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Fall theater preview Wichita’s theater scene is live and well Wichita’s theater scene is live and well

  • Eagle correspondent
  • Published Sunday, Sep. 23, 2012, at 6:47 a.m.
  • Updated Monday, Sep. 24, 2012, at 10:31 a.m.

Live theater in Wichita is, well, alive and very well as the 2012-2013 season gets under way, despite the apparent dormancy of one fledgling group plus rejiggering of another theater’s schedule because of conflicts.

Vagabond Players, formed two years ago with veteran local performers offering custom-made readers theater performances for social or business groups, has nothing planned so far this season.

And Theatre on Consignment, Wichita’s avant garde group that seeks out cutting-edge shows no other group will tackle, had to cram a full year’s schedule into the past few months because of demands on its performing space. It ended the season in October. Leader Cherice Henderson said the group plans to bounce back with a full fall-to-spring schedule starting next October.

Both Crown Uptown Theatre, which changed ownership last year, and the Forum Theatre, which launched last fall, show ambitious, ramped-up schedules in their second year.

Crown recently hit a home run by courting younger, more sophisticated audiences with newer, sometimes edgier shows. This season, it offers the first locally produced version of the groundbreaking “Sweeney Todd.”

The Forum struck gold last year by commissioning an original new musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” to become a signature annual tradition.

And Wichita Center for the Arts stepped up the relevancy of its offerings with three non-musical titles current to the New York theater scene, plus the world premiere of a new, locally written work celebrating Wichitans key to the 1970s women’s movement.

The one-time children’s group Signature Theatre, based at the Scottish Rite Temple, is expanding to become an all-ages theater group next summer, founder Deb Campbell said. The feeling is that using adults in age-appropriate roles helps young actors achieve better performing results with their own characters. Campbell said the theater also will be open to gender-neutral casting so that more girls and women can participate in usually male-dominant shows.

But even with the upcoming change to Signature Theatre, children’s theater will be well represented by three other groups offering 22 productions this year.

Excluding university productions, Wichita’s stages will host around 45 major shows from now through late spring. Here’s a look at some of what’s under way and what’s waiting in the wings. Some organizations have additional shows planned, but titles have not yet been locked in.

Professional

Theater League

Performances in Century II Concert Hall, 225 W. Douglas. Tickets/info: WichitaTix at 316-219-4849 or theaterleague.com.

• “The Lion King” (through Sept. 30): Award-winning Elton John/Tim Rice extravaganza about a rambunctious lion cub’s humorous and harrowing journey to adulthood.

• “Rock of Ages” (Nov. 27-29): Jukebox musical from 2009 featuring rock classics of the 1980s repurposed to tell the story of a legendary glam rocker trying to save a notorious club from being shut down by community do-gooders.

• “Jersey Boys” (Jan. 30-Feb. 10): Tony-winning best musical of 2006 re-creates the rise and eventual breakup of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons using their own legendary songs like “Big Girls Don’t Cry.”

•  “Dreamgirls” (March 29-21): Revival of Tony-winning 1981 tribute to Motown inspired by acts like the Supremes, Jackie Wilson and James Brown but with original (now classic in their own right) songs like “One Night Only” and “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.”

Forum Theatre

Performances at 147 S. Hillside. Tickets/info: 316-618-0444 or www.forumwichita.com.

•  “Give ’Em Hell, Harry” (Oct. 18-28): Broadway veteran and Wichita native Ray Wills stars in this one-man comedy-drama about notoriously plain-spoken Harry S. Truman and his provocative, inspiring and sometimes downright funny thoughts on being a president, husband, father and neighbor.

•  “Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol” (Nov. 29-Dec. 23): Locally written musical version by Conrad Jestmore and Paul Jackson of the classic Scrooge/Tiny Tim tale, commissioned and premiered last year to become an annual Forum holiday tradition.

•  “The Mystery of Irma Vep” (Jan. 10-Feb. 3): Wacky 1984 off-Broadway spoof mixing Gothic melodrama with Hitchcock’s “Rebecca” into a quick-change marathon by two actors playing eight roles, from sympathetic werewolf to ancient Egyptian princess.

•  “Cabaret” (Feb. 14-March 3): Kander/Ebb’s 1966 classic about an American journalist in 1930s Berlin during the rise of Hitler’s Nazis and his fascination with British would-be femme fatale Sally Bowles, a hopelessly romantic cabaret singer.

