Keeper of the Plans

Waiting for ‘Hamilton’? Theater League season will keep you occupied

The national tour of “Kinky Boots” will come to Wichita’s Century II as part of Theater League’s 2017-18 season.
The national tour of “Kinky Boots” will come to Wichita’s Century II as part of Theater League’s 2017-18 season. Courtesy photo

Though Kansas City will be getting “Hamilton” sometime in 2018-19, Wichita will eventually get its shot at the smash-hit Lin-Manuel Miranda musical.

Eventually.

“We’re already talking to the agents about the next set of dates – if not ’19-’20, certainly ’20-’21 it will be in Wichita,” said Mark Edelman, president of Theater League. “No one told me that – I’m speculating here – but I’m optimistic.

“We presented Lin’s first musical, ‘In the Heights,’ at Century II, and we’d love to follow up. I’m sure the season will come – not soon – but I’m sure the season will come when ‘Hamilton’ plays Century II.”

Wichita will not have a dearth of popular touring musicals until then, however.

Theater League recently announced its 2017-18 season, which includes three musicals that have won the Tony Award for Best Musical.

Broadway in Wichita

The season, which begins in November, includes “Motown: The Musical,” “Kinky Boots,” “Rent,” “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” and “Let It Be.”

“It features a number of hits that have never been to Wichita, which is kind of important for us,” Edelman said. “We play a slightly different role than (Music Theatre Wichita) – they play the revivals of classics, and we’re trying to do new things. Together we create a balance that we think is appreciated by Wichita patrons.”

“Rent,” “Kinky Boots” and “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1996, 2013 and 2014, respectively. “Motown: The Musical,” this season’s opener, is one of a few musicals to play on Broadway twice: the show originally opened in 2013, went on tour in 2014, and returned to Broadway in 2016 for a brief run.

 ‘Motown,’ of course, is a very, very popular Broadway musical,” Edelman said. “We’re excited to be presenting all those great (Berry) Gordy hits – the Temptations, Diana Ross, Jackson 5, they’re all going to be on stage.”

Of all the musicals in the upcoming season, the least familiar is likely “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.” Despite its Tony success, it was not a mainstream-media craze the way “Rent,” Cyndi Lauper’s “Kinky Boots” and the Beatles were.

The musical – a comedy – tells the story of a man eighth in the succession line to a family fortune. To jump the line (and impress his girlfriend), he endeavors to kill all the family members ahead of him. It toured in Kansas City last year.

“It’s kind of campy and comedic,” Edelman said.

Theater League and Wichita

Theater League’s seasons are curated, at least in part, Edelman said, by season-ticket holders who every year fill out surveys indicating what they want to see come to Century II. Theater League is based in Kansas City and produces traveling seasons for cities like Wichita, Kansas City, Phoenix, Colorado Springs and Toledo, Ohio.

“Mostly we’re here to please our season-ticket members – they’re the lifeblood of the organization,” Edelman said. “Having said that, it’s a little different philosophy in Wichita, because of the wonderful work that (Music Theatre Wichita’s Producing Artistic Director) Wayne (Bryan) and the people at MTW do. We stay away from revivals to the extent we can and we even check titles with Wayne. If it’s something like ‘Rent,’ we ask if it’s OK to do that (because) it is a revival. He’s been very helpful in that regard.”

Over the years, Theater League has perhaps been one of the groups most affected by the aging of Century II.

The traveling production of "Wicked" is at Century II through Oct. 23. Footage courtesy of Theater League. (Matt Riedl/The Wichita Eagle)

When it brings in shows like “Wicked,” “The Lion King” or “Kinky Boots,” it has to park multiple semis on Kennedy Plaza and have stagehands wheel set pieces and other show essentials through Century II’s Exhibition Hall to get to the Concert Hall.

The future of Century II is expected to be a subject of discussion in 2017 – though that future is far from decided.

Edelman said Theater League remains committed to Wichita and to Century II.

“It’s a little strange – I mean, the circular nature makes it a little difficult for us,” he said. “The loading is still a little odd – that’s hopefully something that would be addressed in, frankly, a more square-ish building. Our sets are more designed for rectangles. …

“Having said that, the stagehands are great there and they get the job done. They just have to push a little further than in most places.”

Theater League’s 2017-18 season

“Motown: The Musical” – Nov. 4-5, 2017

The story of Motown founder Berry Gordy, whose record label helped launch the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson and more. Featuring classic songs such as “My Girl” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” The Broadway production received four Tony nominations in 2013.

“Kinky Boots” – Jan. 9-11, 2018

Cyndi Lauper’s Tony Award-winning musical about an unlikely partnership between a struggling shoe factory and a cabaret performer will come to Wichita in about a year. The touring production came to Kansas City in 2016. The musical received 13 Tony nominations in 2013, winning six awards – including for Best Musical and Best Original Score.

“Rent” – Feb. 27-March 1, 2018

Two decades after Jonathan Larson’s rock musical took Broadway by storm in 1996, a 20th anniversary tour of “Rent” is set to come to Wichita in early 2018. The musical, perhaps best known to the general public for the song “Seasons of Love,” won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1996. A touring cast of “Rent” previously came to Wichita for a one-night-only performance in 2004.

“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” – April 17-19, 2018

The winner of the 2014 Tony Award for Best Musical, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” just closed on Broadway in January. The musical comedy tells the story of Monty Navarro, a distant heir to a family fortune who endeavors to jump the line of succession by murdering his eight relatives (all played by one man). The musical received rave reviews from critics on Broadway.

Season add-on/ Swap-a-Show: “Let It Be” – March 22, 2018

A jukebox musical of Beatles hits in celebration of the 50th anniversary of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” The show features more than 40 Beatles songs.

Season tickets start at $115 for all four shows. Payment plans are available. Season-ticket holders get access to the best seats before tickets go on sale to the general public.

Season renewals and priority orders are now available at www.BroadwayWichita.com, by phone at 316-303-8100, or at the WichitaTIX office at Century II, 225 W. Douglas.

People who want season tickets for the 2017-18 season but who are not currently season-ticket holders can reserve a spot in line by paying a 50 percent refundable deposit. You can do that by calling 316-303-8100, filling out the online priority request form at www.BroadwayWichita.com or visiting the WichitaTIX office in Century II.

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