WICKED has well and truly cast its spell over Wearside - says the theatre manager who helped bring it to the city.
Ben Phillips was general manager at the show’s West End home, the Apollo Victoria, for four years before taking on that role back in Sunderland in July 2011.
Since then he’s striven to bring West End shows to Sunderland Empire, with Wicked top of his wish list.
Now it’s here and in the middle of a hugely successful month-long run which has seen more than 50,000 tickets sold for the show.
“There’s such a buzz about it. It’s sold really well, we could have had it here for another week with the sales,” said Ben.
Based on the novel by Gregory Maguire, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, the musical tells the untold story of the witches of Oz.
Ben said: “I fell in love with Wicked the very first time I saw it. It was always a privilege to work with such a brilliant show. Its production values are spot on every night.
“These days it’s a remarkable thing to be insistent on the show being so perfect every night. They rehearse like maniacs every day.
“When I became general manager in Sunderland it was always my dream to bring it here. The producer always told me he would bring it to Sunderland and he did.”
Speaking about opening night, Ben said: “They were loading in for three days and to see things like the dragon clock going up really took me back.
“To see the West End show 100 per cent replicated in Sunderland was quite an emotional experience for me.
“We’ve had great feedback from the show, everyone is loving it.”
Wicked is the latest blockbuster musical to make its North East debut at Sunderland Empire, which has also recently hosted The Lion King and War Horse.
And Ben says we can expect more: “Wicked, Lion King and War Horse are hard to beat,” he said. “But we are always in talks with West End shows.
“I think next year we’ll be announcing a huge show for the North East.”
l Wicked is at Sunderland Empire until April 25.
Tickets are available in person from the box office, by calling 0844 871 3022 or online HERE.
Best availability is for midweek matinees.