K-W gets ‘Wicked’

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One of the biggest hits in Broadway history has made its way to Kitchener-Waterloo.

Wicked, the “untold stories of the witches of Oz” opened at Kitchener’s Centre in the Square Aug. 29 and will run until Sept. 9. This is the first time the play has been performed in Kitchener and by all accounts, it’s one of the biggest to ever come through the region.

“It’s Broadway’s biggest blockbuster, so having it come to Kitchener is definitely a big deal and we’re all really excited,” said Rebecca Grieb, a marketing assistant at Centre in the Square. “It’s definitely one of the biggest shows we’ve had for sure.”

Wicked tells the story of Elphaba, better known as the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda, the Good Witch, characters made famous in the 1939 classic film, The Wizard of Oz. Since opening on Broadway in October of 2003, the show has earned such monikers as “the best musical of the decade,” and “cultural phenomenon”, as it repeatedly broke attendance and ticket sales records around the world during its nine-year run.

The play has now been touring for seven years, and all-told has been performed 3,654 times around the world.

Ronald Andrew, the president of Broadway Across Canada, the company that brings Broadway shows to Canada, sees Wicked’s performances in Kitchener as a chance to grow the musical theatre community in the region.

“Historically, Kitchener doesn’t do two weeks of any Broadway show,” he said. “It’s good for the community, it puts a focus on Kitchener in our business and when you see a young child walk out of a show like Wicked with wide eyes, I think they’re developing an interest in the arts.”

According to Andrew, shows like Wicked receive good reception across Canada.

“Live theatre is very active and healthy throughout Canada, even outside of Toronto,” he said.

“We’ve been doing touring shows for a long, long time across the country and I think there’s a very strong community here in Canada. You look at Wicked, we ran a month in Vancouver, and we could’ve probably done even longer.”

For the actors involved in the production, which comes to Kitchener fresh off a stop in Montreal, and before that, Ottawa, touring with a play like Wicked gives them a unique opportunity.

“For a lot of these audiences, it’s the first time they’re seeing the play live,” said Michael Wartella, who plays Boq, a munchkin who falls in love with Elphaba.

“As an actor it’s a really great experience because it almost feels like we’re telling the story for the first time.”

According to Grieb, there’s no shortage of excitement locally.

Ticket sales, which Grieb said have been very strong, along with other revenue related to the show, are expected to bring in an estimated $5 million, according to Andrew.

Centre in the Square has also set up a lottery system in which people can enter for the chance to win orchestra seats for $25. In order to enter the lottery, people must present themselves two and a half hours before show time (7:30 p.m.) each day of performances.

Regular ticket prices range from $100 to $124.

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