Wichita would normally be considered too small of a market to host the full-blown tour of a major Broadway show like "Wicked."
But Los Angeles-based producer Marc Platt, who considers Wichita his second hometown since he married Julie Beren here three decades ago, is confident that the theater crowd here is sophisticated and enthusiastic enough to make the three-week stop in Century II a success.
The much-ballyhooed musical about the witches of Oz before Dorothy Gale dropped in will offer 24 performances from Wednesday to Nov. 8 — a record run for Wichita but the minimum stay for any of its stops.
"We're excited to bring 'Wicked' to Wichita for a lot of reasons, even though it is the smallest city and smallest theater it will play in on this tour," Platt said. "I have a lot of personal reasons because my in-laws are there and I've been a Shocker fan for years.
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"I am also compelled because my mother-in-law, Joan Beren, was one of the first investors in 'Wicked' when we began developing it from Gregory Maguire's novel. It was my first stage show after years in movies and television. It's my baby, and I want to show it off."
But Platt, who was head of several movie studios from Tri-Star to Orion to most recently, Universal (where his production company is home-based), has practical business reasons as well.
"Wichita has a sophisticated theater audience, thanks in large measure to Music Theatre of Wichita and Wayne Bryan. We see the enthusiasm there. Ticket sales are doing well," he said of reportedly more than $2 million in advance tickets for the Wichita performances. "It will be the only Kansas stop, so we plan on it being a regional draw from south of I-70 to the Oklahoma line and west to Colorado. We are confident."
And the future benefit for the city, says Theater League president Mark Edelman, is that "Wicked" could boost Wichita into the first-line ranks for other major tours like "The Lion King," "Mary Poppins" and "Phantom of the Opera," which require longer runs than Wichita is used to.
"'Wicked' is coming to Wichita first and foremost because of the nerve and moxie of Marc Platt," says the Kansas City-based Edelman, whose group has brought Broadway to Wichita on and off since the 1980s.
"But the storyline is also special to Kansas because of 'The Wizard of Oz.' And Wichita has a history with composer Stephen Schwartz, whose earlier works like 'Children of Eden' got successful tryouts with Stage One before going to New York."
Edelman, whose other offerings this year —"Avenue Q," "Jesus Christ Superstar," "The Wedding Singer" and "Rain" — will stop in Wichita for only two days each, said that "Wicked" is also a special case because it has fans who follow it all over the country.
"The show definitely has its groupies," he said.