Wicked to go on stage at Sunderland Empire

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WEST End musical Wicked will cast a spell over Wearside – the Echo can reveal.

The record-breaking musical is set to bewitch theatre-goers when it makes its North East debut in the city for four weeks next year.

The colourful stage spectacle, which tells the untold story of the Witches of Oz, is the latest coup for the Sunderland Empire, which earlier this year announced that The Lion King will be roaring into the venue in September.

Wicked’s executive producer in the UK, Michael McCabe, says Sunderland can look forward to the same scale of show enjoyed by London audiences.

“With the tour we’ve included every bell and whistle, we’ve thrown everything we can at it,” he told the Echo. “Obviously touring is an enormous challenge because you have to pick it up in trucks and move it.

“When we decided to tour we made that commitment to take the best possible version that we could. Pretty much everything you see in the West End you will see on tour. In fact there are a few additions, rather than detractions. You can’t do Wicked without that spectacular. If you’re going to travel to the Emerald City, all the costumes, everything, has to be fantastic.”

He says the touring production, which will play in the city from March 31 to April 25, 2015, is looking forward to hitting the Empire stage.

“The Sunderland Empire is such an attractive theatre and a huge theatre, that is was an easy one to say we would want to play there,” he explained. “It also sits very well in that part of the country and it has a very loyal audience.

“I love the Empire, when you walk into that theatre it’s very special.”

The stage show is a witty re-imagining of characters created by L. Frank Baum in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and tells of the unlikely friendship between two sorcery students , Glinda The Good and the Wicked Witch of the West.

The award-winning London production continues at the Apollo Victoria Theatre, its home for the past seven-and-a-half years.

General Manager of the Sunderland Empire, Ben Phillips, who worked at the Apollo before moving to the Empire, said: “We are delighted to announce that the global phenomenon Wicked will be flying into the Sunderland Empire for a limited four week run in 2015.

“This smash-hit musical, one of the biggest in West End and Broadway history, will leave audiences spellbound when it tells the untold story of the Witches of Oz for the first and only time in the North East.”

Around the world, Wicked has been seen by more than 39 million people and has nine productions running concurrently. The original Broadway production remains, according to the New York Times, “Broadway’s biggest blockbuster” after a decade at the Gershwin Theatre.

The cast for the Sunderland leg of the tour will be announced later in the year.

l Tickets for Wicked at the Sunderland Empire, priced from £20 to £55, go on general sale on March 31 from 10am. They will be available in person from the Sunderland Empire box office, on Tel. 0844 871 3022 and online from www.atgtickets.com/sunderland