and Elphaba. © Wicked The Musical / Photo by Jeff Busby

The story of Wicked 

The story follows the early life of the popular and bubbly Glinda, who goes on to become ‘Glinda the Good’, and the emerald-skinned Elphaba, who grows up to become the ‘Wicked Witch of the West’, and the unlikely friendship between the two. Set in the years prior to Dorothy’s arrival and during her journey up the yellow brick road, Wicked depicts a very different type of Oz. Smoke and mirrors and political scheming are used to fool the citizens of Oz into believing in the greatness of the Wizard, a falsehood revealed by Elphaba during her quest to solve the mystery of Oz’s disappearing animal residents. 

Wicked in Oz 

The Australian cast is led by Courtney Monsma as Glinda, and Sheridan Adams as Elphaba, both of which served up crowd favourites, Popular and Defying Gravity, effortlessly. Monsma is the true embodiment of Glinda, her performance effervescent and relentlessly high-energy, a soprano built for the role. Meanwhile, Adams’ emotive interpretation of Elphaba and unique vocal arrangements set her up as Australia’s next theatre star. 

Together, these women filled the stage with their presence, a dynamic duo well complemented by Liam Head, who plays the handsome Winky Prince, Fiyero. Better yet, the onstage chemistry shared between Adams and Head in their number, As Long As You’re Mine, was authentic and honest. 

Playing the role of the manipulative Madam Morrible is award-winning actress Robyn Nevin. Nevin’s quiet menace and captivating voice were a snug fit for Madame Morrible’s political climbing and a suitable accompaniment to Todd McKenney’s jovial yet cunning Wizard. 

The Wizard and Elphaba.
The Wizard and Elphaba. © Wicked The Musical / Photo by Jeff Busby

Beautiful sets and detailed costumes

Walking the line between a twisted Edwardian aesthetic and the steampunk notions of retrofuturistic technology, the sets of Wicked have an industrial edge softened by the fantasy elements of Oz. Cogs, castles and bridges are saddled with vines and flowers, while clever lighting design transitions multi-purpose props between moods and spaces. It’s big, bright, dramatic and layered – everything you want from a Broadway production. The costumes sparkle and sway, gradually evolving in detail and complexity as the plot unfolds, culminating in Glinda’s iconic glittering ballgown and Elphaba’s black, lace-laden Edwardian dress. 

Wicked The Musical is at Sydney Lyric Theatre until December 2023. 

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