Arts & Culture

MTW, symphony give ‘Carousel’ a spin

Broadway veteran Matt Bogart will play Billy Bigelow in “Carousel: A Concert,” a collaboration between Music Theatre Wichita and the Wichita Symphony Orchestra.
Broadway veteran Matt Bogart will play Billy Bigelow in “Carousel: A Concert,” a collaboration between Music Theatre Wichita and the Wichita Symphony Orchestra. Courtesy photo

Wayne Bryan and Matt Bogart easily agree on their favorite Broadway musical.

It’s “Carousel,” the 1945 fable that’s also considered the favorite of its composers, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.

“This is the show that first opened my heart to the power that the musical theater has,” Bryan, longtime producing artistic director of Music Theatre Wichita, said of the musical he first saw as a teenager in his native Los Angeles.

“I just love the music,” said Bogart, a Broadway veteran who returns to Wichita to play the lead role of Billy Bigelow next weekend. “I’m a hopeless romantic, and the Billy-Julie scene at the top of the show is my favorite.”

Bogart, a veteran of two seasons at Music Theatre Wichita, will return for “Carousel: A Concert,” a first-time collaboration between the theater company and the Wichita Symphony Orchestra.

“We’ve had very happy exchanges from time to time, but this is the first event where we’ve partnered to produce something,” Bryan said.

In two performances next weekend, the 52-member symphony will be on stage at Century II Concert Hall with about 16 feet of space for the actors downstage, as well as ramps in the middle and to the sides of the orchestra to another performance level upstage.

There will be only the slightest suggestion of a set, but actors will be in costume.

“For us to be able to do this with Broadway actors and a 52-piece orchestra is a very exciting opportunity,” Bryan said, adding that the orchestra pit at Century II, where the theater company stages its summer shows, can hold only about 30 players.

Daniel Hege, Wichita Symphony conductor and music director, will lead the orchestra.

The musical’s dialogue has been pared, Bryan said, but retains enough to give audiences a feel for the songs in the context of the show. A second-act ballet has been streamlined to a few dancers, he added.

Kerry Conte, who played Irene in Music Theatre’s “Hello, Dolly!” and was most recently in a touring production of “White Christmas,” will play the heroine, Julie Jordan.

Bogart’s credits in Wichita include the title role in MTW’s “Phantom” and Curly in “Oklahoma!” His wife, Jessica Boevers Bogart, played Ado Annie in the same production.

For the past eight years, Bogart has played Nick Massi, a member of Franki Valli and the Four Seasons, on Broadway in “Jersey Boys.” When Bryan heard last fall that “Jersey” was ending its 11-plus-year run in mid-January (it’s now the 12th-longest-running musical in Broadway history), he immediately contacted Bogart and asked him to return to Wichita.

“It was my training ground, and I have Wayne Bryan to thank for that. He’s had a lot of amazing people in and out through Wichita, and I was proud to be among them,” Bogart said.

For Bogart, who grew up on a livestock farm in Ohio, Bryan represents the step he made in theater from chorus roles to lead performances.

“Wayne has given me loads of opportunities to move up,” Bogart said. “I’ve been very blessed to have Wayne in my life.”

Bryan said Bogart is ideally cast as Billy, a carnival barker whose romance with Julie is cut short by a tragic accident.

“It’s kind of like seeing Ryan Gosling in ‘La La Land,’ where you have a very contemporary personality very much of today, but fits into the styles of a bygone era,” Bryan said.

Besides an 18-member cast, “Carousel: A Concert” includes members of the Butler Community College Concert Choir in the ensemble. Music from “Carousel” includes “If I Loved You,” “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

MTW has staged “Carousel” twice, Bryan said, once in the 1970s and again in 1990. Bogart has been in one other version of “Carousel,” playing the characters of Alfred and Sam at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey.

“I loved doing shows in Wichita,” Bogart said from his home in Westchester County, New York. “The audiences there are very forthcoming, and I’ve always had a great time there.”

Bryan, who praised the Wichita Symphony’s collaboration with other arts groups in the area, said he is hoping a staged concert could become an annual event.

“We would love for this to be an ongoing partnership,” Bryan said. “It would be lovely if audiences embraced this.”


When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Feb. 12

Where: Century II Concert Hall, 225 W. Douglas

What: A first-time collaboration between the Wichita Symphony and Music Theatre Wichita, in a staged concert version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic

Admission: $30 to $75

Information: Tickets are available at, by phone at 316-267-7658 and in person at the symphony box office inside Century II. Box office hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.