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Kansas City Rep announces 60th season, spotlighting civil rights and the Constitution

Performances about singer/songwriter/civil rights activist Nina Simone and a 15-year-old girl’s unique relationship with the Constitution will highlight Kansas City Repertory Theater’s 60th anniversary season.

KC Rep announced its 2023-24 season on Tuesday, featuring two relatively new shows (“Nina Simone: Four Women” and “What the Constitution Means to Me”) along with two familiar titles (“Cyrano de Bergerac” and “Little Shop of Horrors”) that make up the season ticket package. Returning, but not part of the package, are the traditional “A Christmas Carol” and the free “Ghost Light: A Haunted Night of Songs and Stories from KC’s Cultural Crossroads”.

“To celebrate our 60th this year, we really wanted to bring some excitement and energy and offer many ways for people to access the season,” said Stuart Carden, artistic director of Rep.

“Four Women” premiered in 2016 in St. Paul, Minnesota. It focuses on a time just after the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, when the jazz and civil rights legend was writing perhaps his most famous song, “Mississippi Goddam.” Simone died in 2003 and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.

Carden said the show features many songs by Simone but is not a typical musical.

“It kind of walks the line between a musical and a show with music,” he said.

“The four women in the piece are all parts of her in some way and represent different aspects of black women’s viewpoints of this period.”

Heidi Schreck wrote “What the Constitution Means to Me,” which was a Broadway sensation and will run October 24-November 24. 12 at the Copaken Stage of KC Rep.

“What the Constitution Means to Me” was written by Heidi Schreck, an actress (“Billions” and “Nurse Jackie”), producer and writer who also starred when it premiered on Broadway in 2019. It earned nominations for the Pulitzer Prize and for a Tony Award for Best Play.

It tells the story of a 15-year-old Schreck who entered Constitution debate contests.

“It’s a really engaging and amazing look at the Constitution,” Carden said. “It would seem like it could be dry, but it’s so personal and smart and really consistently funny.”

Even “Cyrano de Bergerac” and “The Little Shop of Horrors” will make you laugh. “Cyrano” is a new adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play that will feature a multi-identity cast. “Little Shop” is a rock musical that ran on Broadway and was made into a 1986 film.

Not to be forgotten is “A Christmas Carol”, which KC Rep has been producing for more than 40 years. Gary Neal Johnson, who played Scrooge for several of these, will return to the role.

“More people know us for ‘A Christmas Carol’ than anything else,” Carden said. “It’s such a beloved piece, and I understand why.”

Season ticket holders can renew for 2023-24 at kcrep.org/renew.

The deadline for renewing season tickets is 9 June and single tickets will go on sale on 19 July.

Gary Neal Johnson will return as Scrooge in the traditional Kansas City Repertory Theater production of “A Christmas Carol.”

KC Rep 2023-24 season

“Cyrano de Bergerac”, September 5-24, Spencer Theatre: The familiar story of a love triangle – built around Cyrano providing the words for another man to seduce the lovely Roxane – is loosely adapted from Rostand’s original play.

What the Constitution Means to Me,” Oct. 24-Nov. 12, Copaken stage: It was an off-Broadway sensation before moving to Broadway in 2019, when The New York Times described it as “not only the best play to open on Broadway so far this season, but the biggest as well.”

“Nina Simone: Four Women”, February 13-March 3, 2024, Copaken Stage: It follows the transition of Nina Simone’s career from artist to artist-activist and incorporates her civil rights anthems such as “Mississippi Goddam,” “Go Limp,” and “Young, Gifted, and Black.”

“Little Shop of Horrors,” April 30-March 19, 2024, Spencer Theatre: After entertaining movie and theater goers for more than thirty years, man-eating plant Audrey II will be back.

Also (not part of the season pass)

“Ghost Light: A Haunted Night of Songs and Stories from KC’s Cultural Crossroads,” October 13-14, Roanoke Park: This fourth annual presentation featuring musicians, writers, storytellers and food trucks has become a staple of the Halloween season. Free.

“A Christmas Carol”, November 21-December. 24, Spencer Theater: The holiday season doesn’t truly begin until KC Rep’s annual production of “A Christmas Carol” opens and Ebenezer Scrooge meets Christmas past, present and future.

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