Wichita’s live theater community is undergoing changes as it gears up for the 2014-2015 season.
Cabaret Oldtown closed in May after more than two decades of offering hip, edgy musicals like “Pageant,” “Menopaus-A-Palooza” and “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” along with original musical/comedy revues from a stable of favorite local performers.
Christi Moore, who owned, directed and often performed at the intimate nightclub for the past nine years, said she has had interest from potential buyers to continue the legacy.
Meanwhile, Moore has become the consulting artistic director for Crown Uptown Theatre, following the unexpected departure of Matthew Ramsey in early July.
Ramsey had been producing artistic director since the Crown was bought by new owners in 2010, and had elevated its artistic reputation beyond usual dinner theater fare through ambitious musicals like “Spring Awakening,” “Next to Normal” and “Sweeney Todd.”
Meanwhile, two shows previously announced, Elton John and Tim Rice’s “Aida” and the musical version of “Miracle on 34th Street,” have been replaced, said Moore, who will be directing some of the future shows. Now scheduled are “The Rocky Horror Show,” keyed to the October Halloween season, and an original musical revue for the Christmas holidays.
Overall, Wichita theater-goers have about 80 stage shows – from touring Broadway musicals to locally written melodramas and revues to encores of old favorites – to look forward to from now through next spring.
Here’s a preview of what’s waiting in the wings. As usual, titles or dates could change.
“Cirque Dreams Holidaze” (Dec. 6): A bonus show not part of the season package, this holiday extravaganza features 30 performers from 12 countries wearing 300 exotic costumes and cavorting amid giant candy canes and gifts in a showcase of remarkable acrobatics, dance and music.
“Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” (Dec. 16-18): Alan Menkin, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice’s lavish 1994 musical fairy tale, based on the Oscar-winning animated movie, about the improbable romance between a spunky young woman and a hideous beast who is a prince under a curse.
“Sister Act” (Feb. 3-5, 2015): Based on Whoopi Goldberg’s 1992 comedy about a diva on the run from mobsters who hides out as a nun in a convent, this 2011 Alan Menkin/Glenn Slater musical is a hilarious, heart-warming tribute to opposites attracting as she helps her fellow nuns find their singing voices.
“Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story” (March 2-4, 2015): A 19-year-old Texas kid changes the face of rock ’n’ roll before tragically dying in a plane crash with Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper in this musical bio that features all his legendary songs, like “That’ll Be the Day,” “Peggy Sue” and “Oh, Boy!”
“Chicago” (March 31-April 2, 2015): John Kander and Fred Ebb’s 1975 musical (turned into a 2002 Oscar-winning film) is about sin, sex, publicity, police corruption and shameless tabloid shenanigans surrounding the Merry Murderesses of the Cook County Jail in jazz-era Chicago.
Details: Performances in Century II Concert Hall; shows at 7:30 p.m. Season tickets (four shows): $115-$270; call 800-776-7469. Individual show tickets: $35-75; call WichitaTix at 316-219-4849. Discounts available. Info: www.theaterleague.com
“They’re Playing Our Song” (Sept. 25-Oct. 11): Charming 1979 musical by Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager based loosely on their own real-life story of the romantic mismatch between a wisecracking composer and an offbeat lyricist.
“Blithe Spirit” (Oct. 30-Nov. 15): Noel Coward’s witty, sophisticated, romantic, drawing room romp from 1941 about a novelist who hires a clairvoyant to conduct a seance and accidentally scares up the annoying, temperamental ghost of his first wife, who sets out to take revenge on his second, unsuspecting wife.
“Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol” (Dec. 4-20): Paul Jackson’s new musical version of Dickens’ holiday classic, commissioned in 2011 to become an annual Forum tradition, is back to tell of penny-pinching Scrooge and his change of heart after encountering the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.
“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” (Jan. 15-31, 2015): Stage version of the 1967 Katharine Hepburn/Spencer Tracy movie that explores the then-controversial topic of interracial marriage when a liberal couple’s daughter brings home a black boyfriend.
“Blues in the Night” (Feb. 12-28, 2015): Sheldon Epps’ 1982 Broadway musical revue using classic blues tunes and torch songs from Duke Ellington, Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen, Bessie Smith and Alberta Hunter to construct a mood piece about three women involved with the same snake of a man.
“Two by Two” (April 16-May 2, 2015): Richard Rodgers teamed with Martin Charnin for this 1970 musical retelling of Noah’s ark, from his preparations for the great flood to dealing with the aftermath and a new world.
