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Kansas City’s Starlight Theatre announces change at helm

Starlight Theatre, Kansas City’s large outdoor venue for performing arts, announced that Richard Baker takes over as the new in March.
Starlight Theatre, Kansas City’s large outdoor venue for performing arts, announced that Richard Baker takes over as the new in March.
Bob Compton

Starlight Theatre, Kansas City’s 64 year-old outdoor theater, announced big changes for the theatre’s future success when the board named Richard Baker as President and CEO of Starlight Theatre on Thursday, Feb. 13.

Current president of Fox Theatre in St. Louis, Baker takes over management of Starlight Theatre in March. Baker, currently President of Fox Associates in St. Louis, assumes his Starlight leadership as President and Chief Executive Officer of Starlight Theatre Association beginning in March. Baker will oversee all of Starlight’s operations and programming including the not-for-profit’s Broadway and Concert series, extensive education programs, and all development activities for the 64 year-old performing arts organization, a spokesman for Starlight Theatre said via a media press release.

“Starlight is very fortunate to have found Rich Baker. Not only is he a passionate leader in the musical theatre industry in the US, but he has a proven track record of turning vision into reality,” Russ Welsh, Chairman of the Board of Starlight Theatre, said . “His experience in the performing arts industry combined with his business background makes him the perfect leader for Starlight as it looks to celebrate its 65th season next year and develops its strategic plan for future generations. His energy and enthusiasm are already proving to be contagious.”

Baker joins Starlight from St. Louis-based Fox Associates, a private holding company that operates the historic 4,500-seat Fox Theatre, MetroTix and Fox Theatricals. Baker has held executive management positions with Fox Associates for more than two decades, and for the last 13 years has served as President. Starlight Theatre remains the nations second largest venue of its time and continues as Kansas City’s most popuplar outdoor theater venue for the summer season.

Through his position at The Fox, Baker not only presented first-run Broadway tours but also produced a multitude of shows on Broadway including, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Legally Blonde, and Death of a Salesman to name a few. Starlight said.

Under his leadership, Fox Associates also developed MetroTix, an online ticket broker which today sells more than half of the ticket business in St. Louis, and represents a wide variety of venues across the Midwest and nationally, according to Starlight Theatre.

“This is an opportunity of a lifetime, and I look forward to building on the incredible foundation that the Starlight board, patrons, volunteers, donors and civic community have laid in making Starlight one of the premiere entertainment organizations in the Midwest and iconic and beloved Kansas City tradition,” Baker said. “It’s an incredible legacy. My wife and I are looking forward to becoming an integral part of the Starlight family and the Kansas City community. I can’t wait to get started.”

At the Fox Theatre, Baker has led several major renovation and expansion efforts including development of the a private, corporate box seat section boasting full menu dining and numerous exclusive amenities for its members.

His resume lists some of his successes to show his background as a leader and builder of performing arts in such locations as St. Louis, Chicago, national tours, and London’s West End. He also oversees Fox Theatricals which runs the Briar Street Theatre in Chicago, home of the Blue Man Group, and has produced more than 15 Broadway plays, musicals, West End (London) and national tours, as sole producer, co-producer and/or through its association with the Independent Producers Network, an international alliance of theatre presenters. Fox Theatricals has won multiple Tony Awards for its productions, most recently garnering six awards for its Broadway production of Red, including Best Play, Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play, and Best Direction of a Play.

Further accomplishments listed on Baker’s resume point out that he stand as a leader in the musical theatre industry. Baker currently serves as Vice President of the Independent Presenters Network, and is a member of the Board of Governors of the Broadway League, the national trade organization for the Broadway industry. He also serves on the League’s road labor, inter-industry and governance committees and is a voter for the American Theatre Wing’s annual Tony Awards®, celebrating excellence on Broadway, and is a member of the International Association of Venue Managers.

Also, he is a certified public accountant, and a member of the American Institute of CPAs and the Missouri Society of CPAs. He holds a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, where he graduated cum laude.

Baker and his wife, Peggy, met in a singing/performing group in high school and have been sweethearts ever since. They both have family ties to Kansas City and will move to Kansas City from Saint Charles, Mo. The couple has two sons and five grandchildren.

Starlight Theatre’s summer 2014 season continues as announced last fall with such shows as Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, The Sound of Music, The Blue Man Group, The Wizard of Oz and We Will Rock You.

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