Arts and Entertainment

Center for the Performing Arts announces 2016–17 season schedule

Public ticket sales to begin July 11

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State has announced its 2016–17 season lineup, which includes touring Broadway favorites, hit children’s programs, forward-thinking dance, contemporary circus, evenings of a cappella and musical tributes to history. This year also marks the sixth season of the center’s Classical Music Project.

In addition to its 27 presentations, the center also is promoting two Penn State School of Music featured performances.

Tickets for the Center for the Performing Arts presentations — plus the School of Music’s “Mosaic” concert and Penn State Opera Theatre’s production of George Frideric Handel’s “Alcina” — go on sale at 8 a.m. Monday, July 11, to the public. Tickets are already on sale to Center for the Performing Arts Members, Choice buyers (anyone purchasing four or more events in one transaction at a 10-percent discount) and groups of 10 or more (at a 15-percent discount).

Visit the Center for the Performing Arts for complete details about the events.

“I’m excited about the incredible range of amazing performances we’re bringing in 2016–17,” said George Trudeau, the center’s director. “The season will offer something for everyone to enjoy — both returning favorites and the opportunity to make new discoveries. Join us!”

Broadway and contemporary theater

The touring Broadway season at the Center for the Performing Arts commences with “42nd Street” on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. The classic musical comedy, based on a novel by Bradford Ropes and Busby Berkeley’s 1933 film of the same name, follows ambitious Peggy Sawyer, who leaves her small Pennsylvania town in search of fame in the Big Apple and becomes an unwitting Broadway star. The production features choreography by Randy Skinner, music by Harry Warren and lyrics by Al Dubin — the team behind the 2001 Tony Award-winning best musical revival production. The book is by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, who also directs the production filled from start to finish with some of Broadway’s most memorable hits, including “We’re in the Money,” “I Only Have Eyes for You” and “Lullaby of Broadway.”

Audiences will have one night to see “Once,” winner of eight 2012 Tony Awards, including best musical, on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017. The musical stage adaptation is based on the 2007 film. Lyrics and music, including the film’s Academy Award-winning song “Falling Slowly,” are by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová. The production’s cast also performs the music in a story that follows a Dublin busker who forms a creative and emotional bond with a supportive young woman who convinces him to stay true to his dream. “‘Once’ uses song and dance in a way I’ve never experienced in an American musical,” wrote a New York Times reviewer.

En Garde Arts, the company behind the 2014–15 season’s “Basetrack Live,” returns to the center’s lineup with the documentary-style theater production “Wilderness” on Wednesday, March 15, 2017. The multimedia piece reveals the struggles of teens and 20-somethings in their fight against addiction and depression and their parents’ perspectives on their offspring’s therapy. Alternative folk composer Kyle Henderson, front man for the band Desert Noises, provides the score. The performance will be followed by a discussion with mental health professionals and wilderness therapy experts.

“Pippin,” the 2013 Tony Award-winning musical, including for best musical revival, will work its magic on Tuesday, March 21, 2017. The production, featuring Bob Fosse-style choreography and breathtaking acrobatics by Les 7 Doigts de la Main, is directed by Diane Paulus (“Hair” and “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess”). The modern-day story is based loosely on historical figures Pippin and his father Charlemagne and deals with the issues of a young man coming of age and his rites of passage and lack of role models. “Pippin” brought many Broadway standards to the musical lexicon, including “Corner of the Sky,” “Magic to Do,” “No Time at All” and “Love Song.”

“Rent,” the Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning production, is as relevant today as it was when it was introduced to audiences in the 1990s. The musical will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a performance on Thursday, April 6, 2017. Jonathan Larson’s dramatic rock musical, based on Giacomo Puccini’s “La Bohème,” follows the lives of seven artists trying to get by without selling out.

The little orphan that could has a new look and feel, but the hits stay the same. “Annie,” featuring the songs “It’s a Hard Knock Life,” “Easy Street” and “Tomorrow,” will bring its sense of eternal optimism to the stage on Tuesday, April 18, 2017. Directed by original lyricist and director Martin Charnin and choreographed by Liza Gennaro (daughter of the original production’s choreographer), this version of “Annie” harkens back to the original 1977 Broadway production, leapin’ lizards and all.

