Wicked’s Two North American Tours Create Sizable Impact On Local Economies
Wicked is so insanely popular and so incredibly successful that there are seven productions of the musical currently running in the world. You can see the show in New York (Broadway) and London (West End) as well as in the countries of Japan, Germany, and Australia. There are also two North American tours presently out on the road (a full itinerary is listed below).
These two touring companies are really like small armies traveling from one city to another only instead of engaging in hand-to-hand combat they engage in jazz hands.
It takes workers three full 14-hour days to erect Wicked’s Tony Award winning sets. That includes hanging the huge clock-dragon over the stage and setting up the rigging for the flying monkeys (yes, the show has flying monkeys).
“It’s a major undertaking,” boasts production stage manager David Hansen. “Everything fits together like a giant puzzle.”
To ensure that all the puzzle pieces come together correctly and on time, Wicked employs more than a hundred carpenters, technicians, and stage hands. Some of these workers travel with the production but most are local hires.
Music and lyrics… Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Pippin, Pocahontas, and The Prince of Egypt)
Book… Winnie Holzman (“My So Called Life,” “Once And Again” and “thirtysomething”)
Directed… Joe Mantello (Take Me Out, Love! Valour! Compassion!, The Vagina Monologues)
Musical Staging… Wayne Cilento (Aida, The Who’s Tommy, How To Succeed…).
Produced… Marc Platt, Universal Pictures, The Araca Group, Jon B. Platt and David Stone.
Set Design… Eugene Lee (Ragtime, Show Boat, Candide, Sweeney Todd)
Costume Design… Susan Hilferty (Spring Awakening, Into the Woods, Assassins)
Lighting Design… Kenneth Posner (Tony Award winner for The Coast of Utopia, Hairspray)
Sound Design… Tony Meola (The Lion King)
Hiring local professionals is just one of the ways a traveling production like Wicked impacts the economies of the cities it visits. For example, in 2008, when Wicked played the Shea’s Performing Arts Center in Buffalo, New York for four weeks it pumped an estimated $20 million into the local economy.
Officials with the venue calculated that half of that amount was from money the cast and crew spent locally while the other half was from money theater-goers spent on hotels, restaurants, parking, and other services.
An event’s economic impact can be hard to compute. If residents buy Wicked tickets with the money they’d normally spend on a trip to the movies (more like several trips) than there’s really no impact, but if the money comes from out of town, if they stay at hotels, if they eat at restaurants, than the economic impact can be quite significant.
Keep in mind that it can be very difficult, at least statistically, to differentiate between residents trading one form of entertainment for another from out-of-towners coming in to catch a show. Of course, if you want anecdotal proof, just ask business owners around a theater if they cash-in whenever a top-tier production like Wicked pays a visit. They are sure to tell you, “cha-ching.”
So even if one uses the most conservative economic projections, Broadway touring shows still generate big bucks for every community they visit.
“The economic impact, let alone from the people buying tickets, is so substantial, but we just haven’t done a very good job of telling our story. Touring Broadway, in the last study that the [Broadway] League did, contributed over $3.5 billion across America,” explained Albert Nocciolino, a Broadway producer and presenting partner for Shea’s Performing Arts Center.
Not all markets are created equally. Wicked is likely to do better in smaller cities where an event like the arrival of a major Broadway touring company is an actual “event.” In cities like Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Washington D.C.—where you have to do much more than just put on a show about a green witch to attract people’s attention—visiting musicals actually have competition.
Also, one should expect cities that have already sold Wicked musical tickets to see less of an economic impact the second time the national tour comes calling—if the company is lucky enough to last that long. That’s why good venue operators wait before scheduling a production’s return. A couple of years in between visits keeps the show fresh and ticket demand high.
Economic impact definitely remains high when you have a great show like Wicked—a show that’s entertaining and appealing to more than just your hardcore theatre-goers. Wicked is so much fun, and so layered with references to The Wizard of OZ, that it’s one of the few Broadway musicals you want to see again and again.
In Buffalo’s case (Wicked is running in that city until May 22) ticket sales are down a bit from 2008, that’s when the musical first shuffled into town. Back then, 97 percent of Wicked tickets were sold to the tune of $5.7 million. Despite the drop in sales, Shea executives believe the musical’s economic impact will still be similar to what it was in 2008. That’s a testament to Wicked’s unwavering popularity.
Wicked’s 2011 Itinerary
>>April 20 – May 1 – Wicked visits Eugene, OR @ Hult Center
>>April 27 – May 22 – Wicked visits Buffalo, NY @ Sheas Performing Arts Center
>>May 4-15 – Wicked visits Boise, ID @ Morrison Center
>>May 18-29 – Wicked visits Spokane, WA @ INB Performing Arts Center
>>May 25 – June 12 – Wicked visits Omaha, NE @ Orpheum Theater
>>June 1-26 – Wicked visits Vancouver, BC @ Queen Elizabeth Theatre
>>June 15 – August 17 – Wicked visits Washington D.C. @ Opera House
>>June 29 – July 17 – Wicked visits Calgary, AB @ Southern Jubilee Auditorium
>>July 20 – August 7 – Wicked visits Edmonton, AB @ Northern Jubilee Auditorium
>>August 10-21 – Wicked visits Saskatoon, SK @ TCU Place
>>August 24 – September 11 – Wicked visits Hartford, CT @ The Bushnell
>>August 24 – September 4 – Wicked visits Winnipeg, MB @ Centennial Concert Hall
>>September 7 – October 2 – Wicked visits Pittsburgh, PA @ Bebedum Center
>>September 14 – October 9 – Wicked visits Atlanta, GA @ Fox Theatre
>>October 5-16 – Wicked visits Richmond, VA @ Landmark Theater
>>October 12 – October 30 – Wicked visits Peoria, IL @ Peoria Civic Center
>>October 19 – November 6 – Wicked visits Nashville, TN @ TPAC
>>November 2 – November 27 – Wicked visits Cincinnati, OH @ Aronoff Center
>>November 9 – December 4 – Wicked visits Des Moines, IA @ Civic Center
>>November 30 – January 29 – Wicked visits Los Angeles, CA @ Pantages Theatre
>>December 7 – December 31 – Wicked visits Detroit, MI @ The Opera House
Wicked’s 2012 Itinerary
>>January 4 – January 22 – Wicked visits Jacksonville, FL @ Times Union Performing Arts Center
>>January 25 – February 12 – Wicked visits Austin, TX @ Bass Concert Hall
>>February 1 – February 12 – Wicked visits El Paso, TX @ Plaza Theatre
>>February 14 – March 4 – Wicked visits Birmingham, AL @ Birmingham Jefferson Convention
>>February 15 – March 11 – Wicked visits Tempe, AZ @ Gammage Auditorium
>>March 14 – April 8 – Wicked visits Portland, OR @ Keller Auditorium
>>March 28 – April 15 – Wicked visits Fort Myers, FL @ Barbara B. Mann PAH
>>April 18-29 – Wicked visits N. Charleston, SC @ N. Charleston Performing Arts Center
>>May 2-5 – Wicked visits Durham, NC @ Durham Performing Arts Center
>>May 23-26 – Wicked in Sacramento, CA @ Sacramento Community Center Theater
>>June 1-3 – Wicked visits Dayton, OH @ Schuster Performing Arts Center
>>June 19-22 – Wicked visits San Diego, CA @ San Diego Civic Theatre
>>June 27-30 – Wicked in East Lansing, MI @ Wharton Center – Cobb Great Hall