Details: Performances at 147 S. Hillside; shows at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Season tickets (six shows): $125-$50. Individual show tickets: $23 Thursday and Sunday, $25 Friday and Saturday. Call 316-618-0444. Info: www.forumtheatrewichita.com
Wichita Center for the Arts Theatre
“Orphans” (Sept. 19-21, 26-28): Lyle Kessler’s 1983 award-winning drama tells of two brothers abandoned as children who grow into seedy survivors living off criminal endeavors until a mobster muscles into their lives as a sort of father figure with a gun.
“Noises Off” (April 17-19 & 24-26, 2015): English playwright Michael Frayn’s wickedly funny 1982 farce that follows a klutzy theatrical troupe stumbling through a play, seen both backstage and onstage, where everything that can go wrong does.
Details: Performances in Irene Vickers Baker Auditorium at the Center, 9112 E. Central; shows at 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $25, $20 members/seniors, $15 students. Call box office at 316-315-0151. Info: www.wcfta.com
National Theatre Live!
“Medea” (Sept. 4-5): Helen McCrory takes the title role in Euripedes’ classic tragedy in a new adaptation by Ben Power about a wife and mother, abandoned in exile by her husband, Jason, who exacts a horrible revenge that destroys everything she holds dear.
“John” (December, dates TBA): Internationally renowned DV8 Physical Theatre explores, through compelling mix of dance and spoken word, the real-life story of a man struggling to survive years of drug abuse and crime to find an unexpected destination.
“Treasure Island” (January 2015, dates TBA): Robert Louis Stevenson’s story of murder, money and mutiny is brought to life in a new stage adaptation by Bryony Lavery that begins on a dark, stormy night when an innkeeper’s granddaughter opens the door to a terrifying stranger with a sea chest full of secrets at his feet.
Details: Live HD broadcasts from the National Theatre in London (unless noted) shown onscreen at the Murdock Theatre, 536 N. Broadway. Live at 1 p.m. Thursday, taped repeat at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday. Tickets: $15, available online at www.murdocktheatre.com. Call 316-263-1665.
Crown Uptown Theatre
“The Rocky Horror Show” (Oct. 3-30): Fortieth anniversary of the American premiere of the time-warping cult classic, starring Monte Wheeler as cross-dressing Dr. Frank N. Furter creating his ultimate monster. (No Sunday matinees; late shows at 11:30 p.m. Oct. 17 and 30.)
“A Crown Christmas: Our Holiday Spectacular” (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): Original musical revue with a hip, glittering holiday flavor.
“Mainly Sinatra” (Dec. 31): New Year’s Eve special showcasing the music of Old Blue Eyes and the Rat Pack for dinner and dancing.
Details: Performances at 3207 E. Douglas; shows at 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday (unless noted). Tickets: $25-$45. Call 316-612-7696.
Mosley Street Melodrama
“John Wayne’s World” (through Sept. 6): Original comic melodrama by Carol Hughes about a local boy who makes it big in Hollywood and comes home for a visit; followed by musical revue.
“Halloween 13, or Jason Is Really Hacked” (Sept. 11-Nov. 1): Original comic melodrama by Tom Frye mashing up and spoofing popular horror movies; followed by musical revue.
“A Bad Christmas Carol, or Scrooge You” (Nov. 13-Dec. 30; no shows on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve or Christmas day): Original comic melodrama by Tom Frye lampooning holiday tales and traditions; followed by musical revue.
Details: Performances at 234 N. Mosley in Old Town; shows at 7:50 p.m. Thursday-Saturday (doors open at 6, dinner 6:15-7:30). From Nov. 26-Dec. 23, shows at 7:50 p.m. nightly plus 1:50 p.m. Saturday matinee (doors open at noon, buffet 12:15-1:30 p.m.). Season tickets (six shows): $142, $128 seniors 60 and older, $115 children under 12. Individual show tickets: Dinner/show, $27 adults, $23 seniors, $21 children under 12. Show only: $17 all ages. Call 316-263-0222. Info: www.mosleystreet.com
“Guys on Ice: The Ice Fishing Musical” (Nov. 21-22 & 28-29, Dec. 3-7, 10-14 & 17-23): The guys are back after six years in the most-requested encore as two fishing buddies in northern Wisconsin spend Christmas in their shanty on the ice musing and singing about life, love and the one that got away.
Details: Performances Thursday-Sunday and Monday, Dec. 23, at 4055 N. Tyler Road. Doors open at 6:15 for cider and browsing in the Old Barn Christmas Shop, catered buffet from 6:15-7:30, show at 8. Tickets: $29.95-$33.95. Call 316-303-2037.
