'Wicked' Return

Hit Broadway show comes back to Memphis this month

By Andy Meek

The Broadway smash “Wicked” has packed the house at the Orpheum Theatre Memphis each time the musical has enjoyed a run here, with fans of the whimsical story about the witches from Oz ensuring the production is well attended.

“Wicked” makes its third appearance in Memphis later this month, when the Broadway smash returns to the Orpheum Theatre. The performances will include dancer and Cordova native Natalie Fotopoulos.

(Joan Marcus)

That’s according to Pat Halloran, president and CEO of the Memphis Development Foundation, which operates the Orpheum. And he expects the imminent launch of a new nearly three-week run of “Wicked” in Memphis, which starts at the end of this month, to perform no different than before.

“This is definitely one of the shows we get whenever we can,” he said. “The show is one of those classics. It’s so well known. This is a show people come back to see again and again. During the regular three-week run, we wind up with about 57,000 tickets available – and we usually get close to selling out. The amazing thing is, you take 57,000 people – that’s almost the same as filling FedExForum three times.”

“Wicked,” which was here before in 2009 and 2010, is coming back to the Orpheum Jan. 29 for a run that extends through Feb. 16. The production, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, is based on the best-selling 1995 novel by Gregory Maguire and has won 50 major awards including a Grammy and three Tony Awards.

“Wicked” currently has nine productions touring worldwide, including two concurrent North American tours. The musical’s arrival in Memphis also comes as the show is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

“So this is big for them – very few shows that last 10 years,” Halloran said, noting that only productions like “Phantom of the Opera” and “Les Miserables” share the same enduring quality. “‘Wicked’ endures because of the story, the music – the whole production. The set is really intriguing. The costumes, the staging – it’s like something Disney would do.”

The musical has been a Broadway hit show ever since its launch. Plaudits heaped on it include “Variety” describing it as “a cultural phenomenon” and Entertainment Weekly dubbing it “the best musical of the decade.”

Tickets for “Wicked” are available through the official Orpheum website, at www.orpheum-memphis.com, as well as the Orpheum Box Office, the ticket counter at The Booksellers at Laurelwood and all Ticketmaster centers.

Natalie Fotopoulos, a dancer from Cordova who attended Cordova High School, is traveling with the show and will be one of the dancers onstage at the Orpheum. Fotopoulos, who also was a top 6 finalist on the TV show “So You Think You Can Dance” in 2006, said the musical does well in Memphis – and everywhere – because it cuts across audience members from all walks of life.

“Wicked” images the early story of the witches Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West from “The Wizard of Oz.”

“It’s a show that reaches to not just one demographic, but everyone from young children to people in their 80s who come to appreciate all the beautiful messages,” Fotopoulos said.

Fotopoulos is a third-generation dancer whose mother owns a dance studio in Cordova. She had an early love of theater, grew up singing and acting – and eventually harbored a dream she’s fulfilling this month.

“Once upon a time, I was sitting in the Orpheum and told myself that one of these days I was going to perform in a Broadway musical in my hometown,” she said.

She already anticipates getting ready to perform in “Wicked” by, as the curtain prepares to rise, wiping a few tears from her eye.