Kansas City, Missouri: Let Them Entertain You by Terry Zinn

On a recent visit to Kansas City, Missouri I thought I’d let them Entertain me with live theatrical presentations. I always enjoy seeing what each city offers in the way of performing arts and Kansas City certainly stages some quality productions.

My main interest was to see the “Sing Off” road show tour, featuring the winners, of the a cappella group “Home Free.” I know the lead singer, Austin Brown, from my Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity days at our alma mater, Oklahoma City University. Seeing him on the televised competition was a treat and to see and hear him in person, in the third row of the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland Theater in downtown Kansas City, was a delight. The large historic grand old theater is a preservation of a time when theater interiors were gold gilded palaces. The Midland has been loving restored and features many one night only road show tours. The near sell out crowd was a testament to the drawing power and the quality of “Home Free.”
I was lucky that this weekend was also the performance time for the Lyric Opera of Kansas City’s, La Boheme, performed in the modern Kaufman Center. The performance in Italian with sub text scrolled across the seat back in front of you, could not have been better in quality of signers, orchestra sets, costumes and all the elements that go into live theatre. The well-educated audience was most appreciative. Recently the Lyric Opera acquired new upscale administrative offices, where designers can work on their creations, as it also houses a massive storage capacity for sets, which can be rented out to other theaters. If you can, take in one of their Opera Preshow dinners with fellow theatre lovers and gourmet cuisine hosted for my visit at the Affare restaurant.

Over on the UMKC campus is the Kansas City repertory Theatre, where I saw a most entertaining production of, “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.” While it has mild references to Chekov, the story line is a well made situation comedy that anyone can enjoy. Again I was impressed with the quality of actors, and overall production quality. I must see more of their productions.
For the visual arts I took in the Nelson-Adkins Museum of Art outdoor sculpture garden where a new glass–walled Labyrinth installation was being created in the Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park. While this is my third visit to the Nelson there is still so much more to explore. Showing now through July 20th is a very rare Daguerreotype collection – not to be missed. Over at the Union Station complex they were readying for a King Tut exhibit which runs through September 7. It appeared to be quite an extensive, entertaining and informative installation.
At the Hallmark Visitors Center an exhibition of oil paintings by Winston Churchill was on display, along with the historical retrospective of the Hallmark history. For a field trip, drive on over to Overland Park Kansas to see their Overland Park International oriental outdoor sculpture park, which presents some conversation starting outdoor art on a circular path. Other museums on your list of must see might be the National Airline History Museum, complete with classic TWA planes, and the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art in Overland Park.

After such an extensive long weekend I was very pleased to be hosted at the Hotel Phillips, in the middle of downtown, making easy accessibly to the Midland Theatre and the Kaufman Center. The Phillips is a step back in time to a grand era of hotel splendor exemplified by its mesmerizing lobby, of art deco excellence. The 1930’s sculpture of Dawn, a young lady riding the crest of a wave, is a welcoming symbol of the hotel. But don’t let the historic splendor dampen preconceived ideas of comfort, as the rooms have been expanded and renovated to modern excellence. It is certainly a hotel to recommend. Adjacent to the hotel is the 12 Baltimore restaurant, where I had some delicious, fast and courteous meals, not mention Jackie’s excellent Martini. (Not everyone can make a quality Martini, but she does.)
Just down the street is the historic Drum Bar and Providence Restaurant inside the President Hotel, where I had a satisfyingly elegant dinner. You might also want to sample the food and beverage offerings at Extra Virgin at 4558 Main St. If you are not entertained in Kansas City you must not be trying, for as you can see, it can completely satisfy your desire for enjoyment.
Before you go checkout: http://www.visitkc.com, http://www.HotelPhillips.com, http://www.airlinehistory.org, http://www.hallmakrvisitorscenter.com, http://www.unionstation.org, http://www.KCRep.org , http://www.opkansas.org, http://www.nelson-atkins.org, http://www.kcopera.org, http://www.nermanmuseum.org, http://providence-kc.com, http://www.theaustinbrown.com/about.html