Wichita Community Theatre
“On Golden Pond” (Sept. 10-14; one week only): Ernest Thompson’s 1979 drama about an aging couple in the twilight of their lives spending one last summer at their vacation lake home with their estranged daughter.
“Bell, Book and Candle” (Oct. 9-24): John Van Druten’s hip 1950 romantic comedy about a modern-day witch who casts a love spell over her handsome neighbor to take revenge on an old enemy but falls for him herself.
“The Game’s Afoot (Holmes for the Holidays)” (Nov. 28-Dec. 21): Ken Ludwig’s witty comic whodunit as an actor famous for playing Sherlock Holmes must play detective for real when a murder happens during a weekend party.
“August: Osage County” (Jan. 29-Feb. 15, 2015): Tracy Letts’ 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winning dark comedy about the love-hate relationship between a drug-addicted, terminally ill woman and her dysfunctional adult children.
“The Last Night in Ballyhoo” (March 19-April 5, 2015): Alfred Uhry’s 1996 comedy about a snobby group of Atlanta Jews who are faced with re-examining their cultural identity during a big social event at a restricted country club.
“Motherhood Out Loud” (May 6-10, 2015): Series of one-act plays by various authors exploring motherhood in all its various forms, from surrogacy to step-parenting, touching both the heart and the funny bone.
Audience Choice Production (June 11-29, 2015): No details yet.
“Death by Design” (July 30-Aug. 16, 2015): Rob Urbanti’s comedy-mystery mash-up pays homage to the wit of Noel Coward and the plotting of Agatha Christie, combining murder and mayhem with all-out farce.
Details: Performances at 258 N. Fountain; shows at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday (unless noted). Tickets: $14 adults, $12 seniors/military/students (special $10 tickets on opening nights). Call 316-686-1282.
Guild Hall Players
“Our Town” (Oct. 2-5): Thornton Wilder’s classic about the joys and sorrows of small-town American life in the early 20th century.
“Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike” (March 12-15, 2015) Christopher Durang’s 2013 Tony Award-winning comedy that pays tongue-in-cheek tribute to Anton Chekov through a case of middle-aged sibling rivalry.
“The Beams Are Creaking” (May 21-24, 2015): Douglas Adams’ inspiring drama about Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s heroic opposition to Hitler.
“Big River” (July 30-Aug. 2, 2015): Songwriter Roger Miller and William Hauptman’s 1985 bluegrass-flavored musical retelling of Mark Twain’s classic adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
Details: Performances in St. James Episcopal Church, 3750 E. Douglas; shows at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $12, $10 students. Call 316-683-5686. Info: www.stjameswichita.org
WSR Signature Theatre
“Cyrano de Bergerac” (Nov. 16-17): Edmond Rostand’s 1897 classic about the 17th-century French nobleman whose big nose makes him doubt his ability to woo the beautiful Roxane even though he is a gifted poet, musician and duelist.
“String of Pearls” (March 22-23, 2015): Michele Lowe’s touching and comic tale of a necklace passed down through several generations that changes every life that it touches as it is given, stolen, sold, taken apart and nearly lost.
“Richard III” (April 2015; dates TBA): Shakespeare’s 1597 tragedy about the bloody Machiavellian rise and short reign (1483-85) of the hunchback English monarch who cynically reveled in “the winter of our discontent.”
“Urinetown” (May 2015; dates TBA): 2001 Tony Award-winning musical satire that sharply tackles corrupt politics, corporate greed, bureaucratic mess-ups and misplaced idealism in a future society where water is more precious than gold.
“1776” (July 2-3, 2015; Thursday-Friday before Independence Day): Now an annual holiday tradition is this 1969 Tony Award-winning best musical about John Adams and the struggles to finish the Declaration of Independence.
Details: Performances in Scottish Rite Auditorium, 332 E. First St. Shows at 7 p.m. Sunday and Monday (unless noted). Tickets: $10 adults, $7 students at the door (no reservations). Call 316-263-4218.
“Office Party” (through Sept. 28): World premiere of a new 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.
Details: Performances at 100 E. Kechi Road, Kechi. Shows at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $11 Thursday and Sunday, $12 Friday and Saturday. Call 316-744-2152.
Music Theatre for Young People
“Legally Blonde” (Oct. 10-12): 2007 musical based on the 2001 Reese Witherspoon comedy about a sorority fashionista who enrolls in Harvard Law School to show up the legal-eagle boyfriend who dumped her.
“Miracle on 34th Street” (Dec. 12-14): Kris Kringle takes on the cynics in this musical adaptation by Meredith “The Music Man” Willson of the beloved 1947 movie about a little girl who doubts that Macy’s Santa is the real deal.