• “Hello, Dolly!” (March 21-April 7): Wichita’s Tony-nominated and Olivier-winning Karla Burns takes the title role as the irrepressible Yonkers matchmaker Dolly Levi who wants to spread love – and money – around in this 1964 classic.

•  “The Full Monty” (April 25-May 19): 2000 musical about unemployed steelworkers desperate to make ends meet for their families by promising a Chippendales-type male strip revue.

Wichita Center for the Arts

Performances in Irene Vickers Baker Theatre, 9112 E. Central. Tickets/info: 316-315-0151 or www.wcfta.com.

•  “Seminar” (through Sunday): Theresa Rebeck’s witty, biting, very adult comedy about four aspiring novelists clashing with their brilliant, reckless instructor.

•  “Red” (Nov. 14-18): Famed artist Mark Rothko is challenged by his assistant about selling out to commercialism in this drama by John Logan.

•  “Radiating Like a Stone” (Feb. 13-17): World premiere about Wichita women key to local 1970s feminist movement, adapted by Anne Welsbacher and Gina Austin-Fresh from the book by Myrne Roe.

•  “How the World Began” (April 17-21): Catherine Thrieschumann’s drama about a New York biology teacher who takes a job in Kansas and the firestorm that erupts about her remarks about the origin of the universe.

Cabaret Oldtown

Performances upstairs at 412½ E. Douglas. Tickets/info: 316-265-4400.

•  “Boo-lesque: A Tricky Treat” (through Oct. 27): Original Halloween musical comedy revue with a sexy edge.

• “Crazy Christmas” (Nov. 9-Dec. 22): Annual Christmas-themed musical comedy revue written and performed by co-creators Christi Moore and Kyle Vespestad and friends. Buffet offered with this show.

Orpheum Theatre

Performances at 200 N. Broadway. Tickets/info: Select-a-Seat at 316-755-7328 or www.selectaseat.com.

•  “In the Mood: A 1940s Musical Revue” (Oct. 6): Brassy, upbeat celebration of the Greatest Generation in song and dance by a cast of 19 and orchestra of 13 performing music of Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, the Andrews Sisters and many more.

National Theatre Live!

Live HD broadcasts from the National Theatre in London shown onscreen at the Murdock Theatre, 536 N. Broadway. Tickets/info: 316-263-1665.

•  “The Last of the Haussmans” (Oct. 11-12): Stephen Beresford’s funny, touching and sometimes savage portrait of a family that’s losing its grip, starring Julie Walters as a free-spirited high-society dropout with Rory Kinnear and Helen McCrory as her wayward children.

•  “Timon of Athens” (Nov. 1-2): Shakespeare’s ostentatious host and patron of the arts, who is deserted by his “friends” when he runs out of money, is updated to the 21st century in this sly adaptation starring Simon Russell Beale.

Dinner theater

Crown Uptown Theatre

Performances at 3207 E. Douglas. Tickets/info: 316-612-7696 or www.crownuptown.com.

• “Sweeney Todd” (through Oct. 20): Stephen Sondheim’s ground-breaking 1979 musical about a mild-mannered barber driven to murderous revenge by an evil judge who lusts after his wife.

•  “White Christmas” (Nov. 9-Dec. 23): A new annual tradition is this stage version of the beloved 1954 Bing Crosby/Danny Kaye movie — set to Irving Berlin music — about two Army buddies and a sister act who team up to put on a show to save a ski lodge.

• “Church Basement Ladies 4: A Mighty Fortress Is Our Basement” (Feb. 1-March 9): Fourth installment of the gently irreverent, touchingly homespun Drew Jansen musicals about a gaggle of Minnesota women who debate — and often solve — all of life’s problems from the basement kitchen of their Lutheran church.

• “Annie Get Your Gun” (March 22-April 27): Irving Berlin’s 1946 romp about the contentious romance between plainspoken sharpshooter Annie Oakley and Frank Butler, her handsome, urbane rival in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

•  “Little Women” (May 10-June 8): 2005 musical adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic about life with the four precocious March sisters and their beloved mother while their father is away serving as a chaplain in the Civil War.

• “Hairspray” (June 21-July 27): Award-winning 2002 musical about 1960s life in Baltimore as seen through the eyes of a music-crazy teen who dreams of bringing blacks and whites together on a TV dance show.

