Denise Day was the first of nearly 100 people in line at Proctors to shoot her hand in the air.
“Gregory Maguire!” she said with a confident smile.
B95 personality Bill Fox asked the crowd whether she had guessed right, and after quick applause handed her a Wicked prize pack that included a poster, shirt, book and DVD of the popular musical.
Day used to attend the same church as Maguire, the man who wrote the 1995 novel Wicked as a parallel retelling of L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” It’s not unusual that Day had Maguire’s name on the tip of her tongue, since the 58-year-old American novelist was born in Albany.
“My kids are the super fans,” she said Saturday, about a dozen people deep in a line of people who turned up at the Proctors Box Office to purchase tickets at 8 a.m. for the award-winning musical, which returns for its encore in Schenectady from Nov. 7 through Nov. 25.
The Menands family has a flair for theater. Day’s two teenage daughters act in school plays and one has been the school’s go-to stage manager since she was 10.
Of course, since neither girls are old enough to drive or use a credit card yet, it’s usually Day who wakes up early to wait in lines at box offices.
“I’m willing to do it, and this is nothing really,” she said, nodding to the line behind her.
The turnout of early birds this time around was much smaller than it was the last time the Broadway blockbuster came to Proctor’s stage in 2009 and broke box office records.
Two hundred people showed up to the box office three years ago on the first day tickets became available, and thousands of online buyers crashed the Proctors website.
So it was a little easier this time for Bill Hefner to score the first Wicked ticket. Of course, he still showed up at 4 a.m. to wait outside the gates until doors opened just before 7. And luckily, he had free coffee and food from Apostrophe Café and the Old Daley Inn, and some tunes selected by radio stations B95, WROW and FLY92.3 to keep him going.
“This is my second first time in line,” Hefner sadi.
The other time he was first in line was for the Lion King, when it came to town in 2010.
The 53-year-old drove out from Saratoga Springs before the sun was up Saturday morning to purchase his tickets, and rates Wicked as his all-time favorite musical behind Shrek and the Lion King.
“I have a tendency to get up earlier, so it just happens that I was here first,” said Hefner. “It is a goal, though. I kind of like to be the first in line so I can do nice interviews and talk to nice people and stuff.”
Ticket sales began online at 10 a.m. Saturday. But Richard Lovrich has found that some people just really enjoy the box office experience.
“They love to come here in person and share with the other people in line stories about Wicked,” said Lovrich, Proctors’ marketing director. “And they also get some prizes.”
Day said her daughters like the show’s take on friendship. Some folks in line Saturday shared their take on just why the emerald-green skinned girl from Oz evolved to become the Wicked Witch of the West. Some had already seen the show on Broadway, and others preferred the book to the on-stage retelling.
“It’s kind of a lovely cult,” said Lovrich.