Breaking News: Costume World Plans To Open Theater And Museum On Caldwell Site

By Bill Hirschman

Broward-based Costume World plans to open a producing theater company along with its museum at the former Caldwell Theatre building in Boca Raton around September, CEO and President Marilynn Wick confirmed Thursday.

Costume World, reportedly the largest theatrical costume distributor in the country, signed an agreement late Thursday with mortgage holder Legacy Bank of Florida to lease the property with an option to buy it, Wick added Friday. The firm plans to invest between $300,000 to $1 million in extensive renovations over the next seven months

Marilynn Wick

“We’re buying it,” she said, although she balked at discussing the specific financial arrangements.

“To me it’s no risk at all,” Wick said. “I realize the economy is not great, but people do want to be entertained and there’s a huge resurgence in the country for a revival for the past.”

The plan for the renamed Wick Theatre is to mount a six-show season of classic Broadway musicals with some straight plays, staffed with both Equity and non-Equity performers. She guestimated the annual operating budget for the theater at roughly $1 million, although the figures still are being developed. The operation will start out as a for-profit company while Costume World invests start up cash, but the plan is to seek non-profit status, Wick said.

In a synergy that Wick feels is crucial to fiscal success, she will move her popular Broadway Collection Museum of authentic costumes from Broadway shows to the site, with an opening in October. The desire for a stylish venue to display her holdings helped prompt more than six months of negotiations, she said.

The nearly 30,000-square foot cream-colored jewel box at 7901 N. Federal Highway has been shuttered since April 2 when the court-ordered receiver evicted the 37-year-old company. It had fallen victim to a long list of problems that included a shrinking base of subscribers and debts whose total even now has not been revealed.

Wick has acknowledged that neither she nor her staff has much experience producing shows or managing a theater. To fill that void, she has hired managing and producing director Douglas C. Evans, who has produced or presented more than 100 musicals, plays and tours through his 27-year career.

Douglas C. Evans

Evans is president of the Society for the Preservation of the Great American Songbook, and recently served as general manager and founding president of Classical South Florida in the Palm Beaches and west Florida.  Evans is the former CEO of Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment and president of its Broadway China Ventures.

“We want the Wick Theatre to be a destination,” Evans said. “We feel very bullish…. Marilynn is a really successful entrepreneur and I have been in my career. With her daughters (who help run her company), we can make this work.”

Costume World has been interested in expanding into production for quite a while. It negotiated for several months in 2011 to buy Broward Stage Door Theatre in Coral Springs which had fallen deeply in debt. But that deal fell apart early in 2012 when the two parties argued about the size of the debt that Wick would be taking on. Stage Door has since become more financially stable thanks to several successful shows.

Since its founding in 1976, Costume World has grown steadily as a national player in the theater world.  It solidified its clout when it acquired Dodger Costumes in 2005, giving it an inventory of 1.2 million pieces including the original costumes from 35 Broadway shows. Its two locations in Broward County, on-line operation, plus stores in Austin, Pittsburgh and Dallas service 100 shows a month, not to mention special events and Halloween parties.

But Wick is as proud of the museum at its Pompano Beach location, overseen by her daughter Kimberly, which gives tours, often with lunch, to bus groups and other visitors wanting to see such memorabilia as original gowns designed by Cecil Beaton for Julie Andrews in My Fair Lady.

Although the court receiver worked at maintaining the closed building, court records indicated the receiver’s concerns about roof leaks. Wick and Evans plan massive renovations including ensuring that the structure is properly outfitted with sound and lighting equipment. While the Caldwell presented musicals, some patrons complained that it was not sonically adequate for musicals. The interior will likely get new wallpaper and carpeting, even getting a cabaret space.

About 12,000 square feet will be devoted to the museum. Patrons can take in the museum tour while attending the theater, but visitors will be able to enjoy either separately. One advantage of the space is that it enables the company to entertain much larger groups at the  museum.

A disadvantage is that while the theater has adequate wing space, it has no place to fly scenery above the stage. “It will take some creative thinking,” Evans said, citing the solutions used by the Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut which stages lavish musicals with virtually no wing or fly space.

