Music Theatre Wichita on Friday announced its 2018 summer season, complete with two local premieres.
▪ “Sister Act,” June 13-17
The season will open with “Sister Act,” a 2006 Broadway musical based on the classic 1992 film of the same name. It features original music by Alan Menken (“Newsies,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Little Shop of Horrors”) and was nominated for five Tony Awards, including one for Best Musical. It was the first show Menken wrote for Broadway.
The musical comedy follows the story of a disco diva hiding out in a convent who in turn helps re-energize the convent’s choir and forms bonds with the sisters.
It will be the first time MTW has performed the musical.
Music Theatre Wichita’s producing artistic director Wayne Bryan said it will be valuable experience for the company to work with this 1980s-style pop contemporary musical.
“‘Sister Act’ is also a really funny show,” Bryan said. “It fulfills the slot we always like to have for something that’s humor-driven and yet it has a really nice spiritual quality to it as well.
“There’s just something funny about singing nuns. I don’t know why.”
▪ “Guys and Dolls,” June 27-July 1
After a premiere comes a stalwart of Broadway theatre: the 1950 musical “Guys and Dolls,” which was subsequently revived on Broadway in 2009.
This oddball romance is set in the New York City underground. The original Broadway show ran for 1,200 performances.
MTW previously did the show in 1996 and in 1977.
Bryan said many music theater people refer to it as “the perfect musical.”
“It’s a great show for the company because there’s wonderful songs and dances in classic vintage style,” Bryan said. “It was one of the first shows that required male athleticism for the ‘Crapshooters’ Ballet,’ and that seems to be an area that we are excelling in these days, so it just seemed time to do ‘Guys and Dolls’ again.”
▪ “Disney’s Freaky Friday,” July 11-15
A brand-new musical adaptation of the “Freaky Friday” story – which originated as a novel in 1972, then was adapted into a movie in 1976 and again in 2003 – will be the third show of MTW’s 2018 season.
As of now, Disney does not plan on bringing this show to Broadway, Bryan said.
It follows the story of a mother and daughter, who by strange circumstance, end up switching bodies with one another. In the process, they each learn to understand each other better.
The show is by the Tony- and Pulitzer-winning team of Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, perhaps best known for “Next to Normal.”
“Our rep at Disney Theatrical sent me a recording of the score early in the spring and I fell in love with it immediately,” Bryan said. “It’s got a quirky plot and a wonderful pair of leading roles for women, each of whom has to assume the characteristics of each other. … They’re really cool acting challenges.”
▪ “Pippin,” July 25-29
Stephen Schwartz’ classic 1972 musical, “Pippin,” is returning to MTW in 2018.
The show underwent a massive Broadway revival in 2013, giving the show a circus vibe. The show won four Tony Awards in 2013, including for Best Revival of a Musical.
This is the second time MTW has visited this “Corner of the Sky”: the company previously performed it in 1979.
Wichita has never before seen this revival version – though Bryan said he doesn’t plan on replicating the Cirque style from Broadway.
“We hope to achieve a similar ambiance to the show but using our own talented resident company,” he said. “Next year, in addition to singing and dancing and acting, we’ll be looking for people who have experience with flying silks and juggling and acrobatics. It will bring another color to our ensemble search next year, but it keeps raising the bar for us.”
“▪ Disney’s The Little Mermaid,” Aug. 10-19
To end its 2018 season, MTW will bring back “The Little Mermaid” for a two-weekend run.
The musical, another Alan Menken affair, opened on Broadway in 2007. It’s based on the classic 1989 Disney film of the same name, which in turn is based on the story by Hans Christian Andersen, of a mermaid who dreams of living in the world above the sea.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because MTW just did this show in 2011. However, the show was substantially rewritten in 2012.
It’s a surprising pick, given that Bryan tries to wait a decade before repeating any show at MTW, he said. It’s such a popular show, though, that when the opportunity came up to do it again, it was too good for MTW to resist, Bryan said.
“This has proven to be such a popular title,” he said. “Wichita has never seen a professional version – of the final version that the Disney authors came up with. It has some different songs and it has a slightly shorter running time.
“We’re anxious to do the new version of the show.”