Although now closed, Wicked's Chicago run has changed theater "for good"

    Jan. 25, 2009 saw the final lighting of the Wicked marquee. Photo by wxmom on Flickr, licensed on Creative Commons.

    Despite the rising popularity of the environmental movement, the city of Chicago now finds itself a little less “green.”

    The cast of Wicked played their 1,500th and final performance on Sunday, Jan. 25 after more than three years at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts Oriental Theatre.

    Based on Gregory Maguire’s novel, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, Wicked tells the story of Elphaba (the infamous “Wicked Witch of the West”) and Glinda (the “Good Witch of the North”) before Dorothy landed in Oz. The college roommates initially loathe each other, but a friendship soon develops between the misunderstood green girl and her popular friend. However, meeting with the “Wonderful” Wizard of Oz sets events into motion that find the two girls on completely different paths.

    During its unprecedented Chicago run, the production grossed over $206 million and was seen by almost three million people. Producers announced the closing back in May, which only raised the already high demand for reported that the show recently broke its own record by taking in a gross of $1,764,428 for the week ending Jan. 4, 2009.

    Despite mixed reviews, the show found enormous success after it debuted on Broadway on Oct. 30, 2003.A touring cast hit the road in 2005 and was set to play a limited engagement in Chicago as their second stop. However, after the seven-week engagement completely sold out, plans were quickly made for a $10 million sit-down production, featuring a new company to remain in Chicago after the touring cast finished their limited engagement.

    The show had an impact on the Northwestern community as well. NU alum Heidi Kettenring originated the role of Nessarose (aka the “Wicked Witch of the East”) in the original Chicago cast. She took a hiatus in 2007 but returned in Feb. 2008, staying with the production until the very end.

    Many campus organizations, such as the Norris box office, offered students discounted tickets to help alleviate the typically steep prices.

    Although the city is losing one of its most lucrative tourist attractions, theatergoers will benefit in at least one way. Eileen LaCario, one of two Broadway in Chicago Vice Presidents, explained in the company’s blog that, “for the last couple of years, touring shows have struggled to find venues in Chicago, because the theaters have been full.” This has created a long list of shows waiting to play for Chicago audiences.

    Which means that while the Wicked marquee dimmed for the final time on Sunday, the Oriental won’t stay dark for long. The national tour of Chicago will play the theater when it visits its namesake city Feb. 24 to March 1. Academy Award Winner Chazz Palminteri will follow soon after with his one-man show, “A Bronx Tale” (March 10 to 29).

    Other Broadway in Chicago tours this season include four shows that concluded their Broadway runs within the last six months: Monty Python’s Spamalot (opened Jan. 20 at the Auditorium Theatre), Rent featuring original Broadway cast members Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal (Oriental Theatre March 31 to April 12), A Chorus Line (Oriental Theatre April 13 to May 3) and Legally Blonde (Oriental Theatre May 12 to 31).

    In addition to the wealth of touring shows visiting the city this spring, the Loop remains a popular location for sit-down productions. Jersey Boys continues its open-ended run, which began Oct. 5, 2007, at the Bank of America Theatre. In addition, Xanadu (currently in previews at the Water Tower Place’s Drury Lane Theatre, officially opens Jan. 28) and Disney’s Mary Poppins (begins March 11 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre) will both kick off their national tours with extended stays. Plans are also underway for the new Addams Family musical to make its pre-Broadway debut at the Oriental next fall.

    If you missed your chance to visit Oz while in Chicago, don’t worry. The show continues to gross over $1 million dollars a week on Broadway, despite the recession that has crippled most of the Great White Way (13 shows played their final performances in January). In addition, the recently closed Los Angeles production transfers to San Francisco Jan. 27 while the second national tour  will debut in Fort Meyers, Fla. March 7. Thinking about studying abroad? You’ll find productions of the show in London, Melbourne, Tokyo and Stuggart. Germ.


    blog comments powered by Disqus
    Please read our Comment Policy.