2013 marks the 10th anniversary of one of Broadway's most "popular" shows, Wicked. In the last decade the show has "defied gravity" by winning over 50 awards, but perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects of the show lies not onstage, but in the audience.
Over the course of a decade, Wicked, as well as other Broadway hits, has attracted a large and devoted fan base. These productions have warmed the hearts of theatregoers around the world. Fans of all ages know the songs backwards and forwards and can even recite the show's cast history.
However, there are a few fans of these shows that know the wear and tear of an eight-show schedule. They're not actors, but but they will be there to meet the cast at the stage door multiple times a week.
"No one outside the theatre world understands the concept of multiple performances," said Bettie Laven, a fan of Wicked since its 2003 preview in San Francisco. "I know I have lost track of the real number of times I've seen Wicked after it reached over 150. After a certain number, people think you are crazy."
Laven has followed Wicked for 10 years, having seen the show in major cities all over the United States. While she has followed Wicked closely, she is only a small part of the Broadway "superfan" community, who devote themselves emotionally, physically and financially to one particular show.
Hollis Stern, a "groupie" of Rock of Ages since 2008, has rocked in the audience more than 200 times.
"I think every show provides something emotionally when you see it. Rock of Ages came out less than a year after I lost a family member, and we went to see it Off-Broadway to have fun," Stern said. "We had a great time, so I continued to go. I was often asked how long I would continue going and I always said, 'When it stops being fun.' I don't think there's a number attached to being a fan."
Rob Lawlor, who has flown to Oz at least 45 times, also has an emotional tie to Wicked's underlying message.
"Wicked has brought so much joy and understanding through its message of accepting those who are different than yourself," Lawlor said. "We know these characters. We've all felt like Elphaba in some capacity in our lives. It's that feeling of watching Elphaba during 'Defying Gravity' and feeling that sort of heart-in-my-throat moment when she finally defies everyone."
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