• “Spring Awakening” (Aug. 9-31): Tony Award-winning best musical of 2006 puts a solid rock beat to a 19th-century German story about sexual awakening among teens.

Mosley Street Melodrama

Performances at 234 N. Mosley in Old Town. Tickets/info: 316-263-0222 or www.mosleystreet.com.

•  “The Bel Aire Witch Project” (through Oct. 27): Original melodrama spoofing horror movies by local radio personality Carol Hughes.

•  “Shakespeare’s MacBethlehem Christmas, or Wherefore Art Thou, Saint Nick?” (Nov. 8-Dec. 30): Original holiday-themed melodrama by longtime local actor/director/teacher Tom Frye.

Prairie Pines

Performances at 4055 N. Tyler Road. Tickets/info 316-303-2037 or www.prairiepines.com.

• “The Greatest Christmas Stories Ever Re-Told: Part Deux” (Nov. 24-Dec. 23): Sequel to the troupe’s popular holiday comedy first presented in 2007.

Non-equity

Wichita Community Theatre

Performances at 258 N. Fountain. Tickets/info: 316-686-1282 or wichitact.org.

•  “The Mouse Trap” (Oct. 18-Nov. 4): Agatha Christie’s legendary 1952 murder mystery.

•  “Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some)” (Nov. 29-Dec. 23): Comic romp about three actors who mix together every holiday story and carol they know into a wacky pageant pastiche.

•  “Brighton Beach Memoirs” (Jan. 24-Feb. 10): Neil Simon’s bittersweet, semi-autobiographical, coming-of-age comedy about a Jewish teen’s sexual awakening in a chaotic family.

•  “Doubt” (March 13-17): John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about the clash between a progressive priest and an ultra-conservative nun who suspects him of child abuse.

•  “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (April 18-May 5): Shakespeare’s most popular comedy about a royal courtship, young lovers cavorting in a forest and lots of fairy mischief afoot.

•  “Dixie Swim Club” (June 6-23): Southern-fried comedy about five women from a college swim team who reinforce their longtime friendship by getting together every year to compare triumphs and tragedies.

•  “The Underpants” (July 25-Aug. 11): Comedian-turned-playwright Steve Martin adapts a 1910 German farce about bourgeois snobbery and conformity.

Theater on Consignment

Performances in First Metropolitan Community Church, 156 S. Kansas. Tickets/info: 316-941-9436 or www.theatreonconsignment.com.

•  “November” (Oct. 4-13): David Mamet’s timely Oval Office satire brings to life one day in the life of a beleaguered American commander-in-chief during a hotly contested re-election bid.

Guild Hall Players

Performances in St. John’s Episcopal Church, 3750 E. Douglas. Tickets/info: 316-683-5686.

•  “Little Flowers of Assisi: Stories of St. Francis” (Oct. 11-14): Inspiring, sometimes humorous tales — adapted by Phil Speary based on the devotional classic — of events in the life of the Italian monk whose choices changed church history.

•  “Next Fall” (Feb. 28-March 3): Geoffrey Nauffts’ Tony-nominated comedy-drama about a closeted gay man injured in an accident whose partner is forced to confront his shocked family in the ICU over his care.

•  “The Cherry Orchard” (April 18-21): Chekov’s classic comedy-drama about a once-wealthy Russian family making difficult choices in difficult times takes on a new relevancy in today’s economic climate.

•  “The Fantasticks” (Aug. 1-4): A hopelessly romantic — and wickedly cynical — tale about young lovers learning how hard it is to grow up and hold onto their dreams.

Children’s theater

Crown Uptown Children’s Theatre

Performances (Friday-Saturday matinees only) at 3207 E. Douglas. Tickets/info: 316-612-7696 or www.crownuptown.com.

•  “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (Oct. 5-20): Musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book about a quirky candymaker and his fabulous factory.

• “Santa’s Magical Christmas” (Nov. 23-Dec. 15): Original holiday tale by Crown founder Ted Morris that has become a local classic.

•  “Charlotte’s Web and Friends” (March 29-April 20): Tale based on E.B. White’s beloved classic about a brainy spider and her piggy friend, Wilbur.

•  “Little Red Ridinghood” (May 17-June 8): Musical adaptation of the fairy tale about a little girl and her grandmother confronting a wolf in the woods.

