Of all the generations who grew up watching The Wizard Of Oz, few viewers spared a thought for the back-story of the Wicked Witch of the West. She’s green, she flies on a broom, she cackles, she steals Toto – how could she possibly win our sympathy?
Then, the stage musical Wicked (based on the book of the same name by Gregory Maguire) came to theatres, and we all started to see the Wicked Witch differently.
In honour of the 20th anniversary of the musical’s debut, an exclusive Australian production of Wicked is now showing at the Sydney Lyric. Sheridan Adams and Courtney Monsma star as Elphaba and Glinda respectively, school friends who go on to become the Witches we know so well. Robyn Nevin plays their headmistress, Madame Morrible, and Todd McKenney takes the role of the Wizard. Elphaba’s sister, Nessarose (who uses a wheelchair) is played by Shewit Belay.
The Venue: Sydney Lyric (The Star, Sydney)
The Sydney Lyric is an excellent choice of venue for a show likely to draw significant interest from theatre fans who live with disability.
There is lift and ramp access to enter the theatre, whether you’re approaching from the Star Car Park or one of the drop-off areas. The lobby has wide, flat spaces to circulate, and a unisex accessible bathroom (with grab-rails, powerpoints, and enough room for an attendant to assist).
Audience members with limited mobility can choose to remain in their wheelchair for the show (seating in Row P) or transfer to a seat (in Row Q, with one low step). Those who’d prefer step-free access can be seated in the Stalls, with ramp access via Doors 13 and 18.
To book seating suitable for mobility aids, and/or arrange complimentary Companion Card tickets, email the venue ahead of time.
The Sydney Lyric also offers accommodations for audience members with other specific needs. They partnered with Vision Australia to present an Audio Described performance, offer Hearing Loop access in Stalls seating, and welcome accredited service dogs. If you’d like to know what to expect, a virtual tour of the theatre is available on the Sydney Lyric website, along with information about seat sizes and distance from stage.
People with sensory sensitivities should note that Wicked does incorporate the use of loud noises, smoke effects, strobe lighting, and streamers/confetti in the audience.
What makes the Sydney Lyric truly inclusive and welcoming, however, is the staff. From the moment you arrive, they are only too happy to help – whether it’s finding your accessible seating and ensuring your comfort for the show, checking that the (delicious!) specialty Wicked-themed cocktails suit your dietary requirements, or helping you get the perfect photo to remember your night.
The Show: Wicked
Whether you’re a die-hard musical theatre fan already familiar with the Wicked soundtrack, or a curious newcomer who wants to see what all the fuss is about, you’ll be dazzled by this production.
The sets, costumes, choreography and cast all come together to immerse you in the land of Oz. From the moment Glinda appears on stage – suspended mid-air, delivering the chart-topping musical number ‘Defying Gravity’ – you’ll be swept up in the spectacle.
Wicked broke new ground upon its debut 20 years ago, using the familiar setting and characters of The Wizard Of Oz to tell new stories about discrimination, privilege, and power. It’s been widely lauded and critically acclaimed for inclusion of characters with visible disabilities (fantastical, like Elphaba’s green skin, and realistic, like Nessarose’s wheelchair).
However, it’s hard to deny that the progress made in representation over the intervening decades leaves the plot of Wicked feeling dated to a present day audience. The character who uses a wheelchair serves mostly as a prop for the main characters, she is only ‘loved’ out of pity, and finds herself ‘magically cured’ before the final curtain falls. The symbolic significance of the only character with a facial difference ultimately being read as ‘evil’ is also difficult to escape.
Still, other aspects of Wicked still feel as fresh as the day they debuted. The central relationship in this story is not a romantic one, but a friendship between two powerful women, who befriend each other despite their differences and overcome adversity together. That’s a tale that never gets old.
If you can set aside your qualms, and lose yourself in the soaring musical masterpieces, you’ll have a wicked good night seeing Wicked at the accessible Sydney Lyric theatre.
Running time: 2 hours, 45 minutes (with one 20 minute intermission)