One concern to observers had been parking. The Caldwell had built a parking lot west of the building, but new condos further west seemed to have taken it over. In fact, Evans said, the lot will be available to theater patrons,

Other than being rented by Entr’acte Theatrix’s run of Jesus Christ Superstar in July, the building has stood empty since the late afternoon of the Carbonell Awards a year ago when the Caldwell staff was asked to leave and then locked out.

Last year, Legacy Bank foreclosed on two mortgages totaling $5.89 million plus another $1.3 million in interest and late charges. It regained full title on the property at a court-ordered auction for $1,000,100 in October.

Wick wrote in a statement, “As a South Florida resident for more than 40 years, I was saddened to see the Caldwell close.  Having this wonderful theater dark robs our community of an asset that we need for the cultural community.  I have driven by the closed building for months now and felt that I needed to do something.

The Caldwell saga began in December 1975 when Hall and Bennett, a scenic designer, created the company at the urging of Rubbermaid Corp. founder James R. Caldwell.

It opened its first show, Neil Simon’s The Star Spangled Girl in a small auditorium on what is now the campus of Lynn University. Four years later it moved to the Boca Raton Mall.  In 1989, it renovated and moved into its best known space in the Levitz Shopping Plaza just south of its last location.

Despite the cramped space, Hall gave his audience frothy farces, contemporary dramas, chamber musicals, large cast classics and gay-themed plays during the summer off-season.
Some of its most acclaimed works were chancier ventures than the mainstream fare prevalent in the region: Bent, Papa, The Laramie Project, Take Me Out, The Elephant Man and Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde.


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32 Responses to Breaking News: Costume World Plans To Open Theater And Museum On Caldwell Site

  1. Robert Herrle says:

    I was the Resident Stage Manager for the Caldwell, when it closed last year.
    I spent 4 seasons w/the Company as an Actor/Stage Manager. But in the last 2 seasons, I became the full time SM there!
    I know the space in & out! Would love to submit a resume.

  2. Leah Davidson says:

    You go girl Very proud of you If anyone can do it you can There will be so many applauding your fantastic move
    Leah and Scott

  3. Lewis Marlowe says:

    So … hmmm … they are going to produce 6 plays and musicals in a year, with Equity and Non Equity performers.

    Interesting. I don’t know that a community theatre that pays no one could produce this much for $1 million.

    I would guess $3-4 million is the least this could be done for.

  4. Michael Walters says:

    Robert, I’ll be sure to pass that on to Marilynn! Lewis, Have faith.. you may be surprised. (also, it’s not like we have to pay for costumes.)

  5. Dick Cully says:

    Another attempt at culture and class that the phony’s of Boca Raton and South Florida won’t support. Floriduh, the sunny place for shady people.

  6. Marilyn Givens says:

    My daughter is 12 years old. She was in Porgy and Bess, local TV, plays, etc.. She loves performing arts and sports activities! Please keep me updated.

  7. Ken Rush says:

    This sounds incredible!! If anyone can make it happen Marilyn can. If you are looking for Directors with great track records I’m your guy! I’m use to working without a fly system and limited wing space and incredible costumes from Costume World!
    I’m very excited for you guys.

  8. Barry Zieger says:

    I think the theater has an excellent chance of success if properly managed. I have been involved with the start up of more than a dozen Equity theater opporations and know the potential problems as well. If you are interested in feed back and/or help I would love to be involved. Being a resident of Boca Raton for many years, I would enjoy seeing that lovely theater revived.

  9. jason says:

    cant wait to see how they staff that place.. i drove from palm city for 3 years till they failed to pay me for 14 weeks that they still owe me.. not too many technicians left around these parts.. where exactly is the museum going? in the rehearsal hall? where are they going to produce scenery? it has no shop. should be interesting for sure.. best of luck.

  10. Julie Garcia says:

    This is very exciting news. Whatever Marilyn touches turns to gold! Good things coming to Boca. Congrats

  11. With Marilynn Wick & her “GIRLS” , this has to be a WINNER. They are the most professional group & have big hearts! Go girls. Anything I can offer, HOLLER!!

  12. Todd Olson says:

    If you are looking for other professional theatres within the state who could be willing co-producing partners, you might consider American Stage Theatre Company in St. Petersburg (where I serve as AD). I can be reached at 727-224-3277 and am always happy to talk about such ideas 🙂 Best of luck on your new endeavor!

