Based on Gregory Maguire's 1995 novel "Wicked: The Life & Times of the Wicked Witch of the West," the musical tells the tale of the denizens of Oz before Dorothy hit town. The title originally was slated to go from page to silver screen. But Marc Platt, who was developing the project in his role as Universal Pictures' president of production, says "something wasn't bringing it to life."
Ultimately, Mr. Platt, 46, who heads Universal City, Calif.-based Marc Platt Productions, and his team connected with Broadway producer David Stone, 37, who's worked on shows such as "Man of La Mancha" and "The Vagina Monologues."
"I'm blown away by how well we're doing in the winter," says Mr. Stone, who along with Mr. Platt is lead producer of "Wicked." "The advance keeps growing. That's very good for the show's long-term health."
For the week ended Feb. 1, "Wicked" grossed $951,831, with an average ticket price of $70.03, according to the League of American Theatres & Producers. In that same week, "Hairspray" grossed $775,289, "Movin' Out" pulled in $490,942 and four Broadway shows announced they'd close. Only "The Producers," with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick back in the lead roles, beat "Wicked."
Messrs. Platt and Stone believed they would have "Wicked" success if they hooked the marketing to L. Frank Baum's original "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," since many theatergoers may not have read the book version of "Wicked."
The print ad, created by New York agency Serino Coyne, features a white witch whispering into the ear of a green-skinned witch. The tagline reads: "So much happened before Dorothy dropped in ..."
"You know these images, but there's confusion about what you're seeing and you want to know more," Mr. Stone says.
"In developing the graphic image, the play, the book, the story became the star," says Mr. Platt. "We wanted to sell the idea."
Ticket sales were whipped up by an ad backing "Wicked," but paid for by American Express Co., that ran in The New York Times the day of the Tony Awards. Then, about a month before the show's Halloween eve opening-"We booked that date a year in advance," Mr. Stone recalls-they sent 500,000 pieces of direct mail, ran a few weeks of radio ads and placed print ads in the Times and the four major suburban newspapers around New York City.
Pre-show promotions developed by the Marketing Group included a window design contest for tri-state Barnes & Noble stores (30 bookstores participated), as well as "Wicked" windows and an in-store party at Macy's flagship store.
"We knew it was working because the sales were wonderful for something essentially brand new," Mr. Stone says. Advance sales totaled $8 million.
Next up? "Wicked" will head out on tour in 2005. Kansas, get ready.