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Singin' in the Rain, 2012

Music Theatre Wichita 2015: Unexpected Journeys

Music Theatre Wichita proudly creates our 44th season of Broadway-scale musicals this summer! This year our productions trace Unexpected Journeys, with bends in the road taking characters to destinations they never imagined. Family secrets, hidden talents, and surprising romances—you’ll witness all throughout the summer as you are swept away by fabulously talented singers and dancers. And you can experience it all at a fraction of Broadway prices!

June 10-14, 2015

An unscheduled detour along the Nile leads to a love story that changes the course of history. Spectacular, dramatic, and compelling, with a thrilling contemporary musical score.

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Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida
June 10-14, 2015
2 hr 15 min

An unscheduled detour along the Nile leads to a dangerous meeting and a secret romance, changing the course of history. Based on the same tale of forbidden love which inspired Verdi’s opera, this sleek, modern musical was the first Disney production especially created for adult Broadway audiences, rather than being based on a pre-existing all-family film.

Elton John and Tim Rice's AIDA
Music by Elton John
Lyrics by Tim Rice
Book by Linda Woolverton and Robert Falls & David Henry Hwang

Originally Directed on Broadway by Robert Falls
Originally Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions

Mark Madama (Director)
Andrew Palermo (Choreograhper)
Thomas W. Douglas (Musical Director)

Aida: A History of the Musical by Wayne Bryan

  • Broadway opening: March 23, 2000, Palace Theatre; 1,852 performances
  • Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions; Peter Schneider and Thomas Schumacher
  • Directed by Robert Falls
  • Choreography by Wayne Cilento
  • Music Produced and Supervised by Paul Bogaev
  • Scenic and Costume Design by Bob Crowley
  • Lighting Design by Natasha Katz; Sound Design by Steve C. Kennedy; Hair Design by David Brian Brown
  • Music Arrangements by Guy Babylon, Paul Bogaev; Orchestrations by Steve Margoshes, Guy Babylon, Paul Bogaev; Dance Arrangements by Bob Gustafson, Jim Abbott, Gary Seligson
  • Musical Director Yolanda Segovia
  • Cast included: Heather Headley, Adam Pascal, Sherie René Scott
  • The original Broadway cast recording is highly recommended, as is the book, “Aida: The Making of the Broadway Musical” by Michael Lassell

In 1869 Ismail Pasha, the khedive of Egypt (viceroy to the Turkish sultan who controlled Egypt at the time) instructed his Inspector General of Monuments to commission an opera for the 1970 opening of the Suez Canal. Inspector General Auguste-Edouard Mariette was a French author and Egyptologist, whose explorations of antiquities were considered the most important ever achieved up to that time. Using his knowledge of Egypt’s ancient history, Mariette drafted a story for the libretto, then turned to fellow Frenchman Camille Du Locle for help. Du Locle, in turn, suggested as composer his frequent collaborator, 57-year-old Giuseppi Verdi (1813-1901).

At least, that’s one version of the origins of Aida.

But another Verdi opera called Nabucco has a startlingly similar libretto, written by Temistocle Solera. Verdi and Solera had worked well together - until Solera bailed out in the middle of their collaboration on the opera Attila, severing their friendship for a quarter of a century. Solera went on to have many colorful adventures, including a trip to Egypt where he was head honcho for the gala opening of – amazingly enough - the Suez Canal. It is now widely believed that Solera actually wrote the Aida story, and had Mariette put his name on it, since Solera and Verdi were not speaking at the time.

The assignment of writing the final Italian libretto went to Antonio Ghislanzoni, with Verdi himself altering the libretto substantially. Though the score was ready in 1870, the made-in-Paris sets were trapped there by the Prussian siege during the Franco-Prussian War. The premiere finally went ahead in Cairo in 1871 (a year after the opening of the Canal), and the Khedive was apparently delighted.

