Martin City Melodrama & Vaudeville Co. liquidates part of its stock of props and costumes

05/21/2014 8:00 AM

06/03/2014 10:17 AM

Think of it as the Jeanne Beechwood theater caravan.

Beechwood, the founder of Martin City Melodrama & Vaudeville Co., does not literally lead a caravan. Never has. But the spirit of her company has always evoked an earlier time, when itinerant theater artists would pack their props, costumes and scenery into wagons and head for the next town.

Still, that historic resonance isn’t too far from reality. Through the years Beechwood and her team have loaded cars to the gills as they visited local schools. Twice she has taken shows to the New York International Fringe Festival, where on her first visit she had to travel the length of Manhattan by subway, props and costumes in tow, to get to and from the theater.

Beechwood has staged 29 seasons under the Martin City banner, first at an old converted church near Holmes Road and 135th Street, and then in Metcalf South Shopping Center in Overland Park. Now, after more than 13 years at the mall, the company has to move again. After the handful of remaining tenants vacate this summer, the mall will close except for Sears and the Glenwood Arts movie theater.

So Beechwood decided it was time to offload some of the stock of costumes, scenery, hats, wigs and assorted exotic items she has accumulated through three decades. She plans a mega-moving sale over Memorial Day weekend.

“I am looking at the wall right now,” Beechwood said the other day. “I would say we have close to 100 hats. Probably 250 costumes. Probably 50 wigs. About 80 stuffed animals. We’ve used a lot of toys in Martin City Jr. shows, so maybe 80 different toys and games. I’ve got a roll piano that I won’t have the space to take with me. It needs to be repaired but I have the rolls that came with it.”

And there’s more. Kitchen equipment. Office equipment. Vinyl records. Books. Shelving. “Collectibles.”

“I have a ton of Christmas stuff,” she said. “I have 10 Christmas trees plus four 6-foot metal shelves with Christmas stuff to sell. We have typewriters and adding machines. I have several old trunks that are vintage. A steamer trunk that is vintage. An ice chest that is vintage. And then lots of furniture.”

Some of the odder items include: “Vintage mannequins. And then we have a switchboard from maybe the 1920s or ’30s. And we have a treasure chest the size of a small RV.”

Beechwood had been leasing the space at Metcalf month-to-month since the company moved in. Now the theater troupe has to be out by July 3.

Where Martin City Melodrama ends up is unclear at the moment. Beechwood said a move back to Martin City — the area of south Kansas City that runs along Holmes and 135th — was unlikely. But relocating within Johnson County is a distinct possibility.

Stay tuned.

The sale will be held Saturday through Monday, with a follow-up sale scheduled the following weekend to liquidate any remaining items. The theater is on the west side of the mall at 95th Street and Metcalf Avenue in Overland Park. Call 913-642-7576 for more details.

When men wore tuxes

Theater League wraps up its 2013-14 season with a touring production of “Sandy Hackett’s Rat Pack Show,” which, as the title suggests, is a song-filled homage to that distant golden era when high-rollers and tourists paid to watch Frank, Dean, Sammy and Joey sing, dance and horse around at the Sands.

Sticklers for historical accuracy will recall that the Rat Pack also included Peter Lawford, the British actor and brother-in-law to JFK, who neither sang nor danced but presumably could hold his own when it came to horsing around.

The show depicts a performance of the four nightclub mainstays: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Joey Bishop. The production is the brainchild of Sandy Hackett, who basically grew up in the Vegas showbiz world, and Lisa Dawn Miller. Hackett plays Bishop in the show, and the voice of his father, comedian Buddy Hackett, appears on tape as the Voice of God.

Performances begin Tuesday and continue through June 1 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Call 816-994-7222.

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