‘Wicked’ takes road to Oz

Musical gets open-ended season at Regent

“Wicked” will open Down Under after all, with Oz impresario John Frost co-producing an open-ended season at Melbourne’s 2,000-seat Regent Theater in July 2008.

Nearly two years ago, another Oz producer, Louise Withers, was in negotiations to produce the hit Rialto tuner, which at that time had a rumored startup cost of A$9.5 million ($8 million). Unable to make the numbers work, Withers eventually walked away.

Frost said his production of “Wicked” is viable because it’s a co-production.

“I approached (the Broadway producers) just after it opened originally; it started happening again late last year,” he told Daily Variety.

“Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” of which Frost is one of the producers, bows at the Regent in October and will have wrapped its Melbourne season by next July. Of other major shows competing for the big-ticket musical market in Australia, “Monty Python’s Spamalot” and “Billy Elliot” will open six months earlier, respectively in Melbourne and Sydney.

Frost said the U.S. producers are enthusiastic about the commercial potential of “Wicked” in Oz, where biz is enjoying an uptick.

“I don’t think they’d come into a market if they felt concerned,” he said.

In addition to backing “The Producers,” “Footloose” and “The Sound of Music” Down Under, Frost has collected two Tony awards, one for “Hairspray” and one for the 1996 revival of “The King and I.” Since opening in 2003, “Wicked has regularly topped the Broadway chart, grossing $236 million to date in New York alone. The Australian production of the tuner by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman will receive financial support from the Victorian state government to open in Melbourne. Cast has not been set, but Sydney-trained thesp Helen Dallimore, starring in the show as Glinda on the West End, helped Frost announce the Melbourne run in London on Tuesday.

Frost is producing with Marc Platt, Araca Group, Jon B. Platt, Universal Pictures and David Stone.

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