The basic plot of the opera is as follows: An Egyptian prince, Radames (tenor) is in love with the Ethiopian slavegirl Aida (soprano). When Aida's father Amonasro, the Ethiopian king, is captured, he persuades Aida to wheedle military secrets from Radames. The jealous Amneris (soprano) gets Radames convicted of treason. Walled alive into a tomb, Radames discovers that Aida has joined him and will die with him.
Metropolitan Opera diva Leontyne Price, an acclaimed interpreter of the role of Aida, wrote a children’s book based on the plot of the opera in 1990, which was purchased by the Disney Company, possibly for development as an animated film. In 1994, with the phenomenal success of the movie The Lion King, Disney executives approached the film’s songwriters, composer Elton John and lyricist Tim Rice, to see if Aida would interest them. Elton John didn’t want to do another animated film right away, but the idea of composing his first stage show intrigued him, so Aida was developed for theatre.

The story as told in Price’s book was largely abandoned, and Beauty and the Beast screenwriter Linda Woolverton took a fresh approach. Princess Aida would no longer be from Ethiopia, but from Nubia, a culturally rich part of Africa which for centuries had been a prime target for conquering armies. Instead of having Radames already in love with Aida when the story began, Woolverton explored how the two might have met, and what qualities Radames might possess that could win over a woman whom he had enslaved. Amneris would not simply be an angry shrew, but would be a young woman of unexpected depth, who grows in stature through her genuine friendship with Aida.

After several workshops in New York (seen only by Disney staff and a few invited guests), it was decided that the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta (where Elton John has a home) would host the premiere of Elaborate Lives: The Legend of Aida in September, 1998. But disastrous technical problems plagued the two-month run of the show and, even discounting those, more work was clearly needed.

The creative team was dismissed (except for lighting designer Natasha Katz and musical supervisor Paul Bogaev), and the only leading actors retained were Heather Headley as Aida and Sherie René Scott as Amneris. A new cast and a new creative team were assembled, headed by director Robert Falls, who did extensive rewriting, assisted by playwright David Henry Hwang.

The newly renamed and reworked Aida opened in Chicago in December of 1999, and then, after substantial additional tinkering, opened at the Palace Theatre in New York City on March 23, 2000. The show won four Tony Awards, for outstanding score, actress, lighting, and set design, and ran until September 5, 2004.

Several MTWichita alums joined the cast during its long run, including Matt Bogart (Radames) and Darcie Roberts (Amneris). Music Theatre Wichita was selected by the Disney Company to present the regional premiere the following summer, and we are thrilled to open our 44th season with this exciting and passionate contemporary musical adventure.

June 24-28, 2015

Geppetto's longing to have a son leads him to a carnival puppet show, across the dangerous Pleasure Island, and into the belly of a whale! A lively adventure for the whole family, with wonderful new songs by Stephen Schwartz (Wicked).

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Disney's My Son Pinocchio
June 24-28, 2015
1 hr 45 min

Toymaker Geppetto's desire to have a son leads him to a carnival puppet show, across the dangerous Pleasure Island, and into the belly of a whale! A lively and fast-moving adventure for the whole family, My Son Pinocchio combines wonderful new songs by Stephen Schwartz (Wicked) with classic tunes from Disney’s animated film (“When You Wish Upon a Star,” “I’ve Got No Strings”).

Book by David I. Stern
Music & Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz

"When You Wish Upon a Star" and "I've Got No Strings"
Music by Leigh Harline, Lyrics by Ned Washington from the
Walt Disney Motion Picture PINOCCHIO

Wayne Bryan (Director / Producing Artistic Director)
Amy Baker Schwiethale (Choreographer)
Thomas W. Douglas (Musical Director)

The classic tale of an aging toymaker and his beloved wooden puppet is given a touching finish in this Disney gem. (This new stage adaptation is based on the 2000 Disney TV film “Geppetto.”)

