They come in from the heat and take their seats in Century II Concert Hall, ready to see a musical that may be an old friend or a new acquaintance. They do not expect to see name stars, but rather stars in the making. Experience has taught them they can trust Music Theatre of Wichita with their time and money.
That uncommon bond between theater and audience — forged with strongly sung, ably crafted stagings of well-chosen musicals during 1,412 performances — is part of what makes Music Theatre such a community treasure on its 40th anniver-As it’s boosted Wichita’s spirits and cultural life all these years, Music Theatre also has proved its ability to contribute jobs to the local economy and nurture young performers. Perhaps unwittingly, Music Theatre’s ticket buyers and corporate and foundation sponsors have been part of a program to train musical theater professionals and help sustain the art form. As a result, Music Theatre’s proud alumni can be found on stages on Broadway and around the nation.
Congratulations are due Music Theatre of Wichita, led by longtime producing artistic director Wayne Bryan, as it opens the season tonight through Sunday with Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man.”
Timed to complement the new June dates of the Wichita River Festival, Music Theatre’s fourth staging of “The Music Man” kicks off a season that’s otherwise fresh to Wichita and the region — “Finian’s Rainbow,” “Sunset Boulevard,” “Xanadu” and Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”
Especially with politics claiming a long-running benefactor, the Kansas Arts
Commission, Wichita cannot afford to take its top-quality musical theater company for granted in this or future summers. Music Theatre’s budget has grown from $100,000 under founding director Jim Miller in 1972 to $3 million under Bryan today.
In this 40th-anniversary season and beyond, Wichitans and other south-central Kansans will need to continue to show their support for Music Theatre not only with their trust and their standing ovations but with their dollars.
— For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman