With four previous performances over the past nearly 30 years, the cast of “Six Women with Brain Death, or Expiring Minds Want to Know” have formed kind of a Wichita theater sorority.
In the late 1980s, Christine Tasheff said, “We went out on a limb and did ‘Brain Death,’ and lo and behold, there was an audience in the Midwest for some zany, political, edgy theater.”
Tasheff owned Cabaret Oldtown – now Roxy’s Downtown – at the time, and staging the musical-sketch comedy helped put the theater on the map, she said.
“Six Women,” which debuted in Kansas City in the mid-1980s and enjoyed an off-Broadway run, has been a theatrical mainstay since then, and Tasheff is directing this time as well as performing as one-sixth of the cast.
“People are hungry for zany, edgy stuff,” Tasheff said. “When I had the theater, my favorite saying was ‘If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.’ This show really relates to that expression.”
The cast in the 2017 version of “Six Women,” which opens at Roxy’s for 10 performances beginning Friday night, includes five Wichita veterans of the musical and one actress who could be considered the sorority’s legacy pledge.
Julia Faust is the newcomer to the cast and is carrying on the performing spirit of her mother, Deb Faust, who died 11 years ago.
“To us, it’s really sweet and sentimental to have Julia join us and replace her mom,” Tasheff said.
The 24-year-old, who received a degree in theater from Southwestern College in Winfield, remembers going to rehearsals with her mother.
“A lot of the women in the show are women I’ve admired for a really long time,” Faust said. “They were some of the first voices where I thought, ‘Wow, I want to sound like her.’ Seeing my name with their names is a little overwhelming.”
The cast watched a DVD of a previous performance to get themselves into the spirit of the show, Tasheff said. The veterans of the cast had to grasp to remember some of their lines from 18 years before, but Faust could recite everyone’s parts.
Faust said she always admired the fact that her mother was a stage performer.
“It’s cool when your mom is kind of a star, even though it’s not on TV or in the movies,” Faust said. “She’s up on stage making people laugh.”
For her fellow cast members, the resemblance is almost eerie.
“She looks just like her. Vocally, it’s crazy close,” said Angie Geer, another veteran of the cast. “I’m kind of getting to be her mother in this, so that’s great for me.”
Returning to rehearsals has brought back memories for the actresses, including Karen Robu, who recalls breakdancing and spinning herself on the floor while 7 1/2 months’ pregnant 19 years ago.
Robu is now associate minister at Plymouth Congregational Church in Wichita and has warned parishioners interested in seeing her perform that “Six Women” has some language that wouldn’t be heard in a Sunday sermon.
Both Robu and Patty Reeder also are performing with Music Theatre Wichita this summer.
“It just worked out that they’ll go into rehearsals for Music Theatre the day after we close” on May 20, Tasheff said.
Cast members say the fun, edgy veneer of the musical peels away to some difficult four- and six-part harmonies to learn and relearn.
But that hasn’t taken away the fun of practice.
“We’ve had a great time in rehearsals just laughing,” cast member Cary Hesse said.
Geer, another veteran of multiple versions of “Six Women,” has taken the lead on retooling some of the lines from the 1986 script to bring them up to date.
“Back then, it was all based on tabloid news,” Geer said. “We’ve still got tabloid news around, but it’s all electronic these days. We’ve worked to bring it into that genre.”
Her task is also to keep the political humor sharp, and she has promised that the current president will be mentioned – but perhaps not by name.
“Twenty years ago, I wasn’t anywhere near as politically minded as we are today,” Geer said. “Things that are happening with the government are affecting me and could affect me. I’m more passionate about it. Now, it’s like I’m looking for things.”
“Some of these things seemed outlandish then,” Tasheff said. “The absurdity of seeing that script before is that now it’s just everyday politics.”
‘Six Women with Brain Death, or Expiring Minds Want to Know’
When: 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays through May 20
Where: Roxy’s Downtown, 412 1/2 E. Douglas
What: Musical revue and sketch comedy
Tickets: $20-$30; call the box office at 316-265-4400
More info: www.roxysdowntown.com