Classical music

Members of last year’s season-opening ensemble Catalyst Quartet return as part of the 18-member Sphinx Virtuosi, which features musicians and alumni of the renowned Sphinx Organization’s annual soloist competition. The Detroit-based organization’s program encourages and develops talent among young black and Latino classical musicians. The ensemble’s 2016 program — “Latin Voyages: Viajes Latinos” — will feature works by Alberto Williams, Javier Álvarez, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Cesar Espejo, Osvaldo Golijov, Alberto Ginastera and Astor Piazzolla in a musical tour of Latin American heritage. “After witnessing their talents, their artistic innovations and their commitment to their craft, I can see that the future of classical music is in good hands,” wrote a Chicago Critic reviewer.

Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra — under the direction of Music and Artistic Director Jacek Kaspszyk since 2013 — returns to Penn State on Friday, Oct. 28, as part of its U.S. tour. The orchestra was founded in 1901 and ceased performances only during World War II, when it lost half of its members to the fighting. In the past, it played host to various composers — including Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Maurice Ravel — but more recently recorded music for several anime series and video game soundtracks. Soloist Seong-Jin Cho, who made history as the first South Korean winner of the International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw in 2015, makes his U.S. touring debut with this orchestra. He will join the orchestra in performances of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37; Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s “Polish Melodies” Op. 47, No. 2; and Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68.

On Monday, Jan. 23 2017, three renowned chamber musicians — pianist Inon Barnatan, clarinetist Anthony McGill and cellist Alicia Weilerstein — will perform together for a program including Beethoven’s Trio in B-flat Major, Op. 11, and Brahms’ Trio in A minor, Op. 114, plus a piece by Philadelphia composer Joseph Hallman, co-commissioned by the Center for the Performing Arts through its membership with Music Accord.

Barnatan, an Israeli native, is the New York Philharmonic’s first artist in association resident and is a former member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. McGill, principal clarinetist of the New York Philharmonic and former principal of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, has performed with various classical quartets (Brentano, Guarneri, Shanghai and Tokyo). He has collaborated with various chamber music notables (Emanuel Ax, Midori and Lang Lang) and performed at President Obama’s first inauguration with Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma. Weilerstein received a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant in 2011 and was the first cellist to sign a recording contract with Decca Classics. She and Barnatan often perform together and in 2015 released a recording of cello sonatas by Sergei Rachmaninov and Frederic Chopin.

One of today’s classical music super groups — a trio featuring pianist Wu Han, violinist Philip Setzer and cellist David Finckel — will perform at Penn State three of Beethoven’s trios: E-flat Major, Op. 1; C minor, Op. 1, No. 3; and D Major, Op. 70, No. 1. The trio “gave their sold-out audience an exuberant, eddying account. … Grabbing listeners, as it were, by the throats,” wrote a critic for San Jose, California’s Mercury News.

Han, co-artistic director of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, frequently performs with Finckel. Both were named Musical America’s 2012 Musicians of the Year for their longtime collaborations. The two also are the founders of Music@Menlo chamber music festival, lead the LG Chamber Music School and launched ArtistLed, the internet’s first classical music recording company. Finckel is a former member of Emerson String Quartet and teaches cello at Juilliard School and Stony Brook University. Setzer is a founding member of Emerson String Quartet and has performed with major orchestras throughout the United States.

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra makes its third appearance at Penn State on Thursday, March 2, 2017, this time with “J. S. Bach: The Circle of Creation.” The Royal Gazette called the ensemble a “time machine,” “sweeping the audience out of its seats and back to that magic period between 1650 and 1750.” The award-winning ensemble will perform orchestra double bassist Alison Mackay’s most recent piece, which explores the world of the artisans who assisted Bach in realizing his genius and potential in a program that picks up where 2013’s tour of “House of Dreams” left off. The kicker? Tafelmusik will perform the all-Bach program from memory.