  13. PAUL Levine says:


  14. Diana Ford says:

    This article really made me laugh. I don’t know Marilyn Wick but I am familiar with the Caldwell…excuse me The Wick Theater ( really?!!) but when I read her first quote ” To me it’s no risk at all.” I gulped and when I read ” Wick has acknowledged that neither she nor her staff has much experience producing shows or managing a theater”…well…I wish all involved the very best of luck.

  15. Michael Walters says:

    Diana.. Do you KNOW the people she’s hired to work for her? Do you know THEIR collective expertise? I do. I am one of them. Be positive and grateful that there is another venue for actors to work and for audiences to enjoy. There seems to be far too much negativity in a community that has seen too many landmark theatres fail.

  16. Diana Ford says:

    As I said…I wish all involved the best of luck. And Michael please don’t YELL at me in your reply to my message. I was just expressing my opinion.

  17. Michael Walters says:

    Oh my Diana. I certainly wasn’t yelling. I merely emphasized two words loudly – I wanted to ascertain you could hear them over the condescending tone of your “opinion.”

  18. Shain Stroff says:

    This is so exciting!!

  19. I agree with Shain. This is really exciting! It is always a wonderful thing to see theatres coming back to life. I wish you nothing but success!

  20. Dustin Hamilton says:

    It’s great to hear that the building that I called home for many years will be brought back. As the former Production Manager and Facility Manager for the Caldwell for 1 and half seasons I gave my life to the company and it’s mission, like Jason and Robert we helped keep the company going so the patrons of Boca and Delray could have a place to call their own. I wish the Wick’s luck in bringing the old girl back. If anyone questions about the building please don’t be afraid to contact me. Yes I can confirm the leaks in the roof, where most are and there sources.

  21. Donald O'Connor says:

    Hmm…The plan for the renamed Wick Theatre.
    “To me it’s no risk at all,” Wick said. “I realize the economy is not great.” Neither Wick nor her staff has much experience producing shows or managing a theater. A six-show season of classic Broadway musicals with some straight plays, staffed with both Equity and non-Equity performers. I hope you don’t consider a ban on large sodas.

    • Michael Walters says:

      Donald O’Connor! What a delight to hear from you! I thought you were dead! – at least your career was following Bring Back Birdie and Say Hello to Harvey.. but I digress.

      Again, a snide comment from someone not even willing to give people a chance to succeed on their own merits. For all of you who love the theatre in South Florida, for all of you bemoaning the lack of work for performers, I am stunned to see this theatre welcomed with anything but open arms. Please consider that had Mrs. Wick not purchased the Caldwell, it would have, very likely, been turned into a parking lot or anything BUT a theatrical venture. If that happened, who would have lost? South Florida would have. I highly encourage all of the doubting Thomases to take a step back and give this theatre a chance to succeed before you line up with your torches and pitchforks and predict doom, gloom and failure. Negative comments say much more about the person making them that they do about the person or organization to whom they are directed.

      Do not be deceived by the quotes attributed to Mrs. Wick in this article. In the time I have known her, she has failed at nothing. She has worked with the biggest names in the industry and provided theatrical costumes to producing organizations all over the world. She indeed knows a thing or two about the business.

      The key to this venture are the people with whom she has chosen to surround herself. -She has assembled a production staff that, most assuredly, is qualified to bring top-flight shows and talent onto the stage of the Wick Theatre.

      I, for one, will choose to celebrate this venture with high hopes and a positive, welcoming attitude. I hope that any future comments will show good judgement and do the same.

