Green with envy: Melbourne lights up to celebrate the return of Wicked

All that glitters was green on Monday night as Melbourne’s Lord Mayor Robert Doyle and the Wonderful Wizard of Oz himself – Reg Livermore – lit up the Melbourne town hall and bathed Swanston Street in a lime hue.

The ‘greenifying’ of Melbourne was to celebrate the return of the hugely popular Wicked, starring Lucy Durack as Glinda the Good Witch and Jemma Rix as the Wicked Witch of the West in the roles that launched them onto the musical theatre scene.

Premiering in Melbourne in 2008, Wicked has consistently been a number one hit, both in Australia and internationally. In New York Wicked remains the most successful musical of the past 10 years, described as “The Best Musical of the Decade” by US publication Entertainment Weekly.

And now, with the iconic Australian theatre veteran, Reg Livermore, joining the cast in the self-described ‘cameo’ role of the Wizard of Oz, audiences will be following the yellow brick road once more to see what magic Livermore will deliver to the performance.

I spoke to the legend of Aussie theatre about his first role on the stage as the Wicked Witch of the West and what it’s now like stepping into the emerald city as the Wizard of Oz.

“My first meeting with the Wizard of Oz was in 1964 at the Tivoli theatre in Sydney… I played the Wicked Witch of the West and it was one of the best times, up until that time, that I’d had on stage”, says Livermore.

And what of the Wizard?

Reg Livermore as the Wizard in WICKED.  Image by  Jeff Busby
Reg Livermore as the Wizard in WICKED.
Image by Jeff Busby

“I believe he is a man with great self-interest, and he might be a bit silly. He’s not powerful, he doesn’t really have the abilities that the two witches have. They call him a wizard and he’s wonderful, but he does lack all the fine points of being a real wizard, and so I suppose there’s a bit of disappointment for him; but he’s determined to stay on top if he can.”

The longevity of Wicked, and its continuous success, is one of the many things that make this musical “a cultural phenomenon” as described by Variety.

I asked Livermore what the magic was behind the musical that kept audiences coming back night after night.

“The music is great, the story is great. It’s such a layered story; there’s so many stratas of things going on and of course it’s the most wonderful thing to look at. It’s the biggest show I’ve ever been in and I’m astonished. Backstage I just think, ‘how does this all happen?’ and also ‘Where do I stand so I get out of the way?’. And I think the story itself, the friendship between the two girls and the fact that they’re both vying for popularity; and then there’s a boy who’s torn between the two of them so it’s sort of a soap opera in some ways. I think the audience responds to that story and that friendship.”

With over 40 million viewers and a decade of success, Wicked and its incredible cast of characters looks set to continue to break records across the country.

For tickets or more information head to the WICKED website.

Venue: Regent Theatre, Melbourne
Season:  From 10 May, 2014

Performance Times:  Wed – Sat 8.00pm, Wed 1.00pm, Sat 2.00pm, Sun 1.00pm and 6.30pm

Bookings:  On line at Ticketmaster or by phone on 1300 111 011

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Heather has written 5 articles on AussieTheatre | Read more articles by