A cappella and vocal

Straight No Chaser, a 10-member a cappella ensemble formed at Indiana University in 1996, found fame after its video of “The 12 Days of Christmas” went viral, which resulted in a five-album record deal with Atlantic Records. The singers will bring their “I’ll Have Another … 20th Anniversary World Tour” to Penn State on Friday, Nov. 11. The group’s repertoire includes vocal versions of hits by Radiohead, Bob Dylan and The Weeknd, as well as medleys of songs by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons/OneRepublic and Willie Nelson/Zac Brown Band.

Roomful of Teeth has won Grammy Awards for its boundary-pushing expansion of the vocal vocabulary. The eight singers have studied Tuvan and Inuit throat singing, yodeling, belting, Georgian singing, Persian classical singing and more in its mission to bring various techniques to the masses. Ensemble member Caroline Shaw received the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for “Partita for 8 Voices,” one of the works to be performed at the Tuesday, Nov. 17, performance. “I overheard a young woman enthusiastically describe the group as ‘like a glee club, but cool in a really nerdy way,’” wrote a New York Times reviewer.


Pilobolus’ “Shadowland,” the dance troupe’s globe-trotting theatrical event, will bring light to the stage on Tuesday, Oct. 18. The performance, created by Pilobolus dancers and “SpongeBob SquarePants” lead writer Steven Banks, marks the company’s first visit to Penn State in four years. The surreal story of a young girl’s coming of age incorporates multiple screens, strategic lighting and front-of-screen choreography to create a one-of-a-kind movement event, set to a score by film/TV composer and touring musician David Poe (“Nashville,” “The O.C.” and “Harvest”).

Balé Folclórico brings its eighth North American tour, “Bahia of all Colors,” to Penn State on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017. Brazil’s only professional folk dance company’s group of 26 dancers and musicians present a sensual and athletic display of energetic and authentic dance and musical styles of the Portuguese, African and Brazilian traditions, including maculelê, capoeira, samba, reggae and more.

Jessica Lang Dance will make its Penn State debut on Wednesday, April 12, 2017, with three choreographed works. Lang, a graduate of The Juilliard School, is a former dancer with Twyla Tharpe’s company Tharpe! She formed her namesake company in 2011 after she was awarded a 2010 Joyce Theater Artist Residency. A Los Angeles Times critic called Lang “a ballet illusionist, a more serious and intellectual cousin of the hallucinatory dance company Momix.” The company will perform “Thousand Yard Stare,” a piece employing Beethoven’s string quartets to honor wounded veterans and those affected by war; “Tesseracts of Time,” which features a set by renowned architect Steven Holl and which debuted in 2015 to acclaim; and another piece to be named.

Jazz and big band

Pianist Ramsey Lewis and guitarist-vocalist-songwriter John Pizzarelli will honor the famed American bandleader and baritone with “Straighten Up and Fly Right: The Nat King Cole Tribute” on Thursday, Oct. 13. The 1950s vocal pop-centric program will feature Cole’s hits, including “Route 66,” “Smile,” “Hit That Jive Jack” and “Unforgettable.” “Pizzarelli remains a master of Nat King Cole cool,” wrote a Seattle Times reviewer, and the BBC said of the veteran jazz pianist, “It’s a mark of how much Lewis understands what people want from a piece of music that he remains one of jazz’s most broadly popular figures.”

Jazz trumpeter, vocalist and composer Bria Skonberg, fronting her quintet, will make her Penn State debut on Wednesday, Nov. 30. Skonberg, a native of British Columbia, now calls New York City home. She has headlined at various notable jazz clubs, including Symphony Space, Birdland, The Iridium, Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola and Café Carlyle. She started her career at age 16 as a professional big-band vocalist and has since toured the world as guest bandleader and musician.

Her debut album, “So is the Day,” reached the Jazz Radio Charts’ top 10, and at the 2014 Hot House Jazz Awards, she took home every award she was nominated for — best jazz artist, best trumpet, best female vocalist and best group. Skonberg has also performed with some of jazz’s big names, including clarinetist Anat Cohen, Grammy-winning trumpeter Nicholas Payton and guitarist-banjoist John Paul “Bucky” Pizzarelli. “Bria radiates an energy that is so refreshing to see, and her compositional chops are on par with her ability to swing,” Bucky Pizzarelli said.

