On Christmas morning while most college students are happy getting money and clothes from their parents, BYU student Annie Bartlome shrieked in excitement as her mom hands her an envelope with two small pieces of paper in it — tickets to the Salt Lake production of the musical “Wicked.”
“It was one of the only things that I asked for this year for Christmas, and my mom was so lucky to get tickets for the both of us this summer,” Bartlome said.
“Wicked” will visit Salt Lake City’s Capitol Theatre from July 9 through August 24 as a part of the Broadway Across America Utah productions.
Bartlome is not the only Utah resident anxiously awaiting its arrival. Many people in Salt Lake and its surrounding areas have been planning to see the show since the moment the box office started selling tickets.
“I have seen it three times in Utah, twice in New York and once in London,” said Lindsey Hunter, from American Fork. “The actors and the actresses are amazing, and I love the music and story line.”
Why does this musical resonate so strongly with Utah residents?
“This is a very popular musical. Utah audiences seem to follow national trends in what they like to watch,” said Megan Sanborn Jones, a professor in BYU’s Department of Theatre. “I think the wide variety of means by which you can assess its success speaks to its popularity with audiences. The songs are catchy with lots of power solos and duets for girls. It is an already-familiar story made new, which is exciting.”
Utah has a strong theater presence with its many productions in Salt Lake City, and the area colleges with theatre and music programs.
Kylie McKee, from Pocatello, Idaho, and her nine siblings have been involved in musical theatre production for most of their lives, and “Wicked” remains one of their family favorites. She adds hat religious background may factor in Utahn’s appreciation of the musical.
“I think that we as members of the LDS Church or just religious people in general are very attracted to really good music and really uplifting things,” McKee said. “‘Wicked’ is very entertaining; it has a positive feel about it, and the music can be played around the house without having to be censored for little kids. I think that is a big reason why people in Utah like it so much too, especially since a lot of Utah people live religious lifestyles.”
Although “Wicked” has proven to be popular among Utah residents, it is not limited to these viewers. It has become an international phenomenon for audiences who have many different backgrounds.
“I saw (‘Wicked’) in London in 2011 at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. I stood in line in Chicago many years ago but couldn’t get in because of its popularity,” said Rodger Sorensen, College of Fine Arts and Communications Associate Dean and BYU Department of Theatre and Media Art faculty member. “It isn’t just people in Utah who love the show. ‘Wicked’ is currently running and making box office records in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, St Louis and London. The music and lyrics are by Stephen Schwartz, one of the finest and most popular writers of Broadway Musicals.”
“Wicked” caters to different audiences whether they have a background in musical theater or not.
“I think it is such a big hit because of the story and the music. Since ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is such a beloved story, and since ‘Wicked’ springboards from that show, the popularity of ‘Wicked’ has probably had something to do with the popularity of ‘The Wizard of Oz,'” Sorensen said. “Sometimes shows play to audiences who are more theater literate. However, I think ‘Wicked’s’ popularity isn’t limited to theater types. I think it is beloved by people from all walks of life, all over the world.”
“Wicked” recently celebrated its 10th anniversary on Broadway, and its North American and international companies have cumulatively grossed $3.4 billion with nearly 42 million viewers worldwide. The musical has had productions in 13 countries around the world and has also been translated into five different languages since its debut in 2003.
The musical made its debut among London audiences when it opened in London’s West End on Sept. 27, 2006, at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. Within the first 30 minutes of ticket sales opening, London theater history was made when almost $170,000 worth of tickets were sold. Since then, “Wicked” has set many other records, including the all-time record for highest weekly gross in West End history in January of 2011, when it took in almost $1.7 million.
“Only a handful of musicals in the history of Broadway have crossed the 10-year mark, and that is not only thrilling but extraordinary. It is a testament to the show’s ability to burrow into the hearts of its fans,” said “Wicked” producer Marc Platt.