Where Runway Meets Broadway

A tour through the Wick Theater and Costume Museum – the world’s largest costume repository

By Dale King and Julia Hebert

wick-cIf Marilynn Wick were a dervish, she would undoubtedly whirl like a Kansas tornado. She and daughter, Kimberly, swear they work “25 hours a day, eight days a week” keeping a thriving theater, a costume museum and a theatrical outfit rental business going. Not to mention holiday demands for seasonal attire.

In warehouses and showrooms in Boca Raton, Dallas and Pittsburgh, Marilynn Wick maintains more than a million costumes in total – perhaps the largest collection in the world. Most are from Broadway shows, and virtually every one was worn by a legendary star of the New York stage or other famed performance venue.

The latest big score for the mother-daughter team is “Where Runway Meets Broadway,” the newest display of costumes from their repository of sophisticated and stylish theatrical togs. The exhibition, in the Costume Museum of the Wick Theatre in Boca Raton, Florida, “features all the looks from the 1880s to the 1980s; the original clothing designs from that era,” said an excited Marilynn Wick, seated restlessly in her memo- and telephone message-strewn office in Deerfield Beach, Florida. The exhibit runs through May 2017.

“This show is more fashion than icon,” said Kimberly Wick, museum curator, who has worked with mom 30-plus years. The exhibition opened in September with an invitation-only luncheon and fashion show, “one in which Evita met Dior, How to Succeed…met Yves Saint Laurent and Tommy met Mary Quant,” among other pairings.

The Fashion of Film, Stage and Screen Icons
Visitors who enter the museum can view gowns once owned by fashionista/comedienne Joan Rivers; tiny-waisted, feathery dresses that were part of her runway collection. Marilynn bought them at auction.

Also displayed in the expansive room are outfits worn by Julie Andrews in the 1956 production, My Fair Lady. “They were designed by Cecil Beaton,” Kimberly said. “And everything in there is from that original production. It’s a showstopper when you walk in.”

The splendor in the museum comes from 35 Broadway shows, such as Les Liaisons Dangereuses, No, No, Nanette, Coco, Les Miserables, High Society, The Bells AreRinging and The Music Man. The Wick owns entire wardrobes from 60 Broadway shows and revivals, and partial sets from 20 more. The collection includes some movie costumes and still photos as well.

The Story Behind The Story
The Wick has a wardrobe still of Judy Garland in a costume from Annie Get Your Gun. “She has a cocktail in one hand and a cigarette in the other.”  Another wardrobe still shows Betty Hutton, who succeeded Garland in the same role, in “the same costume, same pose, with a cocktail in one hand and a cigarette in the other.”

Marilynn Wick and daughter Kimberly

Marilynn Wick and daughter KimberlyThe backstories are sometimes funkier than the costumes. “We have Donald O’Connor’s shoes from Singing in the Rain,” said Kimberly. “I had to slip the shoes on, just to feel what it was like to stand in Donald O’Connor’s shoe

The compilation of theatrical duds also includes “some Elizabeth Taylor pieces, and the wardrobe from Dick Tracy, including the yellow coat that Warren Beatty wore.” Yul Brynner’s The King and I clothes are in Wick hands.

The theater/museum/restaurant lies a few miles north of Marilynn Wick’s entrepreneurial digs in Deerfield. In 2013, she hammered out a lease-to-purchase deal with a bank and took possession of the shuttered former Caldwell Theatre.

Before reopening the playhouse in fall 2013 with a critically acclaimed production, The Sound of Music, she gutted the building, brought shows – mainly musicals – back to the stage and built a cabaret-style restaurant in the rear. It features plates, silverware, even the chandelier, from the Tavern on the Green restaurant in New York. Now, with its own chef and a specialized menu, it is doing business as the “Tavern at the Wick.”

Renovating a Theater Into a Museum
Work crews tore open and enlarged the building, creating a vast museum for the grand array of fine theatrical clothing.

“The first Broadway wardrobe we bought was in 2001, from The Bells are Ringing,” said Kimberly. Another big score for the savvy entrepreneurs took place in 2005 when the Wicks acquired nearly a half-million pieces from Dodger Costume Company, New York’s largest, when it closed. The costumes accumulated by the firm that opened as the Eaves Costume Co. in 1863 were hauled from New York to South Florida in 15 tractor trailer trucks.

“The Wick Museum,” says Marilynn, “will let us preserve clothes for history. If we didn’t have a place to put them, that aspect of the American musical theater would be lost.”

Where Runway Meets Broadway