Sunday, April 08, 2007

Theatre For A New Age

Theatre For A New Age

Almost in spite of its detractors, Wicked continues to grow as a theatrical phenom. And while I personally believe this cultural touchstone speaks to audiences of all ages, it's clear that it skews toward a decidedly younger audience -- one that may never have previously plunked down dinero for any live theatre.

As Robin Eggar notes in this morning's edition of London's The Sunday Times, audiences for the wildly popular British staging of Wicked -- as well as Dirty Dancing and The Sound Of Music -- are not only smashing West End box office records, they're breaking the age barrier... downward.

According to Eggar: "Traditionally, 60% of the audience for lavish musicals have been over the age of 35. For Wicked, 50% are under 35, and they are coming back to see it again and again." Eggar says that success has come largely on the heels of renewed efforts by the West End to attract a younger home-grown audience due to the declining number of American tourists since 9/11.

Meanwhile, ticket sales for the four stateside productions of Wicked have continued to boom, taking in a whopping $5,675,101 during the week ending April 1 -- a figure that would be quite respectable for most films after their initial opening. The relatively new Los Angeles sitdown production led the pack with a gross of $1,762,618, followed by Broadway at $1,392,168, the touring production in Houston (where it broke box office records) at $1,266,707 and then the Chicago sitdown at $1,253,608.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. If shows like Wicked can inspire non-theatregoers to check out the stage, the development is very positive for the continued vitality of the artform. And if those same individuals graduate to other theatrical fare like Spring Awakening, I think they'll discover that the magic isn't some fluke, but something more tangible that can continue to excite the senses and inspire. In the end, that's great news for theatre.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for Dirty Dancing tickets.
Click here for Spring Awakening tickets.
Click here for The Sound Of Music tickets.
Click here for Wicked Broadway tickets.
Click here for Wicked Chicago tickets.
Click here for Wicked London tickets.
Click here for Wicked Los Angeles tickets.
Click here for Wicked U.S. Tour ticket information.
Related Stories:
Wicked World (March 19, 2007)
For Good: Wicked Wins LA Critical Praise (March 1, 2007)
Hollywood Becomes Wicked (February 27, 2007)
Were London Critics Mourning West End Wicked? (September 28, 2006)
West End Wicked Opens Tonight (September 27, 2006)
Wicked Witch of the West End Takes Flight Tonight (September 7, 2006)
Jaaku or Neikan? Wicked Set for Japanese Translation (July 24, 2006)
Five Times More Wicked (July 17, 2006)
Wicked's West End Witches Update (May 17, 2006)
Worldwide Wicked Casting News (May 5, 2006)
Encore: Spotlight Week Ending April 30, 2006 (April 30, 2006)

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At 08 April, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well I never would have gone to see Wicked if I hadn't read about it in your blog. When I first heard that it was coming on tour, I had no interest at all in seeing it. (Perhaps it was the residual fear of flying monkeys from my childhood!) But you were so enthusiastic about it, I thought I'd give it a try.

And I'm so glad I went. (Boy, is that an understatement!) Wicked's charms will stay with me for a long, long time.

I think the music is beautiful and the story is so clever and funny and poignant. I can understand why it appeals to a younger audience: it really speaks to the experiences so many of us had as adolescents.

In addition to Stephen Schwartz's unforgettable songs, I think a large part of the credit has to go to Winnie Holzman's book. She was the writer of a tv series that only lasted one season, "My So-Called Life," but was critically acclaimed for the realistic way it portrayed the trials and tribulations of being a teenager. And I think she brought that same sensitiviity to "Wicked."

As you said, it's great if a show like Wicked can spur a lifelong interest in the artform and get people going to the theater not just on Broadway, but around the country.

I'm glad you're following Wicked so closely because I never get tired of writing about how much I love it!


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