Wharton Center 2020-2021 Season Announced - Broadway Tours

May 18, 2020

Today, the Wharton Center for Performing Arts on the MSU campus announced their 2020-2021 season. WKAR’s Jamie Paisley has more about the theatrical announcements scheduled to arrive in mid-Michigan. Spoiler: It'll be a late start to the season thanks to coronavirus.


For the Wharton Center, when it came to the next season of visiting artists and broadway tours, they had already planned to scale back during the fall because of the upcoming presidential elections which eats up a bit of promotional time.

"But then with the COVID-19 coming, some of the shows that we planned to have disappeared." says Mike Brand, Executive Director of the Wharton Center. "And we decided that the reentry is going to be more of a challenge, and we want to make sure we're totally prepared and have all our patrons and ticket buyers very comfortable when they come back to the Wharton Center and we just decided it's just too fast. Plus, we're not sure [Michigan State University] President Stanley is going to really have a lot of traffic on the campus in the fall, so we worked with all the artists and kind of moved them over into the remaining two seasons; the winter and the spring. So, it's kind of tight once it gets around the Christmas holiday time, and then it kind of stays tight all the way through the summer, actually, so. But I think it's the best thing to do for all of us."

And how far back is the Wharton Center’s 1st broadway tour being pushed? The final month of this year.

"Right," says Brand. "we're going to open our season in December which we have Mean Girls production, which is Tina Fey's creation and it's been a really marvelous hit on Broadway, and it's truly a fun show.".

[Music excerpt "I'd Rather Be Me" from "Mean Girls: The Musical"]

After Mean Girls in December, then January brings a 50th anniversary tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Jesus Christ Superstar. February features the musicalized version of Pretty Woman based on the Julia Roberts-Richard Gere film and featuring music cowritten by Canadian Rocker Bryan Adams. Another Lloyd Webber smash hit, this one using the work of T.S. Eliot, Cats the Musical sinks it’s claws into the Wharton Center in May, but in July, while it’s warm in mid-Michigan, it’ll get much colder in East Lansing with Disney’s Frozen.

"They designed the set as it freeze at the end of the first act and in the second act." says Brand "And it's all done with lights inside the set and shining on the set. And then the sound effects of ice crackling. So we're happy to end on it. Like [The] Lion King, a couple of years ago, Jamie, it just ended out of our fiscal year, but we needed it on the season. You can't kinda open your season in July. It's way too difficult to market it. So, it's in July again, but we'll make sure the air conditioning's on real high so that it won't seem like it's summer."

In addition, in the wake of the coronavirus, there is one production that the Wharton Center just announced will have a make-do appearance in East Lansing, the smash-hit Dear Evan Hansen which WAS scheduled to arrive in June of this year will instead arrive in August… August of next year, 2021. Broadway fans will also like that the great Kristen Chenoweth is returning to the Wharton Center in Early April coinciding with her album For The Girls. But as Executive Director Mike Brand explains, he concert was one of those moved around due to the coronavirus as well.

"She was gonna open the season in October, so, you know, we -- it's just been a lot of moving around, it's kind of a wiggly thing. But I'm so glad we landed it, because she is such a great artist and she did such a fantastic job when she was here a number of years ago. And this new album is really a miracle album."

["The Man That Got Away" from Kristen Chenoweth's album "For The Girls']

Tomorrow on WKAR, I’ll speak with Mike Brand about some of their other upcoming performances like the Canadian Brass, cellist and MacArthur Genius grant recipient Alisa Weilerstein, the Celtic Woman Christmas Program and violinist Itzhak Perlman, as well as dig deeper in to what the Wharton Center will be doing to keep theater-goers safe in the wake of coronavirus.

For WKAR, I’m Jamie Paisley.

WHARTON CENTER 2020-2021 SEASON

Broadway at Wharton Center
Mean Girls - Dec. 8-13, 2020
Jesus Christ Superstar - Jan 26-31, 2021
Pretty Woman: The Musical - Feb. 16-21, 2021
Cats - May 11-16, 2021
Disney's Frozen - July 7-18, 2021

Classical
Canadian Brass 50th Anniversary - Jan. 12, 2021
Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Wind Ensemble - Mar. 21, 2021
Trondheim Soloists w/ Alisa Weilerstein, cello - Apr. 15, 2021
An Evening with Itzhak Perlman - May 4, 2021

Variety
‘S Wonderful: The Music of George Gershwin - Oct. 29, 2020
Celtic Woman: The Best of Christmas - Dec. 15, 2020
Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn - Jan. 14, 2021
Renée Elisa Goldsberry - Jan. 16, 2021
Gina Chavez - Jan 27, 2021
SŌ Percussion - Feb. 28, 2021
Kristin Chenoweth In Concert- For the Girls - Apr. 3, 2021
The Moth Mainstage - Jun. 10, 2021
Blue Man Group - Jun. 22-23, 2021

Jazz
Southern Journey: An Afro-American Celebration! - Jan. 23, 2021
Alicia Olatuja: Intuition: Songs From The Minds Of Women - Feb. 11, 2021
An Evening with Branford Marsalis - Apr. 14, 2021

Illuminate
The Child Dreams - Feb. 4 & 7, 2021

Theatre
Second City: Imperfect Union - Sep. 28-30, 2020
Meow Meow - Apr. 27, 2021

Dance
Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE - Feb. 3, 2021
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre: Beauty and the Beast - Mar. 16 & 17*, 2021

Act One Family
The Tortoise and the Hair – The Next Gen - Oct. 18, 2020
The Pout-Pout Fish - Nov. 1*, 2020 
The Little Mermaid - Feb. 6, 2021
Into the West - Mar. 27 & 28, 2021

*Sensory-Friendly Performances