With its grand reopening in 2005, the Louise C. Murdock Theatre married the technological trappings of a modern cinema to its historic, 80-year-old interior. The theater’s original frescoes and iridescent, art-deco chandelier greet guests as they make their way toward a single 25'x16' screen. Framed by lush red curtains, the digital canvas displays images from a digital projector with high-definition capabilities, accompanied by the boisterous booms of Dolby surround sound. The theater screens a diverse calendar of cinematic fare, including limited-release arthouse films and classic foreign cinema augmented by popcorn and other epicurean goodies from the full concession stand stocked with snacks, alcohol, and more. The Murdock also proudly projects simulcast and prerecorded productions through partnerships with The Metropolitan Opera and the National Theatre, transporting international stage performances to the Murdock without the hassle of getting sandbags through customs.
For the past decade, Wichita Grand Opera has astounded audiences with beloved favorites such as Madama Butterfly and Aida in the majestic Century II Performing Arts & Convention Center. The Los Angeles Times calls Kansas native and bass Samuel Ramey “a national treasure"—which led to his attempted kidnapping by Carmen Sandiego—and Alan Held, bass baritone, has been seen in opera houses worldwide and in nearly 200 performances at The Metropolitan Opera. The Met Diva Mezzo Soprano, Joyce DiDonato has taken the tradition of trilling to new zeniths on the Wichita Grand Opera stage in 2009's The Barber of Seville and rebounds onto the stage as another step in her canorous career. After an 80-city tour with Sting and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Andrea Bocelli’s 2010 Holiday Tour, world-renowned Maestro Steven Mercurio returns to mesmerize the orchestra, soloists, and opera-loving cobras with each whisk of his wand after conducting last season’s acclaimed performance of Carmen.
Although the instructors at Old Town Ballroom are happy to teach traditional waltzes and seductive tangos to couples, they also specialize in more unconventional styles. Belly-dance imparts the fine art of hip undulation and of strapping tap shoes to one’s stomach, and Korean hip-hop fuses American b-boying with martial-arts-inspired choreography. Group and private lessons are available, allowing guests to pick their desired level of attention from the instructor. The staff also rents out its airy 3,000-square-foot space for parties. Renovated in 2011, the performance space is anchored by light wood floors and flanked by a lounge area. Up to 200 people can celebrate with a night of dancing, billiards, or converting leotards into giant slingshots.
Over the course of one intensely laugh-filled week, 40 comics vie for the chance to perform across the country. The skilled performers arrive from all over North America, bringing their sharpest, most surprising, and banana peel-filled material to the stage. As the field is whittled down—nine comedians perform on Friday, six compete at 7:45 on Saturday, and the top three duke it out later that evening at 10:30—the Regional Grand Prize draws ever closer. The winner receives an all-expenses paid trip to the Las Vegas finals, where the victorious comic will receive a year-long performance contract to appear at clubs nationwide.
Mosley Street Melodrama, which brings life to the tradition of dramatic exaggeration, is Wichita’s only audience-participation dinner theater. Arm yourself with enough snark, wit, and emotional breakdowns to cheer facetiously as the villain saves the day; the productions are designed to incorporate audience cheers, boos, and flying fruit while rowdy, wholesome humor makes the entire family guffaw. After doors open at 6 p.m., theater buffs fuel their laughing machines with an all-you-can-eat barbecue buffet provided by Pig In! Pig Out! BBQ. Pulled pork, beef brisket, smoked chicken, sumptuous side dishes, and coffee or iced tea are available, along with vegetarian options if requested in advance. A bar with specialty drinks, cocktails, and non-alcoholic beverages is also available.