Related Stories

 If you happen to get Mike Meko's voicemail even before you hear his voice, you'll hear the dulcet notes of "For Good," the powerful, endgame duet from the smash musical "Wicked."

"Heard it said, people come into your life for a reason. ..."

It goes on.

Meko, of Denver, will tell you that this rendition is sung by country star Leann Rimes and Aussie singer-songwriter Delta Goodrem. In a collection of nearly 2,000 musical cast albums, this version comes from the two-CD 5th Anniversary Special Edition, featuring the original cast of the Broadway phenomenon but also a collection of other performers.

When they were friends: Elphaba (Mamie Parris) and Glinda (Allie Mauzey) in "Wicked."
When they were friends: Elphaba (Mamie Parris) and Glinda (Allie Mauzey) in "Wicked." (Courtesy Denver Center Attractions)

It's not his favorite "Wicked" cast album. That would be the German version. But it is his favorite moment in "Wicked" and has been since he first saw Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman's adaptation of Gregory Maguire's novel "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West," in 2004.

When the musical returns to the Buell Theatre (Wednesday-May 20), it will mark Meko's 15th and 16th viewings. He has seen performances in Detroit, New York, East Lansing, Mich., and, yes, Denver, where he currently lives.

In addition to being a "superfan" he has become something of a show wrangler, transporting groups to the darkened theater of Oz to witness the back story of two witches — Elphaba and Glinda — who were friends long before they became frenemies. Or, as the tagline of "Wicked" states so well, "So much happened before Dorothy dropped in."

Actors Lucy Scherer as Glinda, left, Carlo Lauber as the Wizard of Oz and Willemijn Verbaik as Elphaba, right, perform "Wicked" in Stuttgart,
Actors Lucy Scherer as Glinda, left, Carlo Lauber as the Wizard of Oz and Willemijn Verbaik as Elphaba, right, perform "Wicked" in Stuttgart, Germany, in 2007. (Associated Press file)

It goes without saying, Meko isn't alone in his love of "Wicked." The show has been on Broadway for more than eight years and, according to producer Marc Platt, has seen a 3 percent bump in tickets sales recently. That in a still tender economy no less.

Last year, the musical broke the record for highest grossing week for a Broadway production. Previous owner of that record? "Wicked." At the same time, its touring companies were shattering records in Chicago and Indianapolis. This will be the national tour's fourth visit to Denver.

"Wicked" isn't merely a magical money machine. It continues to be a cultural phenomenon. An abbreviated list of TV shows that have teased the musical includes: "The Simpsons," "South Park," "Torchwood" and "Ugly Betty." "Glee" characters Rachel and Kurt sang "For Good" and "Defying Gravity." Not exactly surprising crossover, but ESPN?

"I remember on ESPN when the SportsCenter guys would start using lyrics from the song 'Popular,' you know you've reached a certain point in the culture," said Platt. "And quite frankly when Tim Tebow goes to see his first Broadway show with the New York press watching. His entrance into New York City, the first thing he does is go see 'Wicked.' It was on the front page of all the New York papers."

A couple of weekends back, the former Bronco (now New York Jet) made a visit to Broadway's Gershwin Theatre. (Teammate-rival Mark Sanchez had already seen Broadway's blockbuster.) But will he see it again and again and again as Meko and others have?

"I remember when I was in New York someone had seen it well into their 70th time," actress Alli Mauzey said on the phone recently. Mauzey, who portrayed Glinda on Broadway 2008-2009, will perform at the Buell.

"She'd commute in from Philadelphia, I believe. When you talk about it being a big financial commitment, that's no joke."

Meko's dedication to "Wicked" is less fanatical and more generous than one might at first imagine. And it all goes back to Aunt Pat.

When he was a youngster growing up in Brooklyn, Mich., his theater-loving relative took him to "Mame" in Detroit. He was hooked.

"What she did in her life to turn me — and a few of our family members — on to theater, I've done it tenfold."

Why? "Just to get people into live theater," he says. "I think live theater is so much more important than anything else."

As for "Wicked" specifically, Meko returns to that song, his song, "For Good."

"I love the words to it — 'your a handprint on my heart.' That's how I want to be remembered, as a handprint on people's hearts," he says.

"So as long as there's live theater, I'll still live a little bit. Like my Aunt Pat. She passed away a few years back, but she lives in every show I see."

Lisa Kennedy: 303-954-1567 or lkennedy@denverpost.com


"Wicked": Ticket information

Music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. Book by Winnie Holzman. Based on the novel by Gregory Maguire. Starring Mamie Parris, Alli Mauzey, Mark Jacoby, Andy Kelso, Liz McCartney, Justin Brill and Emily Ferranti. Opening Wednesday, through May 20 at the Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, Denver Performing Arts Complex. Tickets $25-$200. Available at denvercenter.org or at 303-893-4100. TTY: 303-893-9582


This week's theater openings

April 10-21, 2012: National Theatre Conservatory's "Charley's Aunt" (at the Conservatory Theatre)
April 11-May 20, 2012: National touring production of "Wicked," at the Buell Theatre
April 11-21, 2012: National Theatre Conservatory's "Fahrenheit 451" (at the Conservatory Theatre)
April 12-14, 2012: National touring production of "Burn the Floor" (Fort Collins)
April 12-29, 2012: Millibo Art Theatre's "Six Women Playwriting Festival" (Colorado Springs)
April 13-May 5, 2012: Paragon's "The Beauty Queen of Leenane"
April 13-May 13, 2012: Vintage Theatre's "The Joy Luck Club" (at 1468 Dayton St., Aurora)
April 13-29, 2012: Performance Now's "Camelot" (Lakewood)
April 13-15, 2012: PHAMALy's "disLabled" (at the Dairy Center, Boulder)
April 13-May 20, 2012: Miners Alley Playhouse's "The Two of Us" (Golden)
April 13-22, 2012: Aurora Fox's "Annie" (at the PACE Center, Parker)
April 13-29, 2012: Steel City's "Cabaret" (Pueblo)
April 13-28, 2012: StageDoor Theatre's "Curtains" (Conifer)
April 14, 2012: Stories on Stage's "April Fools" (Su Teatro's Denver Civic Theatre)