When Chuck Wicks began to dream about what has become Shiners, one of the most sought-after shows in Nashville, he wanted a place that would be a must-see destination for both tourists and locals, featuring some of the most incredible talent found all over the country. But even he likely didn’t imagine how big the show, which takes place in the Woolworth Theatre — a building he purchased to make his vision a reality — would become.
“I have a wonderful team. Everything happens with a great team,” Wicks tells Everything Nash, deflecting all of the credit for Shiners’ success. “But I was living downtown. I was single at the time. I was doing my morning radio show, and the morning radio show was off of Second Avenue. So I really got to experience downtown for a good solid six years, seeing the ins and outs. And I just remember seeing the same thing over and over again, which is great. We have Broadway honky tonks. We’re a great sports town now. We have great restaurants now. The city of Nashville has exploded.”
Still, for all that was making Nashville flourish, Wicks felt that the one thing that was missing was diversity in entertainment — a glaring absence that he decided to fill.
‘There’s not a lot of stuff to experience outside of what we already have,” Wicks explains. “So I wanted to bring a show in, a Vegas-style residency show, and I wanted it to be fun and eclectic. I wanted it to be intimate, ’cause I saw a show out in Vegas called Absinthe. And I remember seeing that show and I was blown away because you’re so close to the talent, like a lot of these Cirque du Soleil shows are amazing … everything’s way over the top and way big.
“When I went to Absinthe, that was the same style of talent,” he adds, “but encapsulated and almost to how you feel like you’re in the show. I wanted to accomplish that for Nashville.”
When Wicks began casting for Shiners, he knew he wanted the best of the best. But even he couldn’t have imagined that the auditions would bring him one of Broadway’s biggest stars, namely Cinderella‘s Laura Osnes, creating a full-circle moment for him and his country music career in the process.
“My very first song was called ‘Stealing Cinderella,'” Wicks shares. “And when she walked into to audition, I felt like an American Idol judge. I had the table in front of me, and here I am with my notepad, trying to look important. And she comes in, and she literally looked like Cinderella walking through the door at the time. I didn’t even know. ’cause she’s so sweet. She just has that vibe about her. She walks in, and I’m like, ‘Wow, I love her already.’ And then she starts singing and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh. This girl’s amazing.'”
Wicks had no idea who she was, but as soon as he realized, and heard her sing, he offered Osnes a part in his show, not imagining at the time just how long their professional relationship would last.
“I was actually nervous she was gonna say no. because she’s had so much success,” Wicks acknowledges. “But she said yes. It’s funny; she said, ‘Hey, I can do three months.’ And here we are almost a year later. She loves it so much, she’s still with us. So it’s pretty cool.”
Within five months of Shiners opening, the show celebrated one million dollars in sales, a success that has only propelled Wicks to want more from the show, and to work harder than ever.
“That was really promising, because it’s nerve-wracking anytime you do something new and different, and something that’s never been done before, especially in this city,” Wicks acknowledges. “If you don’t know what it is, you don’t know what to expect. It’s even that much harder to sell it to someone. Our show, it is somewhat hard to describe. You have to go see it to really understand what the vision of Shiners is, besides saying it’s crazy and eclectic — we fly people, we got people balancing, we have a contortionist.”
“You start putting all these elements together and it’s still hard to explain exactly what it is,” he remarks. “But the message in the show is like, ‘Hey, we have an eclectic family, and we believe no matter who you are, what you do, or where you’re from, you deserve to shine.”
By his own admission, Wicks never imagined when he was launching his successful country music career that he would end up at the helm of a show like Shiners.
“I have such a rollercoaster of a career, and I’m very aware of that,” Wicks reflects. “I’ve been at the top of the game, when I was on Dancing with the Stars. I was on Dancing with the Stars when people were really watching it. There were like 20 million people watching my season, and I remember, walking through the airport and people would just be [watching me]. And now I can walk through the airport and people are like, ‘Can you get out of the way? You’re walking too slow. I have fun with it. I love my career. I love how it’s up and down. I love that I never know where it’s gonna go.”
Shiners is an adults-only show. Find more information at ShinersNashville.com.