For its 45th anniversary season next summer, Music Theatre Wichita will be among the first regional theaters in the country to get a shot at creating its own version of the popular, long-running, ABBA-flavored “Mamma Mia!”
“We got the rights with the agreement that we would create all new choreography and that we would not replicate in any way the look of the original show,” says Wayne Bryan, MTW’s producing artistic director. “It’s the same sort of agreement we had with Disney to be among the first to do ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘The Little Mermaid.’ ”
Because of expected demand, “Mamma Mia!” will be extended over a second weekend for a total of 12 performances rather than the usual seven.
For summer 2016, MTW is also getting a rare chance to bring back “Jesus Christ Superstar,” which will be available for only a short time, Bryan says. MTW last did the groundbreaking Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice rock opera in 1990.
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Kicking off next summer will be the regional premiere of “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” a romantic new musical set in the Roaring 20s, repurposing the music of George and Ira Gershwin, that was on Broadway in 2012.
And filling out the rest of the five-show season will be encores of “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” (last done in 2004) for the family show and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” (last done in 2003) for a “Golden Age of Broadway” revival, Bryan says.
Theatergoers buying or renewing season tickets can reserve them at this year’s prices until Oct. 31 by calling 316-265-3107. The range is from $260 for evening front orchestra seats to $114 for matinee balcony seats, with discounts available for students, seniors and groups. After Nov. 1, next year’s prices (yet to be determined by the MTW board) will apply, Bryan says. Individual show tickets are not available until next spring.
Here’s a closer look at MTW’s 2016 season.
“Nice Work If You Can Get It” (June 15-19): This new show by Joe DiPietro (“I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change”) is a frothy 1920s pastiche using classic Gershwin melodies like “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” and the title tune to tell the story of the improbable romance between a beautiful bootlegger and a playboy who is desperate to find a wife that his mother – who holds the purse strings – will approve of.
“Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” (June 29-July 3): Expanded 1994 stage version of the Oscar-winning 1991 Disney animated film based on the classic fairy tale about a handsome prince cursed to look like a hideous beast and the spunky young woman who is able to see below the gruff surface. Music by Alan Menkin with lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice includes “Be Our Guest,” “If I Can’t Love Her,” “Human Again” and the beloved title tune.
“Oklahoma!” (July 13-17): Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1943 Pulitzer Prize-winning musical is about life, romance, danger and optimism in frontier territory just before Oklahoma became a state. Flirty cowboy Curly woos stand-offish Laurey, while jealous farmhand Jud tries to thwart their romance. Almost all of the songs have become classics, from “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” to “People Will Say We’re in Love” to “Kansas City” to the foot-stomping title tune.
“Jesus Christ Superstar” (July 27-31): This once-controversial 1971 musical from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice dared to tread on sensitive thematic ground as it took new looks at the psychology and relationships of Jesus, Judas, Mary Magdalene and the Apostles in an effort to be more relevant to rock-oriented youths. The hard-charging music, with some lovely lyrical respites, includes “Everything’s Alright,” “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” “Heaven on Their Minds” and the titular “Superstar.”
“Mamma Mia!” (Aug. 10-14 and 19-21): This jukebox musical – opening in 1999 in London and 2001 on Broadway – was conceived by British playwright Catherine Johnson to repurpose disco-era music by Swedish group ABBA into a romantic tale about a free-spirit single mother, her three former suitors and her curious teen daughter, who is determined to find out which one is her dad so he can walk her down the aisle at her upcoming wedding. Among the wealth of songs are “Dancing Queen,” “Take a Chance on Me,” “Lay All Your Love on Me,” “The Winner Takes It All” and the catchy title tune.