NPR’s “Studio 360” host David Krasnow called “Brooklyn Babylon,” by jazz big band Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, “a masterpiece” and “a new work of originality, power and beauty.” The 18-piece ensemble released two Grammy-nominated albums, and its work has been recognized in best-of-year lists by The New York Times, NPR, The Wall Street Journal, Paste and more. “Brooklyn Babylon,” released in 2013, is based on a multimedia performance co-created by visual artist Danijel Zezelj, and the production will feature his works created live on stage. The presentation, an urban fairy tale about a carpenter’s conflict between building a carousel atop a skyscraper and his commitment to his community, will be staged on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017.

Fred Hersch, with his trio and special guest clarinetist-saxophonist Anat Cohen, will make his Penn State debut on Tuesday, March 28, 2017. Hersch, who Downbeat called “one of the small handful of brilliant musicians of his generation” and “the most arrestingly innovative pianist in jazz over the last decade” by Vanity Fair, was awarded a 2016 Doris Duke Charitable Foundation grant. His works have consistently been nominated for Grammy Awards, and he’s collaborated with jazz vocalists and musicians of all genres, including Audra McDonald, Renée Fleming, Dawn Upshaw and Joshua Bell. Cohen was named the Jazz Journalists Association Clarinetist for eight years in a row and will make her third appearance at Penn State with this performance.

Musical folklore

Pennsylvania native, composer and Bang on a Can All-Stars co-founder Julia Wolfe returns to the Center for the Performing Arts with her Pulitzer Prize-winning work “Anthracite Fields.” Bang on a Can All-Stars, which performed Wolfe’s piece “Steel Hammer” at Penn State in 2009, follows the life of a coal miner, from his long, dark days underground to union protests, weddings and more in a moving musical story exposing the sadness of the hard life of a blue-collar American laborer. “The music compels without overstatement. This is a major, profound work,” wrote a Los Angeles Times critic. The Thursday, March 30, 2017, performance features an oratorio for chorus, which will be sung by the Penn State Concert Choir under the direction of Christopher Kiver.

Children’s programming

Agents Olive and Otto invite the audience to unlock its collective brainpower to help the team solve mysteries with “Odd Squad Live!” on Tuesday, Oct. 25. Audience members will interact with the agents in real time via live and digital participation and will use science and math skills to help find answers to strange phenomena. The show is based on the PBS Kids series and is described as “‘Men in Black’ for kids, mixed with some ‘Airplane!’ and sprinkled with elements of ‘Get Smart.’”

The legacy of Mister Rogers lives on in “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.” In “Live!” Daniel and his pals take the audience on an interactive musical adventure to explore the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, to share stories of friendship, and to learn about helping others and enjoying new experiences. The Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017, performance is filled with singing, dancing, laughter and surprises.

On Sunday, March 19, 2017, time will fly with “A Year with Frog and Toad,” the hit Broadway musical based on popular children’s author Arnold Lobel’s book series. The Tony Award-nominated show follows two friends — happy-go-lucky Frog and worrywart Toad — in their misadventures in friendship, gardening, eating cookies and sled-riding. The musical features a jazzy toe-tapping score with clever lyrics and is developed by Lobel’s daughter and scenic designer, Adrianne.

Contemporary circus

Cirque Éloize (the Montreal-based company that brought audiences “Cirkopolis,” “iD” and “Rain”) travels mythically westward with its new show “Saloon, A Musical Acrobatic Adventure” on Wednesday, Sept. 21. The production, co-commissioned by the Center for the Performing Arts, tells the tall tales of an adventurous pianist and his capers involving captivating characters inhabiting the Wild West. A band of folk musicians perform live music while acrobatic gamblers, the lawful and lawless, gold diggers and barroom showgirls bring this family-friendly “Saloon” to life.

Australia’s Circus Oz makes its Penn State debut with “Straight Up” on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017. The company’s “punk, undeniably in your face, refreshingly progressive and unapologetically off-color” (San Francisco Chronicle) team of aerialists, acrobats, jugglers and musicians show audiences of all ages how easy it is for the human body to defy physics.

