Sold on 'Wicked'

Published April 4, 2009 6:00 pm
Musical » Advance sales show Utahns crush on the show about the young witches of Oz.
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Word of a sold-out run in Utah on April 8-May 3 for "Wicked" has reached cast members of the national tour (currently performing in Portland), and they already are feeling the audience love.

"I have some family and friends who live in the area and they were telling me that there is a lot of buzz there," said Katie Rose Clarke, who plays Glinda. "It's the most encouraging thing. It does push you to want to be better and give people a reason to feel that all the hype and excitement was worth it."

NewSpace Entertainment, the Salt Lake City-based company that presents the Broadway Across America -- Utah season, worked for five years to bring the national touring show to town. Subscribers swept up blocks of tickets when they went on sale last April, but ticket sales appeared even more dramatic when singles were put on sale in December.

More than 2,000 people wrapped around the block at Capitol Theatre on Dec. 12, and nearly 7,000 tickets --- ranging from $55 to $150, with added service fees --- were sold out by 1 p.m. "Utahns have been traveling to NYC, California and other markets for years to see the show and now it will be here," said Elizabeth Nebeker, spokeswoman with Broadway Across America - Utah. "We are already working on booking a return engagement."

At the end of "Wicked's" 32-show Salt Lake City run, the tour will have sold 60,000 tickets in Utah, for a total of $5.25 million. That will put it in the third spot on the local record-setting Broadway touring shows list, behind the 1998 run of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" with Donny Osmond in the starring role, and the 1996 tour of "Phantom of the Opera."

Promoters believe "Wicked" would have sold even more tickets for the Salt Lake City leg of the tour, "if more weeks would have been available in the theater," said Steve Boulay, chief operating officer of NewSpace Entertainment. Salt Lake City had stronger advance sales for "Wicked" than other tour cities, Boulay said, and the musical's soundtrack has sold well here.

The musical, which premiered on Broadway in 2003, features music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Winnie Holzman. The story of two girls who meet in Oz sometime before Dorothy and Toto stop by was adapted from the best-selling 1995 novel by Gregory Maguire.

Elphaba, a smart and beautiful girl, is born with emerald green skin, while Glinda is beautiful and, as one of the most hummable songs of the score has it, "Popular." The musical tells the journey the two take to become the Wicked Witch of the West and the Good Witch of the North.

One happy local ticketholder is Mary Jo Ahlin, of Holladay, who purchased 24 tickets for the April 26 show. She and her husband gave theater tickets as Christmas presents to family and close friends and are planning a pre-show party with a "Wicked" theme.

"We have been listening to the CD for the last couple of months and just getting totally psyched for it," Ahlin said. "We tried to see it in New York and L.A., and both times it was a difficult time scheduling and getting good seats."

Another Holladay resident, Susan Hollberg, had to invest a little more time in getting tickets. She met her sister at the Capitol Theatre box office around 10:30 p.m. Dec. 11 to claim the sixth and seventh slots in line. They waited through the night, about 8 1/2 hours, before the box office opened at 7 a.m. "It was a lot of fun until it got really cold," Hollberg said. "We all know the music, every word of the lyrics. I have a little girl, in particular, who really loves the songs."

Having good vibes from the public is always a vote of confidence, cast members say. "It does push you to want to be better and give people a reason to feel that all the hype and excitement was worth it," said Clarke, a New York City-based actor who has been on the tour for a year and a half.

Donna Vivino, also based in New York City, plays Elphaba, and spends 20 minutes before each performance getting painted green with water-based body paint. Paint aside, Vivino said she enjoys playing a smart, strong-willed woman who stands up for what she believes.

The actors claim the coming-of-age story about friendship appeals to all demographics, from ages 8 to 85. Perhaps it's partly the familiarity of the classic movie "The Wizard of Oz" that helped make "Wicked" such a theatrical name brand. "It definitely appeals to people because of that," Vivino said. "But once they come and see the show, they realize it's such a different story that they don't think about 'The Wizard of Oz' anymore. They are just swept up in 'Wicked.' "

Feeling green

The national tour of "Wicked" plays April 8-May 3 at the Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City. Tickets are sold out, but there's one last chance: There will be a lottery two hours before each performance. People can put their names in for a drawing to purchase two tickets for $25. For more information about "Wicked," visit http://www.wickedthemusical.com" Target="_BLANK">http://www.wickedthemusical.com.

Swept off your broom by 'Wicked'?

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