Wichita’s stages are calling, offering more than 20 live shows this summer, from lavish musicals to crisp comedies to melodramas and slapstick farces – even a handful of family-friendly fairy tales geared specifically toward children as young as 2.
Beginning this summer, Music Theatre of Wichita is rebranding itself as simply Music Theatre Wichita – dropping the “of” after 43 years.
And its abbreviated nickname, MTW, is now being changed to MTWichita to coordinate with its www.mtwichita.org website.
“It’s a streamlining thing,” said producing artistic director Wayne Bryan, who is beginning his 27th year at the helm of Wichita’s premier regional theater that offers five fully-staged Broadway shows headed by guest professionals from New York and Los Angeles over a whirlwind 10-week season.
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“It’s also to clear up any confusion with other groups that also have claim to the MTW name, like Music Theatre West and Music Theatre Workshop,” Bryan said. “We’re trying to get everyone used to thinking of us as MTWichita so it’ll make it easier to find us online.”
MTWichita’s theme this year is “Passport to Broadway,” which Bryan said was suggested by a Facebook friend because the shows’ settings involved such wide geography, from exotic islands in the South Pacific to ancient (and perhaps a tad glitzy) Egypt to both the bright lights and mean streets of New York City.
The newest show is the regional premiere of “Catch Me If You Can,” a romp based on the Leonardo DiCaprio/Tom Hanks movie about a clever young conman perpetually one step ahead of the law. The show was on Broadway just two years ago. There are also encores of classic shows that haven’t been done here for years, such as “South Pacific” (19 years ago) and “42nd Street” (17 years).
The reason for bringing back vintage shows, Bryan said, is both for younger audience members who have never seen them staged before and to broaden the practical experience for the energetic young ensemble of 26 singers/dancers/actors who use Music Theatre Wichita as a stepping stone to Broadway.
Also gearing up for the summer is Kechi Playhouse with five shows, including the world premiere of an original, locally written farce by theater founder Misty Maynard.
“This will be Kechi Playhouse’s 32nd year of producing plays in the old church located on the corner of North Oliver and 61st Street,” Maynard said. “The building, built in 1920, became a theater in 1983 and has been going strong ever since, producing a different play each month from June to October, from nostalgic old favorites to new comedies to, lately, some original scripts.”
Joined by year-round venues like Crown Uptown Theatre, Mosley Street Melodrama, Forum Theatre and Wichita Community Theatre, the summer season has enough variety to suit virtually all tastes. Here’s a look at what’s coming:
Music Theatre Wichita
Details: Performances at 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays in Century II Concert Hall. Tickets: $26-$62 evenings, $24-$54 matinees; call 316-265-3107. www.mtwichita.org
“South Pacific” (June 11-15): After a 19-year absence, this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic is back to recount American sailors’ exuberant and harrowing adventures during World War II plus the cross-cultural love story between a naive American nurse and a worldly French planter. The glorious music includes “Some Enchanted Evening,” “There Is Nothin’ Like a Dame,” “A Wonderful Guy” and “Younger than Springtime.”
“West Side Story” (June 25-29): Jerome Robbins’ electrifying contemporary retelling of “Romeo and Juliet” is set on the mean streets of New York City as two rival gangs battle for turf and acceptance. The songs by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim are legendary, from “Tonight” to “Maria” to “I Feel Pretty,” “America” and the haunting “Somewhere.”
“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” (July 9-13): This joyful, tuneful, family-friendly romp that launched the careers of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice is lovingly but irreverently based on the biblical tale of Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors. Songs that tell of Joseph’s passage from favorite son to Egyptian slave to pharaoh’s BFF include “Any Dream Will Do,” “Go-Go-Go-Go Joseph,” “One More Angel” and “Close Every Door.”
“Catch Me If You Can” (July 23-27): Fresh from a 2012 run on Broadway, this regional premiere is about a con man extraordinaire who passed himself off as a Pan Am pilot, a hospital administrator and a hot-shot lawyer while cashing $2.5 million in bad checks – all before he was 21. Based on a true story, the show features music by Marc Shaiman and Scott Whittman (“Hairspray,” TV’s “Smash”).
“42nd Street” (Aug. 6-10): Considered Broadway’s liveliest tap-dancing extravaganza, this 1980 show based on the 1933 Ruby Keeler/Dick Powell movie is about a group of hopeful young performers who try to mount an extravagant Broadway show to lighten spirits at the height of the Depression. The classic music by Harry Warren and Al Dubin includes “Lullaby of Broadway,” “We’re in the Money,” “You’re Getting to Be a Habit With Me,” “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” and, of course, the toe-tapping title tune.
Crown Uptown Theatre
Details: Performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays (doors open at 5 p.m., dinner 5-7:15 p.m.) and 2 p.m. Sundays (doors open 12:30 p.m., appetizers/desserts available); 3207 E. Douglas. Tickets: prices vary by show; call 316-612-7696. www.crownuptown.com
“Shrek: The Musical” (June 6-28): Based on the Oscar-winning animated film, this family-friendly 2008 musical is about everybody’s favorite misanthropic green ogre and his reluctant quest to save Princess Fiona from evil Lord Farquaad with the help of his buddy Donkey.
