Arts & Culture

Two artists behind three of four local holiday programs

Tom Frye and Mike Roark were as busy as Santa and all his elves as they put together holiday shows for Crown Uptown Theatre, Prairie Pines Dinner Theatre and Mosley Street Melodrama.

Those are three of the four theaters that have made their original musical comedy holiday revues must-see sell-outs from Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve.

The only local holiday show that isn't connected to one of them is the one at Cabaret Oldtown.

Frye wrote and directed Mosley's melodrama, contributed comedy bits to Crown's variety revue and cast the show. Roark wrote, directed and performs in Prairie Pines' holiday audience participation murder mystery, and wrote comedy skits for and directed Crown's show.

Here's a closer look at the four shows:

Crown Uptown Theatre

"A Crown Uptown Christmas" at Wichita's oldest dinner theater features two acts of holiday music and seasonal comedy skits with a cast that includes Dave Goin, Tara Tucker, Alex Johnson, Meg Osborne, Nick Madson, Michael Karraker and Nathan Worthington.

Among highlights, Roark said, are a comic version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas," an old-fashioned radio program of "A Christmas Carol" and a medley of traditional songs given an updated — and comical — rock treatment.

There's also a holiday parody to give new meaning to Frankie Valli's "Oh, What a Night," an audience participation romp about "Rudolph, the Red-Neck Reindeer" and a condensed, fast-paced, "10-minutes-or-under" version of the classic "It's a Wonderful Life."

Details: Performances are Thursday-Sunday through New Year's Eve (no shows Christmas Eve or Christmas Day). Call 316-681-1566 for show times, reservations and information.

Mosley Street Melodrama

"The Tinsel Tale of Tori" is a satire on cheerleading crossed with Olympic skating a la Tonya Harding and set to a "Grease" beat. Writer Frye noted that he immortalized the name of his oldest grandchild — Tori — in the show, using it for the fresh-faced hopeful (played by Emma Craig) competing for a position on the cheer squad.

"I have two other grandchildren so I already know what I've got to do for the next two Christmas melodramas," Frye said, musing about working Carol and Gracie into future titles.

In "Tinsel Tale," Tori goes up against dangerously competitive Tonya Jean Biggis (Scott Noah in drag). Others in the cast are Monte Wheeler, Cindy Summers, Barb Schoenhofer and Steven Hitchcock.

Following the melodrama is a musical comedy revue called "Gettin' in the Mood" that combines holiday music with comic encores like "The Twelve Drunk Days of Christmas" that audiences demand every year.

Details: Dinner performances are nightly through Dec. 30 (no shows Christmas Eve or Christmas Day), with Saturday matinees. Call 316-263-0222 for show times, reservations and information.

Prairie Pines Dinner Theatre

"The Mystery at Snowy Point" about five strangers trapped in a snowbound lodge with a recently deceased victim is an interactive murder mystery that can have a different outcome every night, depending on how the audience — ahem, jury — votes, says Kip Scott, co-owner with his wife, Jody, of the Prairie Pines Dinner Theatre.

Tim Robu plays the crusty innkeeper named George and his real-life wife, Karen Robu, plays the housekeeper, Matilda. Mike Roark, who also wrote and directs, is a Chicago gangster and Mary Valdez is his moll.

"Everybody has a motive," Scott says. "During one act, we throw open the floor for audiences to ask the suspects questions to help decide who's guilty. Any character could be chosen so we all have our confession speeches ready."

Between acts are short musical-comedy revue segments.

Details: Performances are daily (except Mondays) through Dec. 23. Call 316-303-2037 for show times, reservations and information.

Cabaret Oldtown

"Rockin' Around the Christmas Show" is Cabaret's annual musical-comedy holiday celebration, this year starring Kyle Vespestad, Angela Geer, Brian Miller and Christi Moore. The show also features Denny Grilliot and Michael Padilla plus the Cabaret Oldtown Band under leadership of Rich Bruhn.

The show is a mix of new holiday songs and traditional tunes given new treatments. Co-written by Moore and Vespestad, who are also director and choreographer, the show also includes annual encores of favorite comedy bits, Moore says.

Details: Dinner/show performances are Wednesday-Sunday through Dec. 20, with show-only performances Dec. 21-22. Call 316-265-4400 for show times, reservations and information.

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