•  “Pocahontas” (June 28-July 27): Musical retelling of the adventures of the Native American heroine and her reaching out to fledgling Jamestown colonists.

Wichita Children’s Theatre and Dance Center

Performances at Wichita Center for the Arts, 9112 E. Central, or Wichita Children’s Theatre and Dance Center, 201 Lulu. Tickets/info: 316-262-2282 or wctdc.com.

Main Stage (Central)

•  “Beauty and the Beast Jr.” (Oct. 4-6): Disney’s musical, adapted for young audiences, about a beautiful girl civilizing a terrible beast and finding her prince.

•  “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” (Dec. 10-12, 14-16): This comedy about children giving their own spin to the Christmas season has become a longtime local tradition.

• “The Littlest Angel” (Dec. 13, 15-16): Charming, heart-touching musical about a little boy who arrives in heaven before his time and journeys back to Earth to find the perfect gift for the baby Jesus.

Heather Muller Black Box (Lulu)

• “Blythe Spirit” (Oct. 19-21): Noel Coward’s sophisticated 1941 comedy about a novelist haunted by the witty but antagonistic ghost of his first wife while his poor second wife can’t see or hear her.

•  “Little Women” (April 26-28): Musical version of Alcott’s classic about life with the four precocious March girls and their wise mother while their father is away at the Civil War.

•  “Broadway Bound” (July 24-28): Original musical revue featuring new shows like “Newsies,” as well as vintage classics.

Once Upon a Time Series (Lulu)

•  “Trick or Treat Street” (Oct. 26-28): Interactive musical teaching children safe ways to enjoy Halloween trick-or-treating.

•  “Pinkalicious” (Nov. 9-10, 14-17): Musical adaptation of the popular children’s book about a girl who loves pink so much that she turns pink after eating too many pink cupcakes.

•  “The Runaway Snowman” (Nov. 30-Dec. 1, Dec. 5-8): Happy the snowman becomes a local celebrity when kids discover he can talk, but his words attract a conman who gets him into trouble.

•  “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” (Jan. 30-Feb. 2, Feb. 8-9): Comedy about the escalating consequences of giving a mouse a cookie, who then wants a glass of milk to wash it down, then a mirror to make sure he doesn’t have a milk mustache, etc.

•  “Alice in Wonderland” (Feb. 20-23): Musical version of Lewis Carroll’s classic about a bored little girl whose curiosity gets her into trouble when she follows a white rabbit down a hole and into a magical kingdom.

• “Little Red Ridinghood” (April 10-13 and 17): New musical spin on the traditional fairy tale as Red learns not to talk to strangers and the wolf learns not to trick people.

Music Theatre for Young People

Performances in Mary Jane Teall Theater in Century II. Tickets/info: WichitaTix at 316-219-4849 or www.wichitatix.com.

• “Once Upon a Mattress” (Oct. 5-7): Mary Rodgers’ 1959 comic retelling of “The Princess and the Pea” with a klutzy princess and a painfully shy prince and what really disturbed her sleep.

•  “Babes in Toyland” (Dec. 7-9): Victor Herbert’s classic operetta build around Mother Goose characters mixed into a romantic holiday tale featuring beloved songs like “Toyland.”

•  “Sweet Charity” (March 8-10): Teen adaptation of the brassy 1966 Neil Simon/Cy Coleman tale of a hopelessly romantic dance hall hostess looking for true love, with songs like “Hey, Big Spender.”

• “Willy Wonka” (May 3-5): Dahl’s classic about the quirky candy man and his fabulous chocolate factory comes to life through songs including “The Candy Man Can.”

Signature Theatre

Performances in Scottish Rite Auditorium, 332 E. First St. Tickets/info: 316-263-4218.

•  “Celebrate! A Christmas to Remember” (Dec. 12-13): Annual holiday musical revue showcasing patriotic and religious music, from pop music to classical, from Christian to Jewish traditions.

•  “A Zombie’s New Year’s Eve” (Dec. 31): Interactive theater for all ages in which participants choose costumes, create their own zombie characters and then party to ring in the New Year.

•  “Aladdin Jr.” (April 6-7): Disney’s musical tale, geared specifically to children, about a mischievous street urchin who discovers magic in an old lamp, friendship with a wacky genie and love with a beautiful princess.

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