Welcome the wicked witch to our corner of the West.
"We've been waiting for you to have a performing arts center so we could come to Las Vegas," says David Stone, producer of megahit "Wicked," which has been booked as the first Broadway touring production at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts in 2012, providing a big dose of prestige for the under-construction complex.
"If you asked me last year if there was one show I would put at the top of my list of Broadway shows to bring to Las Vegas, this would've been the pick," says Myron Martin, president of the Smith Center. "It gives us a chance in our first full season to have a show that will run for (six) weeks, guaranteed to sell out every performance. I couldn't be happier."
Broadway's No. 1 show for the past six years, with touring productions and "sit-down" engagements in cities worldwide, "Wicked" will fly into Reynolds Hall, the center's main performance venue, Aug. 28-Oct. 7, 2012, about five months after its March 2012 opening, scheduling eight performances each week.
While the announcement comes two years before the show arrives, the "Wicked" tour is booked through 2013, and sealing the deal before the center is built is not unprecedented. "We've done that before," Stone says. "We committed in Durham (N.C.) before the building was finished. They have a few months' grace if they have some production delays before we get there."
Having broken many box-office records, "Wicked" -- which won a Tony award for original co-star Idina Menzel -- debuted in 2003 and became the 18th-longest-running Broadway show in May, surpassing "My Fair Lady." Named best musical of the decade by Entertainment Weekly -- though it divided theater critics when it premiered -- "Wicked" is based on Gregory Maguire's "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West," a parallel novel of the classic 1939 film "The Wizard of Oz."
Featuring music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, "Wicked" begins before Dorothy's arrival from Kansas and tells the bewitching tale of Elphaba, the future Wicked Witch of the West, and her relationship with Galinda (later Glinda), the Good Witch of the North.
"There's great music and fabulous sets and costumes and performances, but it's really the story of these two characters," Stone says. "(Producer) Cameron Mackintosh told me it's really the first show since 'Les Miz' ('Les Miserables') where you care about the characters and want to know what happens next."
During negotiations, which Martin says lasted a couple of years, "Wicked" producers carefully scrutinized the resources of the planned Reynolds Hall -- a proscenium theater that will be home to the Las Vegas Philharmonic and Nevada Ballet Theatre, and will include a 100-person orchestra pit -- to be certain it could logistically accommodate the show and its 36-member cast.
"It's a complicated show, and their team was very thorough, looking at the technical details, the lighting and sound equipment, the patron amenities, and how many seats we have," Martin says, noting that though no show has been booked after "Wicked," he expects the center to average about 12 weeks of Broadway shows per year.
"Wicked" had long been the subject of rumors that it might join other Broadway shows for a stay at a Strip resort. Several years ago, Martin says, he and producer Michael Gill "made a run at 'Wicked' " while they were producing the underperforming "Hairspray" at the Luxor, but the "Wicked" producers felt strongly that it wasn't the right move.
"I saw 'Phantom' (in Las Vegas), which I thought was terrific, but it's a completely different experience seeing it in a casino in a 90-minute version," Stone says. "We wanted to bring the full production, not smaller, not shorter, that everyone loves. We're excited that there may be people on the Strip who might want to come to this new performing arts center while we're in town, but most of the people, we imagine, will be those who live in Las Vegas."
Reasonable prices for tickets -- which will go on sale about six months before the show arrives -- were part of the agreement to bring "Wicked" to the Smith Center. "We have an understanding that our prices have to be comparable to our peer cities," Martin says, estimating the range at $39-$99. "Oftentimes when you see a show on the Strip, it's priced more expensively than you might have seen it in L.A. or San Francisco. Our deal is that prices will mirror cities like Denver and Salt Lake City."
The Smith Center is named for Fred W. Smith, former Las Vegas Review-Journal executive and chairman of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation -- the project's principal donor -- and for his late wife, Mary B. Smith. It also will include cabaret space, a black box theater and educational facilities, and house what is now the Lied Discovery Children's Museum.
Opening performances in March 2012, Martin says, will include "hard hat concerts" to thank the workers building the center, a series of educational concerts for Clark County School District students, and "really big, international" music, theater and dance performances.
Then the witches land at what Martin hopes will be Las Vegas' performing arts Oz.
"David Stone and the producing team are known as being very particular about where they let this show go. It's their baby," Martin says. "This sends a message to the Broadway community that we are very serious about bringing first-run, touring Broadway shows to Las Vegas in a proper venue. When we get ready to announce our first full Broadway season, it's going to be stunning."
Westward ho, wicked witch.
Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.