The next generation of Australian Music Theatre: A chat with the leading cast of WICKED

Wicked has flown into Australia and is currently gracing its original Australian home, Melbourne’s Regent Theatre.

More than two decades since its premiere on Broadway, Wicked remains an unparalleled success, captivating over 65 million viewers worldwide. With a global presence spanning 16 countries and translations into six languages, Wicked stands as the 4th longest-running show in Broadway history. Gregory Maguire’s novel, upon which the musical is based, has garnered widespread acclaim, with sales skyrocketing since the musical’s debut, propelling it onto bestseller lists for nearly two decades.

Wicked tells the untold story of the witches of Oz, focusing primarily on the unlikely friendship between Glinda the Good and Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. Set before and during the events of L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” the musical explores themes of friendship, identity, discrimination, and the nature of good and evil. As the story unfolds, audiences witness the challenges and triumphs of these two extraordinary women as they navigate the complex social and political landscape of Oz, ultimately redefining the meaning of heroism and villainy.

L-R: Shewit Belay, Liam Head, Sheridan Adams, Courtney Monsma, Kurtis Papadinis

Led by Courtney Monsma as Glinda and Sheridan Adams as Elphaba, the Australian cast brings to life the dynamic tale of two young women in the land of Oz. Liam Head embodies the dashing Fiyero, while Shewit Belay and Kurtis Papadinis add depth to the ensemble as Nessarose and Boq respectively.

Can you share your journey into the world of theatre?

Kurtis: I’ve been involved in theatre for about as long as I can remember. I was fortunate enough to be involved in a number of professional productions as a child which really solidified my love for telling stories. I held onto that feeling throughout high school, and now I get to keep doing this as an adult!

What drew you to audition for Wicked, and what aspects of your character resonate with you the most?

Liam: I can’t think of a single person who didn’t audition for Wicked. Even if you knew you were right for the show you’d still put your hand up for the chance. That’s a bit like how I felt! I always think I’m never a chance with these sort of auditions and I feel so lucky to have been trusted with this material. Like every character there will be bits and pieces you resonate with. I think I can particularly resonate with Fiyero’s want to use nihilism to mask himself from having to feel, or to have to dig into his consciousness. If one simply decides to “dance through life”, they don’t have to navigate the world through a moral lens. If you truly believe nothing matters however, like Fiyero says he does, then you have nothing to live for. I enjoy getting to navigate this journey for Fiyero every night.

Courtney: Glinda is such a gift of the role. I love the arc she goes on as a character and I saw it as a challenge which drew me to audition as I love to extend myself as an actress. Her comedic elements mixed with the depth along with the vocal score and ofcourse the costumes, it’s truly a dream role in many aspects. The freedom I was allowed in the audition process to
find my authentic version of the well established role made me so eager to get the opportunity to play her, it’s a performers dream!

Kurtis: I auditioned for Wicked because they needed someone short to play the munchkin Boq, and I reckoned I had that pretty down pat. In all seriousness I think the compelling story and grandeur of the production are what drew me to Wicked. For Boq, I really resonate with his unending resilience and his big heart (even though it does get him into trouble).

How do you navigate the balance between staying true to the original characters while bringing your own interpretation to the role?

Liam: I never really think about this to be honest. There’s this thing called “the hybrid”. There have been 101 different versions of Macbeth, surely you’d think we’re sick of the play by now? Same text, often the same blocking and props. The thing that draws us back into the theatre is the originality each individual actor brings to their role. Sometimes I’ll get notes from creatives leading me away from an impulse to realign my version of Fiyero with the shows, but apart from that I don’t think about it all that much.

How do you approach the vocal demands of the score in Wicked, and what techniques do you use to maintain vocal health throughout the run of the production?

Courtney: Glinda is such a versatile role vocally which requires a lot of stamina. I always try to make sure I get rest and drink water/Powerade. I also do a lot of muscle tension release through physio and stretching as my gorgeous crown can be quite heavy on my head. I brush up on my vocal technique often and do good warm up and cool downs. A lot of performing I find is the work you do off stage to prepare and I feel fortunate to have learnt a nice routine that gets me feeling best for when I’m on stage

Sheridan: The role of Elphaba is one of the most challenging roles vocally in the musical theatre canon. I am lucky enough to have sung these songs since I was a little girl – I learnt how to sing through Elphaba’s music. Consequently, I’m grateful that this vocal style is so familiar to me! I approached the vocal demands of the score by looking at my vocal choices through an acting lens and by not trying to be a carbon copy of any Elphaba before me. It is much healthier and more interesting to allow my authentic voice to come through than to try and sound like Idina Menzel. Maintaining vocal health is something that requires a lifestyle shift. I prioritise ensuring I get plenty of sleep, hydrating throughout the day, recovering with electrolytes, being mindful with what I eat, cutting out alcohol and minimising social events that may require me to tire out my voice. My days off are for recovery. I also have a daily warm up that I stick to religiously. Most importantly, I listen to my body and my voice and know when to rest!

The themes of friendship, identity, and acceptance are central to Wicked – how do you personally connect with these in your portrayal?

Courtney: These are universal themes of life and ones we are constantly rediscovering and navigating day to day so finding the connection to them is innate as a human being, making the story have high resonance. Glinda gets to explore all of them and ultimately learn about each theme so she’s “changed for the better” and given the way the script is written, it is so enjoyable to get to explore it! Genuinely I learn something about both Glinda and myself everytime I step on stage.