  22. Donald O'Connor says:

    Michael Walters! The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

  23. Thank you Michael Walters for speaking out. So, most people are unaware of Marilynn Wick’s success story unless they are familiar with People magazine or NBC TV, and numerous publications that have found this marvelous entrepreneur and followed the tale of her success stories.
    Marilynn Wick is a woman of action, not words.
    Her steadily growing Costume World business with it’s four branches is testimonial enough. Imagine most of the musical productions you have seen in the past ten or more years here in South Florida. Chances are, the costumes came from Marilynn Wick’s shop.
    Do you think it is an easily accomplished feat to outfit cast members for, let’s say, The King and I? Hundreds of garments have to be selected for one show, tailored to the cast measurements, sent to the theater; the return of garments must be systemized, and then cleaned and rehung for the next rental! Costume World does this 100 times a month.
    The fabulously successful Costume World Museum was launched by Marilynn and Kim Wick to become the best little secret in the world that is fully booked season after season without publicity.
    Wake up South Florida! The Wick Theater will wow you off of your seats! Be positive and believe that this woman is a visionary who has the talent to bring her dreams to life.
    I predict the you will be fighting to get a subscription for the first and every ensuing season once the Wick Theater is open. Remember, you read it here!
    I have been a friend and neighbor of Marilynn’s, and sometime helper for the past ten years, in case you are wondering who I am. I was there, and saw it all happen.
    Every success to you and the team you have assembled, Marilynn, Kim and Kelly!

  24. Scott Willis says:

    I recently had the pleasure of meeting and spending a bit of time with Marilynn Wick while performing PRISCILLA: QUEEN OF THE DESERT at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach. Through quite a long career in theater, I have met very few people who have impressed me more than Ms. Wick. Her personal story as a successful self-made person (let alone, woman) is truly inspirational.

    When I heard that she had bought the Caldwell Theater, it excited me greatly. I’ve known several professionals to have worked there while the theater garnered high regard over the years. It’s a shame that it went under, but I have no doubt that The Wick Theater will rise from its ashes.

    It saddens me a bit to hear the skeptics posted here. But let me assure those of you who are more optimistic folk, most of the neighbors of the nationally renowned Goodspeed Opera House have very little regard for the theater company that has brought great revenue to their little hamlet of East Haddam, CT. Musicals including ANNIE, SHENANDOAH and MAN OF LA MANCHA began there. The joy of which, cannot be measured by anyone.

    I can only hope that the new Wick Theater of Boca Raton will enjoy all the same success that other similar companies have found through their determination. There are very few theaters that are actually thriving these days…and even less that are being founded. Those that are, can usually trace their success back to their founder and management teams. I doubt that Mr. Walt Disney had much support when he dreamed of buying a Florida swamp years ago. Who knew that he would end up gifting such a legacy to his company or to the state of Florida?

    Marilynn Wick has already created one legacy through Costume World. Her recent project: The Broadway Collection is only the newest of her success stories. If you have not been, and you have ANY interest in theater, please make your way there soon. Everything about the place and the experience is absolutely top notch! That would include dining under the light of one of the original Tavern on the Green chandeliers from New York City. (Snatched, if I might add, by the tenacious Marilynn Wick from the grasp of Donald Trump who owns the other five.)

    I look forward to the next success of Marilynn Wick and hearing of the joy it will bring to the kind people of Boca Raton!

  25. Marlene Harris says:

    This is fantastic news to have the theatre back in Boca! Congrats to Ms Wick for her courage and creativity! Cannot wait for the season to start and to become a subscriber!
    Thanking all involved in advance! Just terrific that the lights will be back on:) and a big boo to the naysayers!!!!

  26. Jennifer Aurelius says:

    YES—The Wick Theatre and Costume Museum is going to be amazing. I get to experience on a daily basis just what an inspiring woman Marilynn Wick is and I have to say that I super excited for the opening of this theatre and I am very grateful and blessed to be a small but crucial part of it.!!!
    And – as someone posted before…Everything you touch turns to gold!! So True–

  27. Deb Dale says:

    Great news love the happy outpouring of comments for a beautiful chance to make this theater shine. We can’t loose the arts. Great spirit!!! high hopes..
    Our family will be attending… definatly xooxoxoxooxoxoxooxoxoxooxox Never let someone stomp on a dream..

  28. Peter says:

    I was a volunteer at the Caldwell since 1995! I am thrilled to see you do this and am willing to volunteer and help you succeed. Please contact me @ Count me in!

  29. Shirley Diuro says:

    Please send me info and schedule when available. Especially interested in costume museum. Is there a costume museum presently opened. Very interested for a group outing. Thank you.

    • Bill Hirschman says:

      There is currently a museum operating in Pompano Beach. We will be updating information on our site regularly including the schedule.,

  30. JoAnn P. Valenti says:

    Can’t wait for the lights to dim and the curtain goes up!
    Congratulations to all!

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