As if with the flick of a wand, California Musical Theatre is making the Oz-themed play Wicked reappear as part of its Broadway Sacramento series, with hopes that the musical will interest audiences the way it did in 2012.
That run all but sold out before it got to town, as it does in most markets where it plays for a first time, said CMT spokesperson Matt Hessburg.
The second time around, Wicked, which opens today and runs through June 15, is proving just as captivating.
CMT invites only the most popular touring productions for a second showing, said president Richard Lewis. Mamma Mia was the most recent repeater in 2012. The Lion King, Chicago and Phantom of the Opera have also returned for encore runs.
(Wicked) speaks to the audience and so they come back to see it again and again, Lewis said. Its like Phantom in some ways in that people just want to see it. Wicked in particular has a tremendous appeal.
A prequel to The Wizard of Oz, Wicked tells the story of the good witch Glinda and the wicked witch Elphaba long before Dorothys crash landing. Through a winding musical narrative dotted with flying monkeys, royal princes and evil spells, the audience hears the story of two young women who teeter precariously between friendship and enmity.
Showbiz heavyweights Stephen Schwartz (Pippin, Godspell) and Winnie Holzman (TVs My So-Called Life, thirtysomething) joined forces to adapt the story from Gregory Maguires 1995 novel of the same title.
Since its New York debut in 2003, Wicked has made more than $3 billion at the box office and has remained the highest-grossing Broadway musical for nine consecutive years. There are now two North American touring companies performing Wicked.
While the set, costumes and script remain unchanged from the Wickeds four-week run in 2012, new actors have been brought in, including three alumni from Sacramentos own Music Circus the summer series for which CMT auditions more than 5,000 professional actors from all over the country.
This touring cast also features Gina Beck, who played Glinda on Londons West End stage for two years before joining the North American touring cast in December. Beck also played Christine in the West Ends Phantom of the Opera and appeared in the ensemble of the recent Les Misérables feature film.
Beck said this Wicked touring production is every bit as spectacular as what played in London. The set alone fills 10 to 12 trucks and requires three days of unloading, according to Lewis. Fortunately, Sacramentos Community Center Theatre, where the show will play, is a 2,350-seat house with enough stage space for such a grandiose production.
And its that spectacle, Beck said, that keeps people coming back.
When you first view it, youre kind of bowled over by all the plot points and the songs and things, she said. But on the second viewing, youre more interested in seeing different bits of the costume and learning the lyrics. If you listen closely, you can even hear little snippets of the Wizard of Oz score.
However, there are some who are less thrilled about the repeat selection, particularly the yearly subscribers who caught Wicked the first time around. Lewis said he received complaints from about 500 of this years 12,000 subscribers. He noted that not everyone wants to see Wicked again, but that the tickets make excellent gifts.
Youre never going to make 100 percent of the folks happy with the decision about what shows are coming, he said. We try very hard to make sure were bringing the freshest productions available into the theater.
While Wicked has been in major metropolitan areas for more than a decade, it took about nine years to get to Sacramento for the first time.
Were a secondary market San Francisco and Los Angeles have millions of people and multiple theaters, Lewis said. Thats just the reality of the theater industry. In the theater world, size is important.