What is your favourite moment or scene in the show?

Courtney: Ooh, it always changes because it is all so special and fun. At the moment I would say a constant favourite would be popular. It’s so fun to explore the excitement and spark of friendship with Elphaba whilst finding a lot of freedom and spontaneity as an actress. Also For Good is a song I always enjoy and a beautiful moment at the arc of the show, summing up all we have learnt.

Kurtis: I’m in love with the entirety of One Short Day. I’m not in the number but I never get sick of watching it. I think the spectacular design of the costumes, wigs, lighting and set, paired with exquisite choreography and grand vocals make you feel like you’re right there in the Emerald City.

Wicked has a loyal international fanbase – what do you think it is about the show that resonates so deeply with audiences?

Shewit: It’s one thing for a show to have universal themes – but to be universal and somehow be able to remain relevant with the passage of time? That’s near impossible but I think that’s exactly what Wicked does. As humans, we’re constantly faced with questions of freedom, justice, politics, acceptance, truth and honestly….just humanity in general. These are all things that are embedded
into the story of Wicked and why I feel the show resonates with our audiences.

How do you prepare mentally and emotionally for portraying such iconic characters on stage?

Sheridan: I think the energy you carry through the day leading up to a performance is crucial. I like to begin my days with routine (I like familiarity). I also love spending time with my dog Georgie and my partner Cameron. I think it’s really healthy to engage with your life meaningfully outside of work, it helps take off the pressure when you do get to work! I get to work early to have alone time to prepare. My hour of greening is also a crucial time to prepare for my performance – but I like to take it day by day depending on how I am feeling! Some days I blast Taylor Swift, some days I am running through my notes, some days I keep more to myself.

Shewit: I don’t really have a specific routine that I follow pre-show. I think the most important thing is probably honouring where I am emotionally on any given day and working with that in a way that services the show, my cast mates and the audience. I’ve found that giving myself the space to be dynamic helps me deal with the anxiety that can come with sometimes needing to work under mentally sub-optimal conditions (e.g., if I’m just having one of those days where I feel low/etc.). It’s impossible to control all
the emotional variables and have the same show every night, and to me, being ok with that has worked wonders for my mental health.

What has been the most exciting or rewarding aspect of being a part of the Australian production of Wicked?

Liam: Wicked been one of my dream shows ever since I was around 12 years old. I had the privilege of being able to watch it live in Brisbane. I got tickets for Christmas and remember just being mesmerised by the talent and the whole production in general. It’s so cool to think that so many young kids are falling in love with musical theatre just like I did with this show all those years ago. My absolute highlight is seeing all the young faces at stage door, and seeing how their eyes light up when they see Sheridan and Courtney.

Shewit: There are so many rewarding aspects of this job, but my top two are probably making lasting friendships with my colleagues in the cast and crew, and seeing the audience’s reaction to the material. We are truly so blessed to be able to take the audience on this journey with us, and their response means everything!

Sheridan: Oh this question is so difficult to answer! There are too many to choose from – I’ll list multiple. 1. Performing in a musical that truly challenges people’s worldviews. Being in a piece that explores universal themes that are still important and relevant today. Knowing that the audience will leave our theatre and be changed for good. 2. Being able to engage with the fans of this iconic show every night! This show changes people’s lives and I’m grateful to be a small part of it. 3. Being able to live out 14 year old Sheridan’s dream of not only being in a professional musical, but being Elphaba.

Can you share any anecdotes or behind-the-scenes stories from rehearsals or performances that stand out to you?

Liam: Oh there are far too many. I have a habit of scaring Courtney backstage – always fun. Lorraine (my dresser) and I play basketball during some of the quick changes. There are always bound to be funny things that happen onstage and trying to hold in your laughter when you are supposed to be going through great emotional torment is equally hilarious and
terrifying as you’re trying to remain, “professional”.

Sheridan: The first read through we did as a company comes to mind. It was truly magical, I can’t quite put into words what it felt like to come together and bring the story to life from the page for the first time.

What message do you hope audiences will leave with after experiencing Wicked?

Kurtis: One of my favourite things about Wicked is that anyone who watches it will find something a little different that resonates with them, it really touches on so many themes that are still relevant 20 years after it was written. But if there’s one thing I hope audiences will take from the show, it’s to never take things in life at face value, to be aware of the outside forces that are constantly influencing prejudices we have and the decisions we make.

Shewit: What I love about this show is the myriad of interpretations our audience members have – many of which are, of course, informed by their own life journeys. Something that I am always reminded of when I do this show is that happy endings don’t have to look one particular way. There are so many ways that stories can end, and can end happily, with a compromise or two (or seven) thrown in there.


Wicked is playing now at Melbourne’s Regent Theatre.

For tickets and more information, visit wickedthemusical.com.au.

Gabi Bergman

Gabi Bergman is a Melbourne-based performer and educator, and is the current Deputy Editor-in-Chief of AussieTheatre.com. She holds a Double Arts degree in Theatre Studies and Film/Screen Studies and a Master of Teaching (Secondary Education). Gabi has always been an avid lover of theatre, specifically musicals, and spends way too much money than she’d like to admit on tickets. Her most prized possession is her crate of theatre programs.

Gabi Bergman

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