In Disney's My Son Pinocchio, the classic tale of toymaker Geppetto’s little wooden puppet is given new life. This new musical, which retells the classic Disney story from Geppetto’s perspective, features the beloved classic songs “When You Wish Upon a Star” and “I’ve Got No Strings,” alongside a host of new songs by Oscar- and Grammy Award-winner and master melodist Stephen Schwartz, tackling timely issues about what it means to be “the perfect child” – and what it means to be “a real father.”

The Blue Fairy, the puppeteer Stromboli, and a lively cast of characters are involved with Geppetto as he  journeys beyond the toy shop to discover the meaning of family. When the Blue Fairy grants Geppetto's wish to bring his beloved puppet to life, the new father quickly learns that being a parent is full of challenges. He struggles to make his son "the perfect boy" only to lose him to a gang of Roustabouts. It is only when faced with the thought of never seeing Pinocchio again that Geppetto truly learns the joys of being a father and loving your child unconditionally.

This family-friendly musical is appropriate for all audiences and is a magical mix of heartwarming fairytale and action-packed adventure. Audiences will love following Pinocchio's journey from an awkward wooden puppet to a real, live boy and will be charmed by Geppetto's transformation from demanding creator to a real, live father.

July 8-12, 2015

An accidental visit to a ballet class sets in motion a life-changing experience for a small boy in a British mining town. Based on the award-winning film, this powerful stage adaptation won 10 Tony Awards®, including Best Musical.

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Billy Elliot the Musical
July 8-12, 2015
2 hr 45 min

An accidental visit to a ballet class sets in motion a life-changing experience for a small boy in a British mining town. Based on the award-winning film, this powerful stage adaptation won 10 Tony Awards®, including Best Musical.


Book and Lyrics by LEE HALL    
Originally Directed by STEPHEN DALDRY

Orchestrations by MARTIN KOCH
Executive Producers (Original London Production)
Producers (Original London Production)
Originally presented in London by
Universal Pictures Stage Productions,Working Title Films, Old Vic Productions
in association with Tiger Productions
Based on the Universal Pictures/Studio Canal Film

Steve Minning (Director)
Alison Levenberg (Choreographer)
Thomas W. Douglas (Musical Director)

An inspiring celebration of one boy's journey who hangs up his boxing gloves for ballet shoes.

Millions of fans…Thousands of standing ovations…Ten Tony Awards including Best Musical…This is Billy Elliot The Musical: the spectacular show with the heart, humor and passion to be named Time Magazine's "Best Musical of the Decade!"

Based on the international smash-hit film and featuring a score by music legend Elton John, Billy Elliot is an astonishing theatrical experience that will stay with you forever.

Set in a northern English mining town, against the background of the 1984 miners' strike, Billy Elliot is the inspirational story of a young boy's struggle against the odds to make his dream come true. Billy's journey begins when he stumbles out of the boxing ring and into a ballet class where he discovers a passion for dance that inspires his family and community and changes his life forever.

With a powerful storyline, rousing songs, and spectacular choreography, Billy Elliot is a unique and memorable musical theatre experience.

July 22-26, 2015

Edward Bloom has spun many colorful tales about his astonishing escapades. But are any of them true? His son, soon to be a father himself, delves into the mysteries of his father's life, with surprising and delightful results. Based on the hit film and novel.

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Big Fish
July 22-26, 2015
2 hr 20 min

Edward Bloom has spun many colorful tales about his astonishing escapades. But are any of them true? His son, soon to be a father himself, delves into the mysteries of his father's life, with surprising and delightful results. Based on the hit film and novel, this brand new Broadway musical weaves fantasy and spectacle into a poignant and truthful examination of the way fathers and sons can share decades together before finally getting to know each other.

Music and Lyrics by ANDREW LIPPA

Based on the novel by Daniel Wallace
and the Columbia Motion Picture
written by John August

Originally produced on Broadway by Dan Jinks, Bruce Cohen and Stage Entertainment with Roy Furman, Broadway Across America/Rich Entertainment Group, John Domo, The Nederlander Organization and Edward Walson in association with CJ E&M, Dancing Elephant Productions, Parrothead Productions, Harvey Weinstein/Carole L. Haber, Peter May/Jim Fantaci, Ted Liebowitz/Joe Piacentile and Columbia Pictures.

