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"Wicked" set takes 14 trucks, 30 hours to build, but it will be ready to go

Considering it takes about 30 hours to put together the set that takes 14 semi-trucks to transport, it's little wonder the folks in charge of the "Wicked" touring company insist on long engagements at the venues they select.

But it can't work on just any stage and that's where the Peoria Civic Center has what it takes, said Kevin Beebee, associate business manager for the "Wicked" show that opens here on Wednesday.

"We did a site inspection last spring and let the people here know what we would need to make it work. But this venue has what it takes to do a big production so it hasn't been a problem," Beebee said while meeting with the media on Tuesday, while the show was being loaded into the Civic Center theatre.

"We advance a show a year out, typically, to make sure everything we need is there. We've gotten pretty good at it by now," Beebee said, noting this show has been on the road more than six years.

Jason Daunter, a St. Louis native who is the production stage manager for the show, has been in Peoria before when working for the touring company of "Thoroughly Modern Millie," which played at the Civic Center in 2005. "I knew coming in this was going to be a good venue for our show. This will be great," he said.

The show closed at The Fox theatre in Atlanta on Sunday night and after an eight-hour strike and load onto the trucks headed to Peoria. The load-in started Tuesday morning with 35 members of the technical crew being joined by a like number of Peoria Civic Center set crew members to start putting the pieces together.

Most if it was to be done by late afternoon so that nights could be focused.

On Wednesday the cast is expected for an afternoon company meeting to discuss the venue as well as let the 40 or so actors, actresses, dancers and musicians know about Peoria. That would be followed by a 30-minutes technical run-through and sound checks before the make-up call only 30 minutes before the opening curtain.

During the load-in a set build, tech crew members wrestled with large set pieces being installed at a venue most were seeing for the first time. That, Beebee said, was not a hassle for the crew because it gave them variety. "Actually they are pretty jazzed here and at any new place because they get to figure things out for the first time and make it work. It's not routine," he said.

Part of the load-in were items that are "flown" in from the ceiling and wings of the stage. To accommodate this show the Civic Center had to add four drop lines to bring the total to 80, said Marc Burnett, director of marketing for the Civic Center. No show before this had used the 76 that were already installed, let alone needed more.

"This show has the most technical needs of any show I've seen, certainly any show we've had here, including 'Phantom of the Opera,'" Burnett said. "Phantom of the Opera" played an extended, three-week run in spring of 2002.

Even though "Wicked" has been touring nationally for six years, Daunter said, the show producers continue to spend money on it to keep it looking good for every audience that sees it. "It is a cultural phenomenon," he said, adding the show actually has groupies that have seen it hundreds of times and follow it from one venue to the next. The actors, he said, are often treated like rock stars.

"It really is something else. But we do it for the fans," he said. "Keeping them happy is what we want."

"Wicked" will play 24 performances in Peoria over an 18-day run.

Ticket prices range from $42 to $127 and show times vary per day, depending on whether there are matinee performances. Before each show there will be a lottery for orchestra seats for $25 each. Those interested in being in the lottery must be at the box office 2½ hours before the show and names will be drawn 30 minutes later for the 20 seats.

Burnett said the show is very much a regional draw, with people coming from hours away to see it. The economic impact to the area will be millions of dollars, he said.

For more information about the show or to order tickets go to www.peoriaciviccenter.com.

Paul Gordon is editor of The Peorian. He can be reached at 692-7880 or editor@thepeorian.com

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).