Twenty years since its premiere on Broadway, Wicked the Musical returns to Australia. Based on the novel by Gregory Maguire, and adapted to a musical and then cinema, Wicked the Musical is a prequel to The Wizard of Oz, from the perspective of the Glinda the good witch, and Elphelba the bad witch.
The current staging of Wicked the Musical features Courtney Monsma as Glinda, known for her recent work as Pricness Anna in the Australian tour of Frozen; Sheridan Adams, a recent graduate of Victorian College of the Arts as Elphaba; and as the Wizard, Todd McKenna. It also features Christian Ambesi as Chistery.
“For as long as I can remember, this is exactly what I have wanted to do,” says Ambesi. “I have always worked hard to get to where I am and never passed up any opportunity that has been presented to me, big or small. I have worked with many choreographers, and I believe they have all had an impact in different ways to motivate me to keep pushing forward no matter how hard it got.”
Ambesi remembers watching Wicked the Musical as a child in the initial Melbourne season. “That moment in ‘Defying Gravity’ when Alpheba takes flight, I have vivid memories of watching that in Melbourne at the Regent Theatre with my Nonna and cousin when I was nine years old. I get chills every single time it is performed, and it reminds me of my young self dreaming and wishing of one day dancing on a professional stage.”
The character Ambesi plays, Chistery, is the head of the flying monkeys, minions of the Bad Witch, and attempt to abolish intelligent animals in Oz. “Playing the role of Chistery requires me to really look after my wellbeing, physically and mentally,” he says. “I find all performing to be quite physically demanding; Wicked is definitely the hardest. I make sure I eat well and get plenty of rest when I can. I need to make sure I get myself to a gym to condition and strengthen my upper body and retain muscle.”
The current staging of Wicked the Musical features the original direction and choreography by Wayne Cilento and Joe Mantello. “The choreography is a combination of Fosse Broadway jazz, contemporary, acro and ballet,” Ambesi says, “which are all styles I have trained in from a very young age. I do some rope work, so I have needed to work on my upper body strength a little more than I have in the past. This has been great, as it has also helped with my partner work. As a fairly short male dancer, partner work can be a little tricky, but upper body strength definitely helps make it easier.”
Ambesi is enjoying his success on Australian stages but says the ultimate goal is Broadway. “I feel blessed to have already worked performing across our Country as well as New Zealand and also Germany, but I will continue to strive to reach my NYC dream.”
Wicked opened at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre on the 25th of August. For more information and tickets, visit wickedthemusical.com.au.