Wayne Bryan (Director / Producing Artistic Director)
Linda Goodrich (Choreographer)
Thomas W. Douglas (Musical Director)

Fathers, Sons, and fantastic Tall Tales come alive in Big Fish.

Big Fish is a new Broadway musical featuring music and lyrics by Tony nominee Andrew Lippa (The Addams Family, The Wild Party) and a new book by esteemed screenwriter John August (Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). Based on the celebrated 1998 novel by Daniel Wallace and the acclaimed 2003 film directed by Tim Burton, Big Fish centers on Edward Bloom, a traveling salesman who lives life to its fullest… and then some! Edward's incredible, larger-than-life stories thrill everyone around him – most of all, his devoted wife Sandra. But their son Will, about to have a child of his own, is determined to find the truth behind his father’s epic tales.

Overflowing with heart, humor and spectacular stagecraft, Big Fish is an extraordinary new Broadway musical that reminds us why we love going to the theatre – for an experience that's richer, funnier and bigger than life itself.

"Remarkable! A show for everyone who loves musicals. Don’t dare miss this!" - Variety
"4 stars! A gorgeous, charming, dream musical! Ravishing and enchanting, with one knockout dance number after another…” - Bloomberg News
"A heartfelt, powerful, and movingly scored new American musical, full of quality writing by John August.” - Chicago Tribune

Directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, Big Fish had an out-of-town tryout in Chicago in April of 2013, then premiered on Broadway at the Neil Simon Theatre on September 5, 2013 in previews, officially opening on October 6, 2013. The musical closed on December 29, 2013 after 34 previews and 98 regular performances.

August 5-9, 2015

In the early 1900s, a single day's trip into New York City brings unpredictable complications, farcical humor, and poignant romance for Yonkers' most famous Matchmaker, Dolly Levi, and for all those in her sphere of influence. One of the most beloved of all the great Broadway musical classics.

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Hello, Dolly!
August 5-9, 2015

In the early 1900s, two timid clerks risk a one-day escape to New York City, where they encounter unpredictable complications, farcical situations, and poignant romance engineered by Yonkers' most famous Matchmaker, Dolly Levi. One of the most beloved of Broadway’s classic musical comedies, this spectacular production will feature lavish new sets and costumes and a sparkling cast.

Book by Michael Stewart   
Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman
Based on the play "The Matchmaker" by Thornton Wilder
Original Production Directed and Choreographed by Gower Champion
Produced for the Broadway Stage by David Merrick and Champion-Five, Inc.

Mark Madama (Director)
Brian J. Marcum (Choreographer)
Thomas W. Douglas (Musical Director)

Hello, Dolly!: A History of the Musical by Wayne Bryan

  • Broadway opening: January 16, 1964, St. James Theatre; 2,844 performances
  • Produced by David Merrick
  • Directed and Choreographed by Gower Champion
  • Settings Designed by Oliver Smith; Costumes by Freddy Wittop; Lighting by Jean Rosenthal
  • Musical Direction and Vocal Arrangements by Shepard Coleman
  • Orchestrations by Philip J. Lang; Dance and Incidental Music Arranged by Peter Howard
  • Original Cast featured Carol Channing, David Burns, Charles Nelson Reilly, Eileen Brennan, Jerry Dodge, Sondra Lee
  • Film Version (20th Century Fox, 1969), directed by Gene Kelly, Choreographed by Michael Kidd, screenplay by Ernest Lehman; featured Barbra Streisand, Walter Matthau, Michael Crawford, Marianne McAndrew, Danny Lockin, E.J. Peaker, Tommy Tune, Louis Armstrong
  • The original Broadway cast recording is a classic. Other fine recordings include stage casts with Pearl Bailey and Mary Martin, as well as the film soundtrack. The movie is available on DVD and Blu-Ray, and the non-musical film “The Matchmaker” is quite fun on DVD. A delightful website devoted to the show is

Hello, Dolly! is an amazingly charming show, with an amazingly convoluted history!

