Kansas Dance Academy owners are new operators of Crown Uptown Theatre

Ray and Diane Gans (left) and Matthew Rumsey are the new operators of the Crown Uptown Theatre.

WICHITA — Ray and Diane Gans, who have owned the Kansas Dance Academy for 26 years, are the new owners and operators of the Crown Uptown Theatre.

Last month, Have You Heard? reported that an undisclosed group made an offer to Karen Morris, who for 31 years ran the theater near Douglas and Hillside with her late husband, Ted.

“We’ve just kind of always been involved in the theater,” says Diane Gans, who will be the artistic consultant.

Ray Gans, who will be director of operations, has a band called Oncall and is the son of Jeannie Park Gans, who had been with Phil Spitalny and His All-Girl Orchestra in New York City in the 1940s.

Gans and his siblings sang professionally with their mother while growing up.

“We were the von Trapps of Wichita,” he says.

Jeannie Park Gans and her brother, Robert C. Park, are partners with Ray and Diane Gans in the Crown Uptown along with Scott and Lisa Ritchie.

“They’re just big supporters of the arts and want this to continue on with the Crown,” Ray Gans says.

The group is operating as Crown Partners.

Matthew Rumsey, an actor and former manager with Melad Stephan’s Empire Restaurant Management, is the executive artistic director and the food and beverage director.

Brian Mangers, a chef at the Candle Club, also will be the chef for the Crown Uptown.

Their first show is “White Christmas,” which will open Thanksgiving weekend.

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NoMar Theatre Inc. isn’t the only group vying for the Crown Uptown Theatre

WICHITA — NoMar Theatre Inc. is still interested in purchasing the Crown Uptown Theatre from owner Karen Morris, but another group is vying for the space as well.

“They seem to have the money,” Morris says of the second unnamed group. “They are working on the business deal.”

The NoMar group is working to raise money to buy the theater.

“It’s slow,” says J Basham, interim executive director. “Very slow.”

Morris’ late husband, Ted, ran the theater near Douglas and Hillside for 31 years.

After her husband’s death, Morris leased the building to Crown Uptown Management, which struggled financially, until May when she changed the locks.

Morris, who previously has said she wants to see the theater continue, says she’s open to talking with anyone.

She says members of NoMar have been great to her by helping with repairs at the theater. However, the other group appears closer to being able to make a deal.

“I should know something hopefully next week.”

There’s some relief for Crown Uptown Theatre ticketholders and those who have booked events there

WICHITA — A number of people are wondering about future dates they’ve booked at the Crown Uptown Theatre, whether it’s for private parties or to see shows.

There’s good news and bad news.

“If I can work it out through the city, I have several weddings that I have talked to that I have told them I would go ahead and do it,” says Karen Morris, who owns the building.

She doesn’t have a liquor license, though, so she’s checking into whether a caterer with a license is sufficient.

“I can’t imagine going through that nightmare of having all these plans and then having everything turned upside down,” Morris says of wedding parties that are booked there. “I’m trying to work with them and get something going for them.”

Since Morris isn’t the one who took deposits on parties — Crown Uptown Management, which leased space from her, did — she can’t refund them. She says even if a group has already paid a deposit, she’ll still have to charge a nominal amount to pay for electricity and cleaning.

For any Crown Uptown customers who still have tickets or gift certificates, they can now use them at Mosley Street Melodrama.

The Old Town theater will honor Crown Uptown tickets and certificates to use for Mosley Street shows.

“They are welcome to come see the show at no cost,” says Steve Hitchcock of Mosley Street.

If the customers want dinner, too, they’ll have to pay an extra $12.

“We’re hoping that it kind of builds more of an audience for us,” Hitchcock says of inviting Crown customers.

He hopes people “come here and fall in love with it and want to come back.”