'Wicked' this way comes: 'Popular' musical returning for 7-week run with S.L. native in ensemble
Much has changed in the 10 years since "Wicked" first blew onto Broadway. But not much has changed the public's appetite for the musical.
Since its debut in 2003, "Wicked" has grossed more than $3.9 billion and been seen by more than 39 million people around the world. In December, the Broadway production set a Broadway record as the first musical to earn more than $3 million in a single week. The two leading witches are appearing around the world in nine different touring productions and have sung in English, Japanese, Spanish, Dutch, German and Korean.
They are, in a word, "popular."
For those unfamiliar with the musical, "Wicked" is about how Glinda the Good Witch and the Wicked Witch of the West came to be. It's a sort of prequel to "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz."
For many of its young cast members, their first introduction to the show — years before they became actors — was as audience members.
"This show has such a special place in my heart. I saw it when I was 16, the original Broadway cast, and it's a huge reason why I'm in the business at all," said cast member and Salt Lake City native Nikki Bohne.
"This show touched me in a way no other musical ever has," Bohne said. The graduate of Lone Peak High School has graced the stages of Sandy City and Hale Centre Theatre and grew up seeing Broadway tours at Capitol Theatre — including the previous tour of "Wicked."
For this go-around, Bohne is in the ensemble and is the understudy for Glinda. "It was my dream to be up in that bubble," Bohne said over the phone from Omaha, Nebraska. "And the first time I went on as Glinda and went in that bubble, all of my dreams came true. My dad was there; it was a full-circle moment for us. This musical was a pivotal turning point for me."
Gina Beck, who plays Glinda, saw the preview of "Wicked" in London.
"It blew my mind," Beck said. "Hearing that score sung live was amazing, and the massive set pieces and special effects — it's a real spectacle. I'd never seen anything like it."
Being from the United Kingdom, Beck has experienced the musical’s impact firsthand. "Even though the show has been to quite a few cities over the past 9½ years, people are still really excited — they're desperate to see it again."
Emma Hunton, who gets "greenified" each night for her role as Elphaba, first saw the show nine years ago at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles.
“I just remember thinking what a massive show it was,” Hunton said. “You know, you see something like that, and you love it, but you never think you’ll be part of it.”
Hunton’s journey to the Emerald City was a comparatively quick one. “I didn’t know if I’d be able to sing it. My agent had to convince me to audition,” she said.
For her audition, Hunton sang “Defying Gravity” and “The Wizard and I,” Elphaba’s soaring showstoppers.
“I went in on Halloween, which seemed appropriate, and I found out that night. It was a very fast turnaround," she said. “It just felt like life was on my side.”
Hunton spends 20 minutes each night getting made up as Elphaba, who has green skin.
“It’s really not that long,” she said. “We have a makeup supervisor who basically just paints it on with two Japanese paintbrushes. It’s also not as heavy as you might think; it’s really lightweight, and you feel really pretty afterward.”
That, Hunton pointed out, is the interesting thing about Elphaba: “She’s not supposed to be ugly; she’s pretty. She’s just green.”
That green, Hunton said, often ends up “in my hairline, and it’s always in my ears.” But she says it's a price worth paying to play Elphaba.
“It’s definitely been a moment where you’re just waiting for someone to shake you out of a dream — to shake you awake,” she said.
Hunton said this is her third touring show.
"We’re excited to come to Utah,” she said. “We want to plan a camping trip.”
Bohne said she “couldn’t be more excited” to be returning home and that she has a countdown on her phone.
“It means so much to me," she said. "I get to live with my family for seven weeks. I’m also excited to share Utah’s beauty with my cast. Whenever I’m back in Utah, I’m in awe of its beauty.”
If you go ...
What: “Wicked” national tour
When: July 9-Aug. 24, times vary, matinees available
Where: Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South in Salt Lake City
How much: $55-$185
'Wicked' day-of ticket deals
Pre-performance drawings are set to give patrons a chance at winning discounted tickets to “Wicked.”
Two and a half hours before each performance, guests may go to the Capitol Theatre box office with a photo ID to place their names in a drawing to receive orchestra seats for $25 each.
Names will be drawn 2 hours before the performance, and winners must be available in person, again with a valid photo ID, to purchase the tickets. A limited number of seats are available in the drawing. There is a limit of two tickets per person for those selected by the drawing.
Erica Hansen was the Theater Editor at the Deseret News for more than three years. An area performer, she was also the original host of the radio program "Showtune Saturday Night."
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