Two Dozen Witches and $790 Million Later, Wicked First National Tour Reaches Final Bow

News   Two Dozen Witches and $790 Million Later, Wicked First National Tour Reaches Final Bow With 10 Glindas, 14 Elphabas and an impressive $790 million in grosses to its credit, the first national tour of Wicked – known as the Emerald City Tour that launched March 8, 2005, in Toronto – will conclude its record-breaking journey March 15 in Los Angeles 10 years to the week after the tour began.

The hit musical based on the Gregory Maguire novel, which has a score by Stephen Schwartz and a book by Winnie Holzman, premiered on Broadway in fall 2003 and shows no signs of melting anytime soon. The first national tour launched two years later at Toronto's Canon Theatre and swiftly became the hottest ticket in each of its touring markets, selling out engagements shortly after cities were announced.

For the record, Wicked's second national tour continues with no determined end in sight.

But not every hit comes without a hitch. The Toronto premiere of The Emerald City tour was forced to postpone performances by a day after the show's star, Stephanie J. Block, was injured during a final dress rehearsal. The now-cut moment, which was to feature Elphaba flying onto stage prior to "No Good Deed," went awry – sidelining Block from the premiere for nearly three weeks. Actress Kristy Cates was summoned to Toronto to step in as Elphaba while she recovered. Producers ultimately postponed the show's opening by a week until Block was well enough to fly back into the role.

Stephanie J. Block and Kendra Kassebaum
Stephanie J. Block and Kendra Kassebaum

Before Wicked had concluded its month-and-a-half run in Toronto, it was clear the show had major staying power on the road. With the upcoming sold-out Chicago stop slated to begin April 29, 2005, producers shrewdly announced plans to open a separate sit-down Chicago production in late June, a move that was unheard of at the time.

The fast-tracking of the sit-down Chicago run, which would reopen only two weeks after the tour was slated to move on, prompted producers to leave the first national tour scenery in place in Chicago. The cast and their costumes were sent along to Los Angeles where they would re-tech the show on a brand-new touring set that was awaiting them there. Meanwhile, a cast of Broadway and Chicago actors were assembled to populate Oz in the sit-down run that would continue for another three-and-a-half years before also hitting the road as the second national (Munchkinland) tour of Wicked.

A sit-down Chicago run was a game-changing move that not only proved there was an audience capable of sustaining major runs of Broadway musicals there, it also prompted several major musicals to follow suit in the market including The Book of Mormon and Jersey Boys.

Since that auspicious launch, the first national tour of Wicked has played 4,160 performances, 124 engagements (including successful return stops in several major U.S. cities) and took in an average of $1.5 million a week. It also broke box-office house records in every single stop it played. Over 200 actors have been employed in the tour over the course of its life, with one dedicated cast member, Christopher Russo, and several production members having been part of the show since its launch.

The conclusion of Wicked's first national tour, which had been planned for some time, is not uncommon for long-running blockbusters that have two simultaneous companies out on the road. Both Les Misérables and The Phantom of the Opera phased out secondary tours in the past.

Jennifer DiNoia and Chandra Lee Schwartz
Jennifer DiNoia and Chandra Lee Schwartz

 

When the curtain comes down on Wicked's first national tour this Sunday in Los Angeles, more than 10.3 million people in 55 cities will have witnessed Elphaba rocket into the western sky.

Since the 2005 opening cast, which included now Tony nominee Block as Elphaba and Kendra Kassebaum as Glinda, dozens of witches have been making good in the two central roles of the Emerald City tour.

The actresses who starred as Glinda include Megan Hilty, Christina DeCicco, Katie Rose Clarke, Chandra Lee Schwartz, Amanda Jane Cooper, Alli Mauzey, Patti Murin, Jenn Gambatese and Gina Beck.

Actresses who were greenified as Elphaba include Eden Espinosa, Julia Murney, Shoshana Bean, Victoria Matlock, Carmen Cusack, Donna Vivino, Jackie Burns, Dee Roscioli, Mamie Parris, Nicole Parker, Alison Luff, Emma Hunton and Jennifer DiNoia.

The closing Emerald City tour cast of Wicked features DiNoia as Elphaba, Schwartz as Glinda, Kim Zimmer as Madame Morrible, Tim Kazurninsky as The Wizard, Nick Adams as Fiyero, Jenny Florkowski as Nessarose, Tom Flynn as Dr. Dillamond and Etai Benson as Boq.

Wicked is directed by Tony Award winner Joe Mantello, and produced by Marc Platt, Universal Pictures, The Araca Group, Jon B. Platt and David Stone.

Visit wickedthemusical.com.

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