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‘Wicked’-ness is rewarded on B’way

Oz tuner rakes in the cash

NEW YORK — The $14 million Broadway production “Wicked” has recouped this week, its producers have reported.

Based on Gregory Maguire’s novel, the tuner by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman opened Oct. 30, 2003, and the 14-month recoupment is faster than expected.

“When we first started out, we thought it would be spring 2005,” said producer Marc Platt. “It has always been a crowd-pleaser, even though it didn’t garner uniformly great notices. But it has gotten bigger and bigger.”

During its first few weeks on the boards, the tuner about the witches of Oz performed just under capacity at the Gershwin Theater. Coming out of the winter months, however, it started to go clean on a regular basis. In July, “Wicked” dethroned the long-running “Lion King” as Broadway’s top-grossing show, a position it has held for 23 straight weeks.

Box office did not suffer when headliner Idina Menzel took a two-week vacation. Nor did it falter when co-star Kristin Chenoweth left the show in July. During the week of the Republican Convention, it was one of the few shows to increase its receipts. (Producers attributed that phenomenon to a decrease in group sales, which give a 10% discount.) And over Thanksgiving week, “Wicked” set a house record ($1,274,459) at the 1,809-seat Gershwin.

Platt put the show’s current advance at $30 million, which he called its “all-time high.”

Other current tuners have recouped faster, but they were capitalized at less. The $10.5 million productions of “The Producers” and “Hairspray” returned their investment in eight to nine months. “Avenue Q” took about 10 months to recover its $3.5 million at the 796-seat Golden Theater.

The national tour of “Wicked” begins March 20 in Toronto. Platt said it would play six- or seven-week engagements across the U.S.

In addition to Platt, the producer team on “Wicked” includes Universal Pictures, the Araca Group, Jon B. Platt and David Stone.

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