As visitors walk through the new Wick Costume Museum in Boca Raton, the unforgettable melodies of iconic Broadway musicals waft through the air.
A carousel features the ornate beaded gowns created by Cecil Beaton for the original production of My Fair Lady starring Julie Andrews. Around the corner are shelves lined with brilliant red and gold band uniforms from The Music Man. There’s also Yul Brenner’s Siamese robes from The King & I, Richard Burton’s armor forged for a production of Camelot and the flamboyant bedazzled costumes from more recent productions of La Cage aux Folles and The Producers.
The irreplaceable collection, valued at more than $21 million, was assembled by Marilynn Wick, the founder of Costume World, the country’s largest theatrical costume shop, and occupies 55,000 square feet in the back of the new Wick Theatre.
Wick opened the theater, formerly the Caldwell in Boca Raton, this fall after a whirlwind renovation and moved the costume museum from a nondescript Pompano Beach warehouse just this month.
“At this point, I haven’t had one chance to breathe. We’ve been working at this day and night and it’s so beautiful,” she said. “Sometimes it doesn’t seem like it can be real. People are enjoying it so much and I now feel that my vision has come to life.”
Wick had been searching for an appropriate location to showcase the collection and always felt a working theater would be the best venue. When the Caldwell was shuttered two years ago amid financial difficulties, she knew that would be the place to display the costumes from 48 Broadway shows.
After investing millions of dollars to refurbish the theater’s sound and light systems, update the lobby and catering facilities and create the costume museum from the old set shops, the theater and costume museum opened to rave reviews. The first production, The Sound of Music, was critically acclaimed and Irving Berlin’s White Christmas just opened, ushering in the holiday season to South Florida audiences. The Wick quickly earned a reputation for glitzy productions of big Broadway shows that most local companies eschew.
Already, more than 100 groups have booked docent-led tours of the museum, which can also include lunch in a private dining room modeled after Central Park’s famed Tavern on the Green restaurant, followed by a private cabaret performance or a matinee of The Wick’s current show.
Marilynn’s daughter, Kimberly, serves as the curator of the museum.
“We strived to make it an interactive tour while paying homage to the set designers and costume designers,” Kimberly explained. “It’s almost like an adult Disneyworld,” with carefully planned staging, lighting and audio effects.
It’s not unusual to see patrons tear up, she said, as they don white gloves to peruse the thousands of intricately crafted costumes and try on some of the ornate hats. As a special treat, the visitors get a sneak peak at rehearsals.
“They can hear the sounds of the show tapping away,” she added. “We open the stage doors. Many of our guests have never ever been backstage in a theater.”
The theater and museum are the culmination of decades of hard work for Wick and her daughters, who started the Costume World business around the dining room table by sewing a handful of Santa suits that would be rented out to raise extra money for the girls.
“My daughter and I have had a wonderful experience working together. We’ve learned a lot about each other through it all and it’s been personally rewarding to see her grow in this manner,” the beaming mother said of Kimberly.
Tours of the Wick Costume Museum, 7901 Federal Hwy. in Boca Raton, last 40 minutes and are offered seven days a week, beginning at 11 a.m. Tours, including lunch, cost $48 per person or $58 with a private cabaret show. Packages including a matinee performance start at $88 per person. Tours must be reserved in advance by calling 561-995-2333. For more information, go to TheWick.org. JW Arnold