Ingenious and beautiful: Wicked dazzles with its smoke and mirrors

Save articles for later

Add articles to your saved list and come back to them any time.

Sydney Lyric Theatre, September 7
Until December 31


Wicked is back in the Land of Oz. The heartwarming tale of friendship, dressed up in splendorous costumes and fantabulous sets, has returned.

The 2003 musical created by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman, is based on Gregory Maguire’s novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. The book provides the backstory to the classic fable The Wizard of Oz, providing motives and means for the characters and plot twists in the original. The Wicked Witch of the West has a traumatic past, the scarecrow wasn’t always full of sawdust, and Dorothy is a shadowy bit part.

Courtney Monsma, here with Sheridan Adams (Elphaba), dazzles as Glinda. Credit: Jeff Busby

Everyone loves a good backstory: part of Wicked’s appeal is the ingenious and detailed reshaping of an iconic childhood fable. But it’s not just neat: with Stephen Schwartz (Pippin, Godspell) there is always a side of sedition complementing the compulsory joy of music theatre.

Todd McKenney and Robyn Nevin, are the perfect purveyors of this chilly undercurrent of doublethink. Nevin, as Madame Morrible, wears her malevolence as gracefully as her gowns, while McKenney portrays the Wizard as an affable, ineffectual conman who you underestimate at your peril.

From her entrance, airborne and glittering in a mechanical bubble, Glinda steals this show. Courtney Monsma has graduated from Disney’s Frozen the Musical and stepped into Lucy Durack’s big shoes to dazzle the people of Oz with kind words, charisma and brilliant comic timing. Elphaba, played by newcomer Sheridan Adams, doesn’t have a chance when Glinda is on stage, but she makes her mark with her powerful voice, especially in the show-stopping Defying Gravity. Liam Head, as Fiyero, is at his best in his earlier numbers, such as Dancing Through Life, while Shewit Belay and Kurtis Papadinis, as Nessarose and Boq, are charmingly awkward.

Ultimately, the real star of this show is the stage itself, with all its trappings. A giant mechanical dragon spreads its wings across the proscenium arch, and steampunk cogs (sets designed by Eugene Lee) whirr and grind. Susan Hilferty’s costumes are as good a reason alone to see Wicked, a dazzling collection of sculptural but stylish confections.

The lighting design by Kenneth Posner also has a central role, from the technicolour sunsets to the theatrical magic of Elphaba’s first flight. It’s all smoke and mirrors, of course, but Wicked is a timely reminder of how beautiful smoke and mirrors can be.

The Booklist is a weekly newsletter for book lovers from books editor Jason Steger. Get it delivered every Friday.

Most Viewed in Culture

Source: Read Full Article