This week, the Wharton Center unveiled their new season. WKAR’s Jamie Paisley takes us on a trip through their 2019-20 Broadway national tour season, as guided by Wharton's Center's Exective Director, Mike Brand.
JAMIE PAISLEY: Hamilton has been on many mid-Michigan theater-lovers lips. But for Wharton Center’s Executive Director Mike Brand, he’s had to ask the question: How does the Wharton Center follow up Hamilton for next season?
MIKE BRAND: Well, that's the big question and the big challenge in our industry since Hamilton came out. After we get Hamilton, what are you going to do as a follow up for Hamilton? I think we basically lucked out. So we're always a year-and-a-half behind, maybe? So some of the biggest hits in the history of Broadway, Come From Away, Dear Evan Hansen, and they happen to be some of the most incredible draws for younger demographics, because they're very issue-oriented.
PAISLEY: Come From Away, which opens the Wharton’s season in September deals with the small Canadian town which took in 7000 airline passengers in the days following 9/11. While Dear Evan Hansen is a musical exploring themes of High School anxiety, depression, suicide, and acceptance.
[Sample of the song "For Forever" from Dear Evan Hansen]
PAISLEY: In November, a production of the classic Les Miserables hits East Lansing, but it’ll be the last Les Mis for a while says Brand.
BRAND: We're towards the end of the tour, and they're going to put it away from 10-some years, so it's going to be the last time we can see it for a while. And it's also full of issues, you know? When we saw it, it was this big, mega-hit you have to see Les Mis. It has a lot of messages in there that are apropos for today's society."
[Sample of the song "One Day More" from Les Miserables]
PAISLEY: Those wishing for family favorite get that wish granted in December via Disney’s Aladdin, but the musical requires some advance work at the Wharton.
BRAND: One thing that people don't know, it takes a whole week to load in the cable unit to fly the carpet. In order to do the show it takes that time to put the cables in. Wharton Center's been blessed to be constructed way back to be very strong. A lot of good steel is in the ceiling, so we didn't have to remodify it, but it still takes time for the safety of the actors.
PAISLEY: In February, the Lerner and Loewe classic My Fair Lady dances all night for a week-long residency, but in April, 3 weeks are reserved for the green-skinned Elphaba of Wicked, who, in addition to a longer time in the make-up chair, has another thing in common with the blue-skinned Genie of Aladdin.
BRAND: Aladdin and Wicked are our extended run shows. We have two of them again this year. I believe it's here for the 5th time, and we generally come close to 99% [sold tickets] on those, so: A favorite.
[Sample of the song "Defying Gravity" from Wicked]
PAISLEY Lastly, one additional March theatrical event is called Isotopes in Motion and involves the neighbor of the Wharton Center, the Facility for Rare Isotopes Beams, or FRIB.
BRAND: The FRIB is actually funding the Isotopes in Motion production which is the Maryland Dance Project, formerly Liz Lerman Dance, who used to have a residency here. And after some of the school performances, there's going to be tours of the FRIB.
Tomorrow on WKAR, we’ll explore the classical music offerings.
Note: The Wharton Center is an underwriter of WKAR.
BROADWAY AT WHARTON CENTER
COME FROM AWAY, September 10-15, 2019
LES MISÉRABLES, November 12-17, 2019
Disney’s ALADDIN, December 4-15, 2019
MY FAIR LADY, February 26- March 1, 2020
WICKED, April 1-19, 2020
DEAR EVAN HANSEN, June 16-21, 2020
THEATRE and ILLUMINATE EVENTS:
Reduced Shakespeare Company: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) [Revised], November 20-21, 2019
Basic Training, January 30 & 31, 2020
Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story, February 12-16, 2020
Of Equal Place: Isotopes in Motion, March 21, 2020
Emerson String Quartet, October 18, 2019
Imani Winds, November 8, 2019
Jonathan Biss Plays Beethoven, January 8 & 10, 2020
Academy of St Martin in the Fields; Joshua Bell, director and violin, February 24, 2020
Pilobolus, October 30, 2019
Parsons Dance • Sensory-Friendly Performance, February 22, 2020
Royal Winnipeg Ballet: The Wizard of Oz, March 25, 2020
Keiko Matsui, October 25, 2019
Kenny Barron Trio & Sean Jones Quartet, January 30, 2020
Storm Large and Michael Feinstein: Shaken and Stirred, October 12, 2019
Black Violin, October 16, 2019
We Shall Overcome: A Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., February 14, 2020
Tao: Drum Heart, March 13, 2020
The Klezmatics, March 26, 2020
Davina & The Vagabonds and Hot Club of Cowtown: The Finest Hour, May 13, 2020
ACT ONE FAMILY EVENTS:
Jungle Book, November 2, 2019
Dino-Light, January 25, 2020
Dog Man: The Musical, March 14, 2020
Dog Man: The Musical • Sensory-Friendly Performance, March 15, 2020
Miss Nelson Has a Field Day, April 25, 2020
Miss Nelson Has a Field Day • Sensory-Friendly Performance, April 26, 2020