The magic of “The Wizard of Oz” lives on
The final production of Music Theatre Wichita for this year is underway — the five-day run of “In the Heights” started on Wednesday night —and now, MTW producing artistic director director Wayne Bryan is ready to talk next season.
He’s just revealed plans for the 2020 season, and it will include a fan favorite being put on for the fifth time, a couple of regional debuts, and a famous film musical everyone already knows all the words to. Bryan will even take an on-stage role in one of the shows, something he hasn’t done for 10 years.
Here’s a look at the lineup, which will start in June 2020. Despite uncertainty about the future of Century II, Bryan said, it seems certain that any potential changes wouldn’t happen before next season so the shows are still scheduled for Century II’s Concert Hall.
Season tickets are already on sale for next season at mtwichita.org. Single tickets will go on sale late this spring.
“Grease,” June 10-14
This will be the first time Bryan has ever produced “Grease” for MTW, and there’s a reason for that, he said. He’d always avoided the show because he didn’t like the message it sent: Good girl Sandy Dombrowski changes who she is and lowers her standards to snag bad boy Danny Zuko. Then, Bryan read an article by a fellow theater director who saw the show differently, arguing that in fact passive Sandy made the change when she discovered and embraced her feminine power. It changed his view, and now, he’s ready to direct the production, which will include the favorite songs sung by the Pink Ladies and T-Birds of Rydell High in the 1978 movie starring Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta.
“The Wizard of Oz,“ June 24-28
This will be the only show scheduled for the 2020 season that MTW has done before. “The Wizard of Oz,” the quintessential Kansas musical, was last staged by MTW in 2006 — when then 16-year-old Desi Oakley played Dorothy. Oakley is now on Broadway playing Roxie Hart in “Chicago.” MTW will offer an extra performance of the show on June 25 that’s especially for ages 3 and up. The performance will mark MTW’s fifth staging of the “The Wizard of Oz” in its 48-year history.
“Something Rotten,” July 8-12
Bryan took a couple of groups to New York City to see this show, a new one for MTW, and “we nearly laughed ourselves silly.” The show is set in Shakespeare’s time and focuses on two brothers — struggling playwrights who keep getting outdone by The Bard. In an attempt to write Shakespeare’s next big hit before he does, they consult with a soothsayer (Thomas Nostradamus, nephew the Nostradamus) and end up inventing the Broadway musical.
Bryan will play the roll of soothsayer Thomas Nostradamus, the first time he’s appeared onstage since 2009’s “The Drowsy Chaperone.” At Wednesday’s performance of “In the Heights,” Bryan performed a piece of one of the songs from the show after announcing the lineup.
“Twelfth Night,” July 22-26
This musical retelling of Shakespeare’s famous gender-bending comedy of mistaken identity will be a regional premiere and what Bryan called “the oddest one of the summer.” It’s “Twelfth Night” with a “Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” treatment, he said, and is a fast-paced show that will include a youth choir that pops up throughout.
“It’s uses Shakespeare’s text cut down to the absolute minimum but with all these really fun songs mixed into it,” Bryan said.
“Kinky Boots,” Aug. 5-9
The American Theatre Guild brought Tony-award winning “Kinky Boots” to Century II in January 2018, but now, regional musical theaters are just starting to get licensed for the show, and MTW will be in the first wave of theaters to create their own productions. The lively show, with music by Cyndi Lauper, tells the story of an unlikely friendship that saves the livelihoods of employees at a shoe factory. It’s mostly inspired by true events.