Marilynn Wick has never run a theater before — she’s the first to tell you that — but as of this week, she’s South Florida’s newest producer. Still, the savvy entrepreneur, a woman who built her company, Costume World, into one of the country’s major suppliers of theatrical costumes, isn’t just going to be offering an array of classic Broadway musicals at Boca Raton’s rechristened Wick Theatre, former home of the Caldwell Theatre Company.
Wick has a dream, a concept, every intention of making her namesake theater a one-stop, multifaceted theatrical experience. Her idea: The ladies (and gents) who lunch will come to the Wick, get free valet parking, check out the on-site Costume Museum where they can see original outfits worn by famous Broadway stars, have lunch in the Tavern-on-the-Green room, then catch a matinee and maybe take home memorabilia from the gift shop.
The Wick will be a mainstream theater and more, something sorely needed in a region that has lost five major companies (Miami’s historic Coconut Grove Playhouse, Manalapan’s celebrated Florida Stage, Davie’s Promethean Theatre, Plantation’s Mosaic Theatre and the Caldwell) since 2006.
After two performances on Thursday, the Wick will celebrate its birth with the gala opening of The Sound of Music at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Getting the 333-seat theater up and running has meant months of long days and nights, unexpected expenses such as upgraded sound and lighting systems, personnel changes and more. But it is the critical Phase One of turning Wick’s dream into a magnet for folks who appreciate Broadway-style entertainment.
“We’ve spent way over $1 million, and we’re not done,” says Wick, who acquired the Caldwell’s $10 million Count de Hoernle Theatre in a four year lease-purchase deal. “We have eight weeks of hard work ahead of us before the Costume Museum opens. And our budget will be $1 million a year or more.”
The under-construction, 10,000-square-foot Costume Museum will get its own gala opening Nov. 5, displaying notable Broadway costumes from Wick’s massive collection — including Sarah Jessica Parker’s costume from Once Upon a Mattress, a Cecil Beaton gown worn by Julie Andrews in My Fair Lady and Yul Brynner’s costume from The King and I . There’s also a dining room featuring a photo mural depicting New York’s now-closed Tavern-on-the-Green (it also sports an ornate chandelier, china, silver and crystal from the famous restaurant), plus a gift shop featuring everything from theatrical hats and masks to a stand selling elaborately decorated cupcakes and gelatos.
Once the theater and museum are operating, Wick will have her theatrical destination with multiple revenue streams, a one-stop venue where visitors can do as little or as much as they want. An off-season museum tour and lunch runs $38; in season, a theater lover can see a show for $58 or tour the museum, have lunch and see the show for $88.
Wick, who made her fortune with an industrial cleaning business before building Costume World into major national business, has put her stamp and vision all over her namesake theater. It’s a place with a distinctly feminine flair that should appeal to women, the drivers of so many ticket-buying decisions.
Working in tandem with her daughters Kimberly Wick and Kelly Wick Kigar — Kimberly is the Costume Museum’s curator, while Kelly negotiated the deal for the theater — Wick has transformed the Caldwell’s relatively plain digs into a place that somehow combines Broadway and Boca Raton. A retouched pastoral drop from the Caldwell’s production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses floats over the entrance to the theater proper, and a stylistically similar mural by Anca Miculet graces one wall of the restaurant. Dramatic sheer curtains, a pair of artificial trees with tiny white lights, and conducive-to-conversation seating create an elegant lobby space, with Broadway costumes from the first season’s shows also on display.
The inaugural season at the not-for-profit theater is driven by big musicals — The Sound of Music through Oct. 20, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas Nov. 14-Dec. 25, 42nd Street Jan. 9-Feb. 9, The Full Monty Feb. 20-March 23 — plus the dramatic comedy Steel Magnolias April 3-May 4 and the Fats Waller revue Ain’t Misbehavin’ May 15-June 15.
Initially, the Wick is using guest artist Equity members in some key roles alongside non-union actors. Married actors Krista Severeid and Tony Lawson, touring and regional theater veterans who met when they were cast in Maury Yeston’s Phantom of the Opera, are playing Maria and Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music. Lourelene Snedeker, a triple Carbonell Award winner, appears as the Mother Abbess. Later in the season, former M*A*S*H star Loretta Switt will play Dorothy Brock in 42nd Street.
Wick, who launched Costume World in 1976, says she has long wanted a place where “people could experience the real Broadway clothing live onstage.”
And she adds, “I’ve been around the theater world and negotiating with producers for almost 40 years. I have a huge network to draw from.”
Unsurprisingly, the novice theater owner-producer has hit some bumps along the way to her gala opening. Before acquiring the Caldwell’s former home, she had been negotiating with Stage Door Theatre in Coral Springs, but both parties walked away from that deal. Two artistic directors have come and gone from the Wick before anything has happened onstage. Now Wick is building a team of directors, including Michael Ursua (who is staging and handling the musical direction for The Sound of Music) and Stacey Stephens, who will direct White Christmas and Steel Magnolias.
“Marilynn is very strong and knows exactly what she wants,” says Ursua, whose resumé includes two years at Jacksonville’s Alhambra Dinner Theatre. “Everybody’s thrilled to get this theater open again. From top to bottom, it’s gorgeous.”
Severeid, who is playing the singing novice nun-turned-governess for the third time, says she and Lawson are “incredibly excited to be a part of the first show here. Marilynn is such an incredible, impressive woman. She’s a visionary.”
Wick’s vision is a departure from the fare offered by the Caldwell during its 37-year history, with a mixture of theatrical classics and some gay-themed plays during founding artistic director Michael Hall’s long run and newer, edgier works in the three years Clive Cholerton led the theater. Wick believes the retiree-heavy Caldwell crowd grew increasingly unhappy with what was onstage. So with cupcakes, costumes and mainstream musicals, she’s trying to woo them back — and to add one more success to her business portfolio.