A British Invasion

Music Theatre of Wichita's summer season

Written by Meredith Onley | Photography by Christopher Clark

David Elder, Broadway veteran, in “Singing in 
the Rain,” 2012.

David Elder, Broadway veteran, in “Singing in the Rain,” 2012.

For those who remember the 'British Invasion' of the 1960s, and even for those who don’t, Music Theatre of Wichita’s summer 2013 season is right up your alley. A veritable “who’s who” of classic and traditional British musicals alike will come to the stage of Wichita’s Century II, ranging from satirical depictions of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table all the way to dancing chimney sweeps. It’s official, Wichita, the British are coming!

In an interview with Splurge! last month, Music Theatre of Wichita’s (MTW as locals in the Wichita and surrounding areas affectionately refer to it) Producing Artistic Director Wayne Bryan spoke about how the very British theme for the 2013 season came to be. “When we secured the rights to Spamalot, and then to Les Miserables, and then to Mary Poppins, it became clear we were on the road to a 'British Invasion,' with the shows, stories and themes all somehow related to our neighbors 'across the pond'. We intentionally found two more Anglophile shows to complete the 2013 season: ‘The British Are Coming!’”

MTW has been a fixture in the area for over forty years, bringng in Broadway quality talent from both near and far. The organization searches for talent all over the country, including L.A. and New York, and Midwest cities like Chicago, Ann Arbor, Oklahoma City and Wichita. Including all of the teen and child performers, nearly 50% of the talent gracing the stage this season is purely local. “We receive about 4,000 pictures and resumes each year, which we narrow down to the 1,000 we have time to see in those cities. Out of that, about 3 dozen 'triple-threats' are hired to spend the summer with us, working alongside guest stars from Broadway and Hollywood.” Mr. Bryan and his team certainly know how to spy talent- this season alone there are thirty eight MTW alumni performing on Broadway!

Desi Oakley, Broadway veteran, as Ariel in 
Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” 2011.

Desi Oakley, Broadway veteran, as Ariel in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” 2011.

Among the five shows this season, there are clear crowd favorites. When asked which shows seemed to be creating the most preseason buzz, Mr. Bryan said that both Les Miserables and Mary Poppins seem to be the most eagerly anticipated, but there is certainly something exciting and buzz worthy about each show. “Spamalot is eagerly anticipated by Python fans, The King and I is always a top-seller and Betty Blue Eyes is intriguing for those who love seeing something brand new. We hope there’s an excited audience for each of these hand-crafted productions.”

The Wichita community has certainly been spoiled, having such readily accessible Broadway quality talent so close to home. MTW is not only one of the finest theatres in the Midwest, but one of the finest in the country: a fact not unnoticed by others in the business. Every summer, Broadway stars travel from around the nation for the chance to perform right here in south central Kansas. It is this prestigious reputation MTW holds that gives them the ability to get the rights to shows other theatres only dream of getting.

The summer 2013 season will see several premieres, including one regional and one national. “Ever since the Disney Company entrusted us with one of the first regional editions of Beauty and the Beast (2004), MTW has been one of Disney’s first-choice theatres for creating regional productions of their amazing titles. Our most recent Disney title was The Little Mermaid (2011), and the Disney representative liked it so much, he made sure we were one of the first eight theatres to be given rights to Mary Poppins.”

It isn’t only Disney that MTW has developed an amazing working relationship with. MTW will be the very first American theatre to put on a production of Betty Blue Eyes. “We were among the first U.S. theatres to present George Stiles and Anthony Drewe’s HONK! (2001), and we also produced and distributed an American Cast Album. The CD project led to a blossoming friendship with George and Ants, and when I called them about Betty Blue Eyes they helped us get permission from British producer Cameron Mackintosh.”

Whether you long for the decadence of revolutionary France, a satirical romp with the King of the Britains or you simply want “A Spoonful of Sugar”, there is a little something for everyone this season at MTW.

more info • • •

Single Tickets: available online at mtwichita.org
Prices: Ranging from $22 to $60
Phone: 316 265-3107
Children must be 5 years old to attend (3 and 4 year olds welcome at Saturday, August 17 matinee of Mary Poppins)

 
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