“Some Enchanted Evening: The Songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein” (Aug. 15-Sept. 6): Musical revue by Jeffrey B. Moss using a small, versatile ensemble both back stage and on stage to repurpose songs by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, who gave the world “Carousel,” “The King and I,” “The Sound of Music,” “South Pacific” and “Oklahoma.”
Details: Performances at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays; 147 S. Hillside. Tickets: $25 Friday-Saturday, $23 Thursday and Sunday; call 316-618-0444. www.forumwichita.com
“The Female Odd Couple” (July 10-27): Local favorites Karla Burns and Gina Austin star in Neil Simon’s 1985 revamping of his 1965 classic farce about mismatched roommates, persnickety Felix (now Florence) and slovenly Oscar (now Olive).
Mosley Street Melodrama
Details: Performances at 7:50 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays (doors open at 6 p.m., dinner 6:15-7:30 p.m.); 234 N. Mosley in Old Town. Tickets: $22-$28 for dinner and show, $18 show only. Call 316-263-0222. www.mosleystreet.com
“Jaws: The Melodrama” (May 29-July 19): Original comic melodrama spoofing Steven Spielberg’s classic 1975 fish tale by local actor/director/playwright Tom Frye. Musical revue conceived and directed by Patty Reeder follows show.
“John Wayne’s World” (July 24-Sept. 6): Original comic melodrama by playwright/radio personality Carol Hughes. Musical revue conceived and directed by Patty Reeder follows show.
Wichita Community Theatre
Details: Performances at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays; 258 N. Fountain. Tickets: $14 adults, $12 seniors/students/military. Call 316-686-1282. www.wichitact.org
“Angel Street (Gas Light)” (June 5-22): British playwright Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 psychological drama (retitled “Angel Street” in America) is set in the 1880s as a desperate woman is being driven insane by tricks played on her by her devious, perhaps criminal, husband. A sympathetic policeman working a nearby case helps her turn the tables on him.
“The Fox on the Fairway” (July 24-Aug. 10): From wickedly funny Ken Ludwig (“Lend Me a Tenor”) comes this 2010 romp that pays homage to 1930s British farces. It revolves around the stuffy denizens of a private country club who get the comic rug pulled out from under them at every turn through mistaken identities, romantic shenanigans and slapstick shtick worthy of the Marx Brothers.
Details: Performances at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays; 100 E. Kechi Road (61st and N. Oliver). Tickets: $12 Friday-Saturday, $11 Thursday and Sunday. Call 316-744-2152. www.kechiplayhouse.com
“IX’TICHA** Spider-God of the Amazon!!!” (June 5-29): Original campy spoof by Misty Maynard of old horror movie creature-features of the 1950s and 1960s, complete with restless natives, an erupting volcano and a giant spider.
“Perfect Wedding” (July 3-27): Comedy by Robin Hawdon in which a wild stag party results in the groom-to-be finding a strange girl in his bed on the wedding day. Before he can sort things out, his bride shows up along with her mother and the best man.
“Will You Still Love Me in the Morning?” (July 31-Aug. 31): Farce by Clemens & Spooner about a man leaving on his honeymoon who offers his bosses the use of his house. But when he returns early, he discovers more than he bargained for with a leak in the basement and some wife-swapping going on.
“Office Party” (Sept. 4-28): World premiere of a comedy by Misty Maynard that may make you cherish your calm, mundane work environment.
“Becky’s New Car” (Oct. 2-26): Humorous and provocative tale by Steve Dietz about a middle-aged woman who finds herself in a so-so marriage and a ho-hum job when her world is turned upside-down by a man looking to buy a car.
WSR Signature Theatre
Details: Performances at 7 p.m. Sundays-Mondays; Wichita Scottish Rite, 332 E. First. Tickets: $10 adults, $7 students; available at door. www.wsrstheatre.org
“1776” (June 30-July 1): Tony Award-winning best musical of 1969 by Sherman Edwards (music/lyrics) and Peter Stone (book) that celebrates the birth of the United States through momentous events surrounding the Declaration of Independence. Family-friendly treat timed to July 4.
Wichita Children’s Theatre & Dance Center
Details: Performances at 201 Lulu for Once Upon a Time Productions. Adult cast leads participatory theater for kids ages 2-8. Call for show times. Tickets: $6; pizza, $1.50 extra. Call 316-262-2282. www.wctdc.com
“Little Red Hen” (June 26-27): Story of industrious hen whose lazy neighbors want to share in her bounty after the work is done.
“The Three Billy Goats Gruff” (June 12-13, 20): The critters encounter a troll asking for payment to cross his bridge.
“The Three Little Pigs” (July 10-11, 18): Porcine trio hides from the Big Bad Wolf in their homes of straw, twigs and bricks.
Crown Uptown Children’s Theatre
Details: Performances at 12:30 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays (doors open at 11 a.m., kid-friendly buffet at 11:15 a.m.); 3207 E. Douglas. Tickets: $15. Call 316-612-7696. www.crownuptown.com
“Aladdin” (July 11-Aug. 9): Original musical by Crown founder Ted J. Morris, based on the tale of the street urchin who tries to woo a princess with the help of a genie.