Popular musical packing bags after 1,500 shows

The Chicago sit-down production of “Wicked” will close Jan. 25, 2009, following its 1,500th performance.

Soon thereafter, a second national tour of the Oz-inspired Broadway musical will hit the road, kicking off in Fort Myers, Fla.. in March.

The 3½-year-old Chicago incarnation shuts down while still riding high. Production grossed $1,003,034 for the week ending May 11, and the highest weekly total came in the holiday frame ending Dec. 30, during which the show grossed $1,418,363. That record-breaking figure may be challenged as the closing notice creates extra demand for the final block of tix going on sale in August.

Run will have grossed more than $200 million since it began perfs June 24, 2005, breaking Chi box office records and heralding the city’s potential for long-term commercial stays.

The second national tour will be a different, separately financed production from the one in the Windy City. Sked after Fort Myers includes stops in Birmingham, Ala., Jacksonville, Miss., and Memphis, Tenn., among other cities.

Producer David Stone credited presenter Broadway in Chicago and city leaders with billing the show as a tourist attraction for the entire Midwest. Meanwhile, Marc Platt, who leads the “Wicked” producing team with Stone, said the second national tour would allow the show to play in areas it has been unable to visit, or in markets interested in a return stint.

Departure of “Wicked” from Chicago will open up the Ford Center for the Performing Arts/Oriental Theater for other programming from Nederlander-owned Broadway in Chicago. Venue options have tightened since “Jersey Boys” settled in for an open-ended run at Bank of America Theater.

Also, in January, the Los Angeles sit-down of “Wicked” will close up shop, with the production moving north to begin perfs in San Francisco later in the month. The concurrent juggling of productions will balance the number of North American companies at four: the two tours, the San Francisco version and the 2003 Broadway original.

Immensely popular Stephen Schwartz-Winnie Holzman tuner follows the backstory of the Wicked Witch of the West. “Wicked” also is playing in London, Tokyo and Stuttgart, with an Australian production on the way and a Dutch-language version skedded for 2009.

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