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.”

NoMar Theatre Inc. is in negotiations to buy Crown Uptown Theatre

Pam Bugler, J Basham and Christine Tasheff are part of NoMar Theatre Inc., which is trying to buy the Crown Uptown Theatre.

WICHITA — NoMar Theatre Inc. is in negotiations with Karen Morris to purchase the Crown Uptown Theatre near Douglas and Hillside.

“I would like to see the theater continue,” Morris says. “Ted and I worked there 31 years, and it means a lot to me.”

Morris, whose late husband, Ted, founded the dinner theater, owns the building but hasn’t been running a theater in the space.

She leased the building to Crown Uptown Management, which struggled financially, until last month when she changed the locks.

Morris says there are several parties interested in either purchasing or using the Crown Uptown.

NoMar Theatre Inc., which formed two years ago to try and buy and restore the historic NoMar Theatre at 21st and Market, is starting a capital campaign to try to buy the Crown Uptown space.

NoMar Theatre

J Basham, the interim executive director, says the idea is to purchase the Crown and make enough money from it to eventually purchase and renovate the historic NoMar Theatre and the building next to it.

Basham’s father owns the NoMar Theatre and has used it for his Basham Rent To Own business.

Basham says the NoMar group has a 12-person board, which includes Pam Bugler, who is chairwoman and has a history in development.

Former Cabaret Oldtown owner and producer Christine Tasheff is on the board as well and will work with Basham, who was promotions and operations director at the Orpheum Theatre for 3½ years, on producing and bringing in shows.

They plan summer educational programs as well.

The NoMar group will stage its own season and bring in other shows and concerts as well.

Basham says the group will invite promoters and others to come in and do shows and concerts or to use the facility for other purposes.

“I think a theater has to be used as a rental house,” Basham says. “It’s got to be versatile.”

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Crown Uptown Theatre’s future is in limbo

UPDATED — The fate of the Crown Uptown Theatre is in limbo.

Earlier this month, Have You Heard? reported that Uptown Management Group, which took over the theater near Douglas and Hillside in 2009, was almost $150,000 behind in state and federal taxes.

Now, the group is locked out of the theater, and it’s unclear when or if it will be let back in.

Karen Morris, whose late husband, Ted, founded the dinner theater, still owns the building. She changed the locks Monday.

Morris isn’t commenting yet.

The situation appears to be in flux.

Robert Brinkley, manager of the Uptown Management Group, couldn’t be reached for comment.

The theater’s website, which was working early today, is not online now.

The theater is between productions. “Pump Boys and Dinettes” wrapped on Sunday.

There’s a new theater group that hopes to raise enough capital to buy the Crown Uptown building and start a new company. No one with that group is talking publicly yet, either.

Look for more developments later this week.