World music

The eclectic instrumentation of DakhaBrakha mixes traditional sounds of Ukraine with punk-pop, organic trance and call-and-response harmonies in the group’s Tuesday, April 4, 2017, concert. The self-described “ethno-chaos” world-punk quartet made its way to the United States via an invitation from GlobalFest in 2014. Rolling Stone listed the experimental group as one of the best acts to perform at that year’s Bonnaroo music festival and said the artists’ set “turned the tent into a happy menagerie.” The group, founded by theater and cabaret performers, has performed a Tiny Desk Concert for NPR and at summer music festivals throughout the world.

Classical Music Project

Performances by Sphinx Virtuosi, Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, Roomful of Teeth, Barnatan-McGill-Weilerstein, Han-Setzer-Finckel, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Bang on a Can All-Stars are part of the sixth season of the Center for the Performing Arts Classical Music Project. The initiative, funded through 2017 by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, aims to raise awareness of classical music programming via university and community concerts and engagement events.

To learn more about each of the presentations, call 814-863-0255 or visit Events.

Find the Center for the Performing Arts on Facebook, on Twitter and Instagram.

A list of Center for the Performing Arts 2016–2017 presentations follows:

Cirque Éloize“Saloon, A Musical Acrobatic Adventure”7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21Eisenhower Auditorium

Sphinx Virtuosi“Latin Voyages: Viajes Latinos”7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29Schwab Auditorium

“Straighten Up and Fly Right: The Nat King Cole Tribute”featuring Ramsey Lewis and John Pizzarelli7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13Eisenhower Auditorium                                                                                        

Pilobolus“Shadowland”7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18Eisenhower Auditorium

“Odd Squad Live!”7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 25Eisenhower Auditorium

Warsaw Philharmonic OrchestraJacek Kaspszyk, music and artistic directorSeong-Jin Cho, pianist7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28Eisenhower Auditorium

Straight No Chaser“I’ll Have Another … 20th Anniversary World Tour”7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11Eisenhower Auditorium

Roomful of Teeth7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17Schwab Auditorium

Bria Skonberg Quintet7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 30Schwab Auditorium

“Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Live!”2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017Eisenhower Auditorium

“42nd Street”7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017Eisenhower Auditorium

Inon Barnatan, pianoAnthony McGill, clarinetAlisa Weilerstein, cello7:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 23, 2017Schwab Auditorium

“Once”7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017Eisenhower Auditorium

Circus Oz“Straight Up”7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017Eisenhower Auditorium

Balé Folclórico da Bahia“Bahia of All Colors”7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017Eisenhower Auditorium

Wu Han, pianoPhilip Setzer, violinDavid Finckel, cello7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017Schwab Auditorium

“Brooklyn Babylon”Created by Darcy James Argue and Danijel Zezelj7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017Eisenhower Auditorium

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra“J.S. Bach: The Circle of Creation”7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 2, 2017Schwab Auditorium

En Garde Arts presents “Wilderness”7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 15, 2017Eisenhower Auditorium

“A Year with Frog and Toad”Music by Robert RealeBook and lyrics by Willie RealeBased on the books by Arnold Lobel2 p.m. Sunday, March 19, 2017Eisenhower Auditorium

“Pippin”7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 21, 2017Eisenhower Auditorium

Fred Hersch Trio with Special Guest Anat Cohen7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 28, 2017Schwab Auditorium

Julia Wolfe’s “Anthracite Fields”Bang on a Can All-Starswith Penn State Concert ChoirChristopher Kiver, conductor7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 30, 2017Eisenhower Auditorium

DakhaBrakha7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 4, 2017Schwab Auditorium

“Rent”7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 6, 2017Eisenhower Auditorium

Jessica Lang Dance7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 12, 2017Eisenhower Auditorium

“Annie”7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 18, 2017Eisenhower Auditorium

Penn State School of Music featured concerts:“Mosaic”4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4Eisenhower Auditorium

George Frideric Handel’s “Alcina”Penn State Opera Theatre7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 25, 20172 p.m. Sunday, March 26, 2017Esber Recital Hall

Last Updated June 30, 2016