When I conjure an image of Wicked in my mind, I see the hands of two very different women joined in solidarity and friendship during the song ‘For Good’. A fun night of entertainment for some, Wicked is almost a feminist manifesto to me and many other girls, a representation of what women can achieve when they put aside their biases and unite to achieve a common goal.
This, perhaps, is why I was so excited to hear that four Australian actresses previously cast in Wicked’s leading roles of Elphaba and G(a)linda, are getting together to perform feminine songs of mysticism and magic in a performance with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Helen Dallimore, Lucy Durack, Amanda Harrison and Jemma Rix will present Witches With Your SSO for two performances only this weekend, and were kind enough to speak to me about their experiences working with each other, feminine empowerment through magical narratives, and what Wicked entering the amateur world means for young performers.
Talking to the four women, it is clear that the Sydney Symphony concert is not only a thrillifying prospect for fans, but for the Witches themselves. Each performer has lived a part of her stage career working closely with at least one other member of the cast, and the idea of creating something original within a group of women who have inspired each other and taught one another to be better performers and people is an exciting one to all involved.
“We’re all so excited and inspired by each other and we’ve all seen each other perform. To get to share the stage together… It’s going to be magic,” says Rix.
Having already formed intricate bonds with each other through tours of Wicked or Legally Blonde (another show fuelled by feminine power and endurance) and other theatrical forays, the Witches have high praise for one another. Words like “generous”, “humble”, “inspirational”, and “astonishingly positive” were echoed during our interview regarding the strengths and attitudes each performer brings to the productions she participates in, illustrating just how much love and support will be present on the stage of the Sydney Opera House come tonight.
Following their star turns in career-defining, woman-centric shows, all four actresses are credited as co-headliners for the Witches event. Ben Lewis (of Love Never Dies fame) will be featured as a guest star, and the women hope that the billing of the concert could be an indication of the future of the Australian musical theatre industry for their shared gender.
“This is my first time doing a concert with all women, we have a guest male artist, which is the opposite of anything I’ve ever done before. […] These events happen every now and then (there was also Jerry’s Girls in Melbourne last year, which was fantastic for women as well), so every now and then it happens, and it’s really good for us to be involved this time around.”
Says Durack, “Something of this scale and this particular concert, it would be great to do more of it. That’s what is so great about Wicked, the leads are two women, [the story is] about women and friendship. We love that we are celebrating that.”
Featuring music from Frozen, Jekyll and Hyde, The Witches of Eastwick, Into the Woods and many other magic-infused musicals, Rix and Durack believe that the abundance of stories regarding witches and mythical, mystical girls shows that many women identify as outsiders and want to see their everyday lives imbued with the possibility that magic brings.
“I think most of us like to hope that there is some magic in real life, […] it’s the same type of thing as in Matilda,” explained Durack. “I like to think that in the everyday there are magical things happening, whether they are [inherently] magical or more in a philosophical sense.”
Amongst jokes about a woman’s “ancient pagan instinct”, Dallimore and Harrison believe female audiences connect so deeply to magical empowerment because we see ourselves as all-powerful beings. Dallimore believes that women “should be running the place.”
“We [women and girls] all think we should be in charge (and many of us are in our own personal domain), so it’s an extension of that, really. It’s about women holding power, and in the case [of our Witches performance] coming together and entertaining, and hopefully bringing some joy to the crowd.”
Durack expects that Witches With Your SSO will be a symbiotic performance between the Witches and their audience, mentioning that the fun the women get out of working together should radiate from the stage and create an enjoyable experience for fans.
“When people are playing principal roles in any show, you have an unspoken respect for each other,” says Rix. “It’s a tough gig and you discover what it takes, together. I feel like – especially because we’ve all been a part of Wicked – we really relate to each other and respect each other. It’s quite wonderful that we are able to get together and sing and create this show.”
If you are anything like me and have the blood of the witches our ancestors failed to burn running through your veins, lets pray to the goddesses of theatre that this show somehow manages to travel in the future. It sounds like an absolute delight, and the women who lead our theatrical performances deserve the opportunity to work together more often.
Witches With Your SSO has a limited season of two performances in Sydney beginning tonight, with further information to be found at this link.