If you’re going to the theater, show some respect!
Broadway in Wichita’s menu for the 2019-2020 season includes a current Broadway hit, a new show with a retro feel, a revival of an iconic musical – and a side order of “Spongebob Squarepants.”
“Cats,” Oct. 14-16, 2019
“Bandstand,” Jan. 14-16, 2020
“Waitress,” March 3-5, 2020
“The Spongebob Musical,” April 28-30, 2020
“Waitress,” based on the 2007 movie of the same name, has run on Broadway since March 2016, and features a score by Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles. Its heroine is Jenna, a waitress who escapes from her abusive husband and begins an affair with her gynecologist and sees the grand prize of a pie contest as her way out.
“It’s one of the biggest hits in recent history,” Amy Hamm, executive director of The American Theatre Guild, which presents the season.
“Bandstand,” an original musical set in 1945, ran on Broadway for five months in 2017. It follows a soldier back from World War II, trying to rebuild the life he left behind.
“I think it’s going to have an appeal on tour,” Hamm said. “It has big, big dance music and a moving story about veterans. Maybe it didn’t have traction in New York, but I think it is more tailor-made for our audiences here.”
It won a Tony Award for best choreography for Andy Blankenbuehler, who went on to choreograph “Hamilton.”
Blankenbuehler also created new dance moves for “Cats,” which kicks off the Broadway in Wichita season.
“It’s got a new, fresh look to it,” Hamm said of “Cats,” whose original Broadway run from 1982-2000 was the longest in history, until it was surpassed by “The Phantom of the Opera.” The revival hit Broadway in 2017, and a film version with Jennifer Hudson, Taylor Swift and James Corden is scheduled to hit movie theaters in December.
This will be the third time “Cats” has played in Century II, the most recent being in 2005, said Hamm, an El Dorado native who remembers a road trip to Wichita to see the musical in the mid-1990s.
But the most unique part of the schedule, Hamm said, has a title character who lives in a pineapple under the sea.
“The Spongebob Musical,” based on the Nickelodeon animated smash, received 12 Tony nominations last year.
“It’s a pretty big deal for us and for Wichita to be able to bring ‘Spongebob’ on the first national tour. It’s exciting,” Hamm said. “We’re feeling confident this is a show that audiences are going to love.”
The characters don’t wear the exact costumes of their cartoon counterparts, she said, but enough for anyone who has seen the series to know who they are.
Rather than one composer, the music for “Spongebob” was written by various pop-rock performers, including David Bowie, Plain White T’s, Panic! at the Disco, Cyndi Lauper, Flaming Lips, John Legend, Aerosmith, They Might Be Giants and Bareilles.
“It’s kind of a neat twist in addition to being a big, bright, fun show with a ton of heart,” Hamm said. “I think it will be a surprise because it has some amazing messages about friendship and teamwork. It’s an important kind of show to have now, a good show with a good message.”
One show is available as an add-on to the season, Hamm said.
“A Magical Cirque Christmas,” scheduled for Dec. 18, features married aerialist team Tyce and Mary Nielsen, finalists on this season’s “America’s Got Talent.”
The nonprofit American Theatre Guild is the successor to Broadway Theater League and was put into place last September.
“We hired on the entire Theater League staff,” Hamm said. “It’s all the same players, just led by a new nonprofit.’
American Theatre Guild is based in Kansas City and programs the Broadway season for theaters in eight markets, including Birmingham, Ala.; Colorado Springs; Phoenix; and Riverside, Santa Barbara and Thousand Oaks, Calif., as well as Wichita’s Century II and Music Hall Kansas City.
Music Hall KC is getting Broadway’s biggest hit of the century, “Hamilton” in 24 performances from June 18 to July 7. As far as Lin-Manuel Miranda’s pop-cultural phenomenon hitting Wichita, Hamm says – not quite yet.
“It’s a question we’re asking constantly,” she said of all the markets her group serves. “We hope soon.”
Tickets: $120-$245 for all four shows.
Available at: broadwaywichita.com and wichitatix.com, at the Century II box office at 225 W. Douglas, or by calling 316-303-8100.
Individual show tickets are not yet on sale.