The basic story (a clever matchmaker traps her wealthiest client for herself) was first told by British playwright John Oxenford in his 1835 farce A Day Well Spent. Seven years later, a Viennese comedian-playwright named Johan Nestroy turned Oxenford’s romp into a German-language version called Eiene Jux will er sich machen (“He’ll Have Himself a Spree”), which continued to be produced in German-speaking companies for the next 90 years or so.

In the mid-1930s, the famous Austro-German theatre impresario Max Reinhardt, while visiting in America, brought the German comedy to the attention of playwright Thornton Wilder (Our Town), who enthusiastically turned it into an American farce called The Merchant of Yonkers. Starring Jane Cowl, it was produced in New York in 1938, and was a mighty flop. But Wilder rewrote it, and under the title The Matchmaker it opened in London in 1951, starring Sophie Stewart. Another flop.

Undeterred, Wilder kept revising, and persuaded the esteemed director Tyrone Guthrie to stage if for the International Drama Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1954, with Ruth Gordon as Dolly Levi. Finally, a smash! From there it enjoyed a year in London, then a successful 1955 engagement on Broadway, and a 1957 American tour. In 1957 a film version was produced, starring Shirley Booth as Dolly, Paul Ford as Horace, Anthony Perkins as Cornelius, Shirley MacLaine as Irene, and Bobby Morse (in his Broadway role) as Barnaby.

In 1963, producer David Merrick thought of musicalizing The Matchmaker (which he had co-produced with the Theatre Guild) as a new project for his team of director-choreographer Gower Champion and librettist Michael Stewart, who had collaborated on Bye Bye Birdie and Carnival. Upcoming songwriter Jerry Herman had written the score for the hit Milk and Honey (set in Israel), but Merrick had to be convinced that Herman could write “Americana.” Herman took a draft of the script home for a weekend, then came back with several songs with which he successfully auditioned for Merrick.

From the beginning, Ethel Merman was the star the creators had in mind, but after her long run in Gypsy Merman wasn’t interested, and returned the script without even reading it. A number of stars were considered (most of whom later played the role somewhere or other), but Gower Champion’s favorite was Carol Channing, who was eventually selected to create the musical version of Dolly.

The show (originally called Dolly: A Damned Exasperating Woman) underwent an unusually stormy pre-Broadway tryout tour, with additional writers and composers called in to help. Four songs were dropped, three new ones were added (including “Before the Parade Passes By”), and actor Jerry Dodge replaced another actor as Barnaby.

But director-choreographer Champion triumphantly guided the show to victory. Wild enthusiasm greeted its Broadway debut in January of 1964, and the American public (who had for several weeks been grieving over the assassination of JFK) seemed grateful to laugh again. The title song, ebulliently recorded by Louis Armstrong, became an international sensation – one of the last Broadway songs to do so.

Mary Martin headed the London company, and then took the show on a memorable tour of military bases in Vietnam, brining hope and encouragement to homesick Americans. Other leading ladies on Broadway and on tour included Betty Grable, Ginger Rogers, Dorothy Lamour, Eve Arden, Martha Raye, and Phyllis Diller.

When the Broadway box office eventually showed signs of slipping, David Merrick closed the show down briefly, and brilliantly reopened it with Pearl Bailey and Cab Calloway leading a sparkling new African-American cast.

Finally, Ethel Merman led the show through its last happy days on Broadway, while Ms. Bailey took an ethnically diverse company on tour. For over ten months the show held Broadway’s long run record, until it was overtaken by Fiddler on the Roof.

Many musical theatre lovers consider Hello, Dolly! to be one of the last great American musical comedies, and we are excited to offer this spectacular new production as our 2015 season finale.