“The Wizard of Oz” (Feb. 20-22, 2015): John Kane’s 1987 stage adaptation of the classic 1939 movie, using the familiar music by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, about tornado-traveling Dorothy from Kansas who recruits the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion to defeat the Wicked Witch of the West.
“Oliver!” (March 1-3, 2015): Lionel Bart’s boisterous and rousing 1960 British musical, based on Dickens’ “Oliver Twist,” about a winsome orphan who just wants to find a loving home but falls in with the villainous Fagan, mastermind of a gang of kiddie pickpockets.
Details: Performances in Mary Jane Teall Theater in Century II; shows at 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: Adults, $12 in advance, $15 at the door; $10 students and groups; at 316-219-4849 or www.wichitatix.com. Info: www.mtypks.org
Crown Uptown Children’s Theatre
“The Jungle Book” (Oct. 10-31): Rudyard Kipling’s classic kid-friendly tale of a boy named Mowgli raised in the jungle by a wise old wolf.
“The Year Santa Almost Forgot Christmas” (Dec. 4-20): The Jolly Old Elf suffers a bump on the head and nearly misses his big day.
Details: Performances at 3207 E. Douglas; 12:30 p.m. matinees on Friday-Saturday. Tickets: $15. Call 316-612-7696.
Wichita Children’s Theatre & Dance Center
“Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” (Oct. 3-4; performed at 201 Lulu): Comedy adapted from Judy Blume’s popular kid book about 9-year-old Peter’s exasperation over the bratty behavior of his younger brother, Fudge.
“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” (Dec. 8-10, 12-14): Annual encore of the hilarious, heart-touching tale of kids reinterpreting the Christmas story through their own unique sensibilities.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” (Dec. 11 & 14): Musical version of the long-running TV cartoon comes to real life as Charlie Brown and the “Peanuts” gang of pint-sized sages grapple with the true meaning of the holiday season.
“Annie” (March 27-28, 2015): Tony Award-winning best musical of 1977 brings to life an irrepressible Depression-era tot, Little Orphan Annie, and her search for a forever family.
Details: Performances at Wichita Center for the Arts, 9112 E. Central (unless noted); call for show times. Tickets: $6; special pizza shows, $7.50 (group discounts available). Call 316-262-2282. Info: www.wctdc.com
Once Upon a Time Series
“Trick or Treat Street” (Oct. 24-26): Imaginative musical teaches safe trick-or-treating.
“Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type” (Nov. 5-8): Musical comedy about peaceful protests adapted from Doreen Cronin’s book about cows who find an old-fashioned typewriter and begin to make demands of Farmer Brown.
“The Gingerbread Man” (Dec. 3-6, 19-20): Musical modern fairy tale about a big gingerbread man made for a birthday party who doesn’t want to stick around to be snacked on.
“The Wizard of Oz” (Jan. 14-17, 2015): Original new adaptation about tornado-traveling Dorothy from Kansas.
“Miss Nelson Is Missing” (Feb. 25-28, 2015): When nice Miss Nelson goes missing and is replaced by a tyrannical substitute, her desperate students hire a private detective to find her to get back to normal.
“The Three Little Kittens” (April 8-11, 2015): The three little kittens may have lost their mittens, but they aren’t going to just sit around and cry. Instead, the clever kitties enlist audience members to help find them.
Details: Performed by WCT&DC’s adult company for youngsters ages 2 to 8 with audience participation. Performances at 201 Lulu; call for show times. Tickets: $6; special pizza shows, $7.50 (group discounts available). Call 316-262-2282. Info: www.wctdc.com
Heather Muller Black Box
“Urinetown” (Oct. 17-19): 2001 Tony Award-winning musical satire that sharply tackles corrupt politics, corporate greed, bureaucratic mess-ups and misplaced idealism in a future society where water is more precious than gold.
TBA (non-musical) (Feb. 20-22, 2015)
“Grease” (July 23-26, 2015): 1971 musical pays loving homage to 1950s rock ’n’ roll in Rydell High School where teens grapple with puppy love, peer pressure, friendship, rebellion, cars, gangs and ever-present angst. 7 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 8:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday.
Details: Performances in Black Box Theatre, 201 Lulu; shows at 7 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday (unless noted). Tickets: $8.50; premium, $12.50 (group discounts available). Call 316-262-2282. Info: www.wctdc.com
Wichita State University
“The Spitfire Grill” (Sept. 25-28): A feisty young parolee follows her dreams to a rustic Wisconsin place called Hannah’s Spitfire Grill to start over in this heart-warming, country-flavored 2001 musical about redemption by James Valcq and Fred Alley, based on the 1996 film.
