I began my final day of WICKED alone in the Oriental. For me there is nothing more special than to sit in the middle of a silent theatre with the ghost light on the stage, soaking up the WICKED set, present of how gorgeous it looked on the stage of the Oriental. This theatre was made for WICKED – not since the theatre opened with RAGTIME did I feel that a show was so completely at home. When you sit alone in a silent theatre, while there are no audible sounds, the theatre is filled with the millions of voices that have sat in those seats over the years, the brilliant music, voices and applause that fills that building 8 shows a week. There could have been a better way to start my day…something like church for a hopeless theatre junkie. Michael Burkett, Broadway In Chicago’s Director of Front of House Operations, who spends the majority of his time in our theatres and manages all of the staff that tend to every customers needs so brilliantly – tapped me on the shoulder and we were off to what became “one short day”!
It was time for the final drawing – there were over 300 people in the lobby just waiting in breathless anticipation to be one of the 20 people that would have the chance to sit in the front row of the theatre for the final performance. It was so exciting and so bitter sweet. There were people from 8 – 80, all WICKED devotees. These were the people that were really responsible for the 3 ½-year run. While many people would say that it was the marketing of the show, we in the business know that it is the audience and their connection to the show. It is their words that spoke most loudly – any show that you walk out of and can say “I want to go back and see it again” is going to be a hit! And these were the people who went out and not only said that they wanted to come back but did (over and over) and also told all their friends – hundreds of thousands of friends urged by their enthusiasm to experience WICKED. The smiles of this crowd and the screams of glee with each name pulled made me cry and laugh all at the same time. I got the chance to say thank you and let them all know that we have so appreciated their support and love for the show. I also got to congratulate each and every winner – one family had done the drawing over 50 times and one winner was going to see WICKED for the first time.
After the last drawing was complete, I wandered through the dressing rooms giving final hugs and then on to the show. It was energy charged, with the audience applauding every cast member’s entrance. Each song brought thunderous applause and some standing ovations in the middle of the show! I sat and watched, trying to imprint this show that had done so much for Chicago, Broadway In Chicago, and me. I didn’t cry but could only think of the all the things that happened around this show: the special events with the cast, the parties, the rehearsals, even back to the initial press conference. When I said that I didn’t cry, I meant for the first 2.5 hours. Once we got into “For Good,” it was all over, and not just for me. It was like hearing 2200 people cry, lead by Dee (Elphaba) and Annaleigh (Glinda) who were hanging onto every note with tears streaming. And in less than a clock tick, it was the last bubble ride and onto the curtain call, where producer David Stone spoke and acknowledged all of the cast, crew, orchestra, all of us at Broadway In Chicago and most of all, the Chicago audiences. He said that Chicago had changed both WICKED and himself (both personally and professionally) “for good.” His final words were a repeat of the ad that he ran in the Sunday paper “Farewell Chicago, we will miss you most of all.”
Lots of hugs and tears backstage and hundreds of people at the stage door catching last glimpses and autographs from the cast, and the cast as always as generous to their fans as the fans are to them.
But what is real theatre without a party? And party we all did! The party was held in a spectacular lounge, called Vertigo, on the 26th floor of the Hotel Dana. Leslee, my assistant, took care of all the details and the party was smashing. And the highlight of the evening was Broadway In Chicago’s president Lou Raizin’s presentation to David Stone and Marc Platt of an original oil painting of the Oriental Marquee featuring WICKED. The whole night was perfect, Hotel Dana’s hospitality was overwhelming and it just might have been one of the best parties in WICKED’s 3 1/2 year history!