"Wicked," the wonderful musical about the witches of Oz, was a transformative theater event in Chicago, where it ran at the Ford Center for the the Performing Arts/Oriental Theater for three-and-a-half years and grossed well in excess of $200 million. Among other things "Wicked" proved that major Broadway musicals could sustain long runs in Chicago, and that the right shows can help make the city a destination for a broad cross-section of tourists and theater afficionados.
But make no mistake. Along with the show's considerable charms, marketing was a major factor in "Wicked's" phenomenal success here. No opportunity was lost to expose the show to customers again and again and again. And every print ad that ever ran for the show ran in color to make sure the color green -- so important in the telling of the "Wicked" story -- was forever attached to the musical and its marketing game plan.
"Wicked" is gone from Chicago now, and it is not likely to return for several years. But the show last month did return to San Francisco, which hosted the musical's pre-Broadway tryout run -- long before anyone knew it would become such a popular hit with the public in America and theater capitals around the world. And just to demonstrate how popular "Wicked" now is and how happy all of San Francisco was to see the show return there, the powers-that-be behind the musical managed to pull off another astounding marketing coup: Several of the city's major landmarks, including City Hall, were lit at night entirely in green as a welcoming gesture.
Should Chicago be fortunate enough to welcome back the high-grossing "Wicked" at some point, one can only imagine how much of our city could be turned green to celebrate the occasion. Yes, it wouldn't surprise us one bit if we saw green up and down the Magnificent Mile next time "Wicked" arrives.