“Julius Caesar” (Oct. 16-19): Shakespeare’s tragedy follows the final days of the Roman ruler whose popularity and ever-increasing power breed jealousy, suspicion, conspiracy and assassination among his friends and enemies alike.
“Don Giovanni” (Oct. 30-Nov. 2, Miller Concert Hall): Mozart’s opera – in Italian with English titles – tells of a man who delights in being an amoral hedonist and disloyal lover who has seduced and abandoned thousands of women.
“The Dead Guy” (Feb. 19-22, 2015): Scottish playwright Eric Coble’s 1995 darkly satirical romp about America’s love affair with reality TV in which a man is given $1 million and a week to spend it any way he wants in exchange for agreeing to kill himself at the end in a manner voted on by the viewing public.
“Cold Sassy Tree” (April 9-12, 2015, Miller Concert Hall): Opera legend and Kansas native Samuel Ramey heads the cast of Carlisle Floyd’s 2000 opera, based on the 1984 Olive Ann Burns novel, about scandal in a small Southern town when a recent widower announces plans to marry a much-younger woman.
“Into the Woods” (April 30-May 3, 2015): Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s 1987 Tony Award-winning musical is a dark fairy tale reimagining the stories of Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk and warning about being careful what you wish for.
Details: Performances in Wilner Auditorium on WSU campus (unless noted); shows at 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets for musicals: $16, $14 faculty/seniors/military, $6 non-WSU students, WSU students free. Tickets for non-musicals: $10, $8 faculty/seniors/military, $6 non-WSU students, WSU students free. Call 316-978-3233.
“La Llorona” (Nov. 12-16): Original script by Amanda Zeitler, winner of WSU’s 2013 playwriting contest, deals with a public defender trying to balance her crumbling marriage against the demands of her career during a murder trial.
TBA (March 11-15, 2015)
Details: Performances in Welsbacher Theatre in WSU Hughes Metropolitan Complex, 29th North and Oliver. Shows at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday (unless noted). Tickets: $10, $8 seniors/military, $6 students. Call 316-978-3233.
“Buried Child” (Oct. 9-12, Jabara Theatre): Sam Shepard’s 1979 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about the fragmentation of the American nuclear family and disillusionment with the American Dream.
“Legally Blonde, the Musical” (Nov. 20-23, Performance Hall): 2007 musical based on the 2001 Reese Witherspoon comedy about a sorority fashionista who enrolls in Harvard Law School.
4th Annual 24-Hour Theatre Project (8 p.m. Feb. 7, 2015; Jabara Theatre): Students prepare and perform a play all in one day. Tickets: $2.
“Hamlet” (March 5-8, 2015; Performance Hall): Shakespeare’s classic about a brooding Dane who wonders whether “To be or not to be,” while trying to cope with his dysfunctional family.
“The Time Traveler” (April 10-24, 2015): Newman performers take a children’s theater show to local and area schools, following an on-campus premiere performance on April 10.
Details: Performances at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday in Performance Hall or Jabara Theatre. Tickets at De Mattias: $12 adults, $10 students, $5 for Newman students. Tickets at Jabara: $10 adults, $8 students, $5 for Newman students.
“Leaving Iowa” (Sept. 25-27, Cornerstone Studio): Warm-hearted comedy by Tim Clue and Spike Manton about the joys and perils of the family road trip.
“The 39 Steps” (Oct. 30-Nov. 1, Alumni Auditorium): Patrick Barlow’s 2005 slapstick, quick-change farce spoofing Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 film based on John Buchan’s 1916 melodramatic novel about a man and the three women in his life.
“Good News” (Jan. 29-31, 2015, Sebits Auditorium): Revamped 1993 version by Wichita’s Wayne Bryan and Mark Madama that breathes new life into the 1927 college musical about a star athlete who might miss the big game because of bad grades and the beautiful brainiac recruited to help him study.
“The Elephant Man” (March 12-14, 2015, Alumni Auditorium): Bernard Pomerance’s 1977 drama based on the life of John Merrick, whose indomitable “I am not an animal” spirit struggled to overcome public revulsion at his horribly disfigured body in Victorian England.
Details: Performances in Sebits Auditorium, Alumni Auditorium or Cornerstone Studio Theatre in Riney Fine Arts Center on the Friends campus. Shows at 7:30 Friday-Saturday. Tickets: $11, $9 seniors/students. Call 316-295-5537. Info: www.friends.edu/theater