Normally, Wichita would not be considered a big enough market for hosting a full tour for a big Broadway production like Wicked.
However Marc Platt, Los Angeles-based producer who has considered Wichita to be his second hometown after marrying his wife Julie Beren there thirty years ago, has plenty of confidence that the local theater crowd is enthusiastic and sophisticated enough to ensure that the three week visit to Century II will be successful.
The highly acclaimed musical concerning the witches in Oz before the time that Dorothy Gales drops in, will have 24 performances starting on Wednesday through November 8. The run is a record one for Wichita, but is a minimum stay for the show’s stops.
Platt said that they were excited about bringing Wicked into Wichita for many reasons, even though the city and theaters were the smallest they would play on the tour. He said that his in-laws were in Wichita so he had a lot of personal reasons and was also a big Shocker fan.
Platt said he also felt compelled due to the fact that Joan Beren, his mother-in-law, had been one of the first Wicked investors when they started developing the show from the novel by Gregory Maguire. After years of being in television and movies this is Platt’s first stage show. He said, I want to show this off, it is my baby.
However Platt, who headed Tri-Star, Orion, Universal and other movies studios, also has some business reasons for doing this as well.
Platt said that the theater audience in Wichita was a sophisticated one, in large part due to Wayne Bryan and the Music Theatre Wichita. We see a lot of enthusiasm. The ticket sales are going very well, referring to the $2 million tickets that have been sold in advance for the performances in Wichita. It is going to be the only stop in Kansas, so it will be a regional draw, south of I-70 over the Oklahoma state line and then west out to Colorado. So we are confident.
Mark Edelman, president of the Theater League, said a future benefit for Wichita is Wicked might raise Wichita into the top ranks for some of the other major tours such as Phantom of the Opera, Mary Poppins and The Lion King, which all have longer run requirements than what Wichita is accustomed to.
The main reason Wicked is coming into Wichita is due to Marc Platt, said Edelman, who is based in Kansas City. His group has been bringing Broadway shows to Wichita since the 1980s.
However the storyline of course is special to Kansas due to The Wizard of Oz. Stephen Schwartz, the composer for Wicked, also has a history with Wichita. Children of Eden and some of his other earlier works got their start with Stage One before they went on to New York.
This year the Edelman offerings include Rain, The Wedding Singer, Jesus Christ Superstar and Avenue Q, but will only be in Wichita for two days each. Wicked is a special case due to the fact that there are fans of the show all across the country. Edelman said the show had its groupies, definitely.