Australian Dance Reviews

The depth and beauty of ‘WICKED’ in its Australian tour

Courtney Monsma and Sheridan Adams in 'WICKED'. Photo by Jeff Busby.
Courtney Monsma and Sheridan Adams in 'WICKED'. Photo by Jeff Busby.

Lyric Theatre, Sydney.
7 September 2023.

Twenty years on from its Broadway premiere, WICKED has flown its way down-under once again, to delight and thrill Australian audiences with its witty script, catchy songs, and a storyline that rings current and true. Commencing the 2023 Australian tour with a bang, this replica version of the original work feels like a well-trodden path for those of us who fell in love with the story of these witches the first time around, and this new cast is full of life and energy. 

WICKED is a comment on humanity, particularly our prejudices against that which is different and the things we don’t immediately understand, showing that once we do have a closer look, things are rarely what they first seemed. The snowball effect of our choices, the mentality of a crowd…meaning and nuance are misconstrued if we do not take a closer or considered look. It is quite interesting to see this story and its themes so relevant now, even two decades post first opening.

Courtney Monsma leads the cast as Glinda, right off the back of the recent Australian tour of Disney’s Frozen the Musical, starring as Princess Anna. Monsma has really come into herself in playing Glinda, giving the role fresh new life. She was decidedly funny, with excellent comedic timing, and wonderfully crisp, clear and versatile vocal abilities, floating with ease between the operatic high notes in the opening scenes, to the cutesy number “Popular” in the middle of the first act. Monsma is the drawcard in this show, carrying it from start to finish, shining very brightly the entire journey. She is the reason you should see this show, and even if you have seen it before, you have not seen this brilliance.

Relative newcomer Sheridan Adams is finding her feet as leading lady Elphaba, warming up to the big numbers but really finding her confidence by the end of the first act, signing the big notes in “Defying Gravity” with ease, letting loose into the stratosphere she finds herself in, in that wonderful flying broomstick moment. Adams developed with Elphaba as the story unfolded, particularly noticeable in the duet with Liam Head’s Fiyero “As Long As You’re Mine,” where it felt rather awkward and fiddly to begin with, almost as if there had not been much time to work on this scene, but was eventually a level of chemistry between Elphaba and Fiyero as time went on. Adams certainly has the presence and talent to take her places. Head took a similar path, starting rather flat, whilst Fiyero is meant to have all the charisma from the get go. Warming up to his role, his confidence and appeal built as the show got going.

Choreographically, the movement across the stage in every scene has such a lovely sense of life to it, filling the space with constantly moving levels and energy. The ensemble work is a highlight of this musical, and always a treat. Wayne Cilento’s choreography goes perfectly with the varying moods, bringing to life the story in a way only good musical theatre choreography knows how. It has contemporary/lyrical dance sections, particularly in “Dancing Through Life,” which now feels reminiscent of circa mid-2000s So You Think You Can Dance. It is impressive to find a cast who can genuinely pull it off, and also sing with such great skill. The ensemble travels and melds beautifully into each moment, with details in the blocking that sets the mood, as if magic is almost swirling around the stage. They are consistent in their work, with energy ups and downs as the mood requires.

The monkey characters have a very interesting studied-ness to their movement, which comes across very animalistic, with the perfect amount of quirk, the embodiment of their character being a fascinating movement highlight in WICKED.

Script and song each cleverly weave into each other, and not one word seems wasted in the writing and telling of the tale. It moves at a pace, but not too quickly. The only real let-down is the Wizard’s songs, and although a part of the greater story of Elphaba and the history of Oz, they do seem to slow the work right down and bring a shift in focus, seemingly unnecessary to move the story along. Musical theatre legend Todd McKenney does his utmost best to make these numbers interesting, bringing a certain old-world style in movement and performance, perfectly suited to this character. He is the most charming Wizard, despite the writing.

WICKED really has started its 2023 Australian tour with a resounding bang. There is a depth and beauty to this show, with sets to wow, a colour palette with every green shade under the sun, and creative costuming with high fashion cuts, hats and hair to boot. Leaving the theatre with massive smiles, you know the audience has had a wonderful ride to the Land of Oz and the origin story of the wicked witch of the west. Don’t miss out on your ticket to Oz this tour!

By Linda Badger of Dance Informa.

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