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Professionals return to Wagon Wheel this summer

Six professional shows, Conservatory musical comprise this season

Actors from across the country come to Warsaw to take part in Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts’ Professional Theatre. This year’s season begins Thursday, June 1, with Disney’s The Little Mermaid.
Alicia Rodenbeck

Alicia Rodenbeck

Whatzup Features Writer

Published May 24, 2023

Another op’nin’, another show

In Philly, Boston or Baltimoe,

A chance for stage folks to say “hello”

Another op’nin’, another show.

Kiss Me, Kate

Perhaps we should add Warsaw to Cole Porter’s list.

It’s summer theater season at Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts, and this season is shaping up to be a great one. 

“This season is incredibly diverse,” Wagon Wheel Artistic Director Scott Michaels said. “With a new show every two weeks, there really is something for everyone.”

Wagon Wheel’s summer season is comprised of six professional shows and one amateur musical. Disney’s The Little Mermaid; Jimmy Buffett’s Escape to Margaritaville; Kiss Me, Kate; Jesus Christ Superstar; Wait Until Dark; and Always … Patsy Cline are the professional shows. Godspell is the amateur production put on as the culmination of Wagon Wheel Conservatory’s Musical Theatre Workshop for high school students.

“I was part of a six-month audition tour to round up some performers for our season,” Michaels said. “In our group of 26, we have performers joining us from as far away as California and Maine to fill parts for this season.”

Disney’s The Little Mermaid: June 1-10

Opening the season is Disney’s The Little Mermaid, which runs June 1-10. This stage version of the Disney movie includes songs and dialogue not found in the animated classic. 

“We’re really kicking things off with a bang with Little Mermaid,” Michaels said. “We’ve really gone big with it. It has been quite the adventure.” 

Michaels mentioned that the production will include pyrotechnics and other exciting technical staging that is new to Wagon Wheel. 

“We’ve brought in ZFX (a performer-flying-effects company), so Scuttle will fly and swoop, and Ariel can swim to the surface,” he said. “It’s really something.” 

Jimmy buffett’s escape to margaritaville: June 15-24

Jimmy Buffett’s Escape to Margaritaville will captivate theatergoers from June 15-24. 

“For those audience members who may not have children or may not be so interested in Little Mermaid, we have Margaritaville, a show we put on our program to target the 30- to 40-year-old crowd,” Michaels said. “It’s more than just the Jimmy Buffett music. It’s a really fun, well-developed show.”

Kiss me, Kate: June 29-July 8

Things turn a little bit more traditional with June 29-July 8 with the “classic” show of the season, Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate, which might not be appropriate for some children. 

Kiss Me, Kate is just a classic show, Michaels said. “It’s an old favorite that our older audiences will appreciate.

Jesus Christ superstar: July 13-22

“We’re really excited to be one of the first theaters to be able to present our own production of Jesus Christ Superstar after it finishes its national tour here in the next couple weeks,” Michaels explained of the season’s fourth show, set for July 13-22. “The music of that show is just iconic.”

Wait Until Dark: July 27-Aug. 5

For those more into suspense than musicals, Wait Until Dark by Frederick Knott might be for you. 

“It’s a thriller,” Michaels said about the story of burglars who get more than they planned on when targeting a man and his blind wife. “I don’t want to give too much away, but it definitely has some intense moments.”

Always … Patsy Cline: Aug. 10-19

The Wagon Wheel will close its season with Always … Patsy Cline on Aug. 10-19.

The famed country singer died in a plane crash at 30, and the show is based on the true story of Cline’s friendship with a fan. It includes 27 of her iconic songs, including “Crazy,” “I Fall to Pieces,” and “Walking After Midnight.”

Godspell: July 22

Along with the professional shows, the Conservatory stages Godspell on July 22.

One of the Wagon Wheel’s local performers is Kira Lace Hawkins, who will be seen in three shows: Jesus Christ Superstar; Kiss Me, Kate; and Always … Patsy Cline

“It’s really awesome to be able to showcase new or upcoming talent before they hit bigger stages like Broadway and touring companies,” she said. “And to have that here at Wagon Wheel is really special. Right now, we have more than 15 Wagon Wheel alums performing on Broadway, and I think that’s really something.”

Along with being a performer, Hawkins is also Wagon Wheel’s educational director, overseeing Wagon Wheel camps. The Wagon Wheel hosts a series of four camps as a part of their Conservatory, featuring students from first grade through high school seniors. 

“Kids, even as young as first grade, get the full theater experience and get to rehearse and perform on a professional stage,” Hawkins said. “This year our youngest group will get to ‘play’ on the set for The Little Mermaid, which they are just going to love.”

Stephen Schwartz’s Godspell is being staged during this year’s high school musical theater workshop, which sees 30 students produce a fully realized performance in just 11 days. 

“We will be rehearsing on and using the set from Jesus Christ Superstar,” Hawkins said. 

Another exciting aspect of the production of Godspell is the opportunity that the teens will have to work with some alumni. 

“This year we were able to bring in Taylor Okey as guest director,” Hawkins said of the Bluffton native. “Taylor recently finished touring with the national company of American Bandstand.” 


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