As with Broadway in recent months, the economic recession has also hit the performing arts in Australia, as the producers of Wicked announced the show is to close it’s Melbourne season on August 9.
Wicked opened in July 2008 at Melbourne’s sumptuous Regent Theatre to an impressive $7.3 million in advance ticket sales and an opening week box office of $1.2 million. My understanding is the show had an 18-month contract with extensions available, if required. Industry insiders were hedging bets of anything up to a three year run for Wicked in Melbourne, not 13 months.
If global reports were anything to go by, before it even opened in Australia, Wicked was set to break not just box office records, but beat The Phantom of the Opera’s two and a half year run as Melbourne’s longest running musical. After all, the show has been playing to full houses on Broadway since October 2003.
Alas, it was not to be. Citing the availability of Sydney’s Capitol Theatre for a 12-month run as the main reason behind Wicked’s earlier than expected closure in Melbourne, one suspects the state of the economy and falling ticket sales was more likely the cause. You only had to look at the unexpected small group discounted ticket offers and up to eight vacant rows in the stalls on a Friday night to see that Wicked was doing it tougher than anticipated.
Wicked on Broadway cost $14 million to mount and investors made their money back in as many months. It seems the Australian production investors may have to wait until midway through the show’s Sydney season to see their return, such is the escalating costs behind the modern mega-stage musical.
Before the year is over, Melbourne will have been host to three of the world’s biggest musicals in Wicked, Billy Elliot and Jeresy Boys, which opens in early July.