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.
•“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.”
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.
•“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.
•“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.
•“Boo-lesque: A Tricky Treat” (through Oct. 27):
Original Halloween musical comedy revue with a sexy edge.
Main Stage (Central)
Heather Muller Black Box (Lulu)
Once Upon a Time Series (Lulu)