Friday, April 25 — The Wharton Center unveiled the remainder of its 2014-’15 slate today. Earlier this month, it dropped the first part of its upcoming schedule, which includes powerhouse shows such as multiple Tony winner “Kinky Boots” and violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman. Today’s announcement included a mix of Broadway hits, symphony performances and a peek behind the curtain of the mother of all TV sitcoms.
“The Phantom of the Opera” makes its fourth tour through town April 1-12, with new elements incorporating cutting edge technology and special effects. “Pippin,” the Tony winner for best musical revival, springboards across the stage Jan. 27-Feb. 1, featuring Cirque de Soleil-style performances incorporated into the story of Charlemagne’s son, who finds himself in an existential quandary.
Ever want to see how an old-school TV sitcom was made? “I Love Lucy — Live on Stage” (Feb. 13-15) is a re-creation of the live-studio-audience taping of two classic episodes of “I Love Lucy,”
“When you come in the audience, it’s like coming into a TV studio,” said Wharton spokesman Bob Hoffman. “The stage manager talks to you, you react to signs and there will be live commercials. It’s hilarious, and uncanny how well they play these characters.” Another audience participation event is The Blue Man Group, which pounds its way into Wharton for five performances Jan. 16-18.
The Worldview Lecture Series features NPR’s Michelle Norris (Sept. 15), whose recent memoir discusses her experiences being an African American woman in the media world. Pulitzer Prize-winning author, actor and teacher Anna Deavere Smith (Nov 10, 2015) will discuss her work, and Susan Cain (March 2) will discuss the power of introverts.
The Doctors Company Variety Series includes a return appearance by David Sedaris (Oct. 26), who’s been through Wharton twice before. This appearance will combine elements of stand-up, stories, interactions with audiences and readings from books,”
“Every time he comes through, audiences love him,” Hoffman said. “He’s insightful, scathing and hilariously funny. Everyone really loves his quirkiness.”
Keeping with the NPR angle, Ira Glass, host of “This American Life,” has conceived a novel show where dancers interpret his readings into creative movement (April 18). Dancing Pros Live (Nov. 15), features two professionals from ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” competing with each live on stage, hosted by Alan Thicke. And ‘70s mime/puppet group Mummenschanz introduces its wordless, otherworldly performance art to 21st century audiences March 25. And Mannheim Steamroller rolls into Wharton as part of its 30th anniversary celebration Dec. 3.
On the jazz side, fiery Cuban trumpeter-composer Arturo Sandoval will hit the great hall with is sizzling big band Nov. 14. A grand assemblage of "New Orleans Jazz Legends" featuring the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Allen Toussaint arrives Oct. 8.
Wharton will host Cécile McLorin Salvant, a young vocal sensation in the vein of gypsy-tinged singer Cyrille Aimee, on April 29. Local jazz lovers will get to sample Salvant's spellbinding vocal style at this June's East Lansing Summer Solstice Jazz Festival.
On the classical side, the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra with Pavel Kogan conducting, will tackle the monumental Fifth Symphony of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich Nov. 9.
The head-banging, hair-flinging electrified cello duo called 2Cellos (Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser) will give the classical folks a bracing dose of intense rock, pop, and pumped-up classical beats Friday, March 27.
Tickets go on sale to Wharton subscribers today, with package deals that offer up to 30 percent off or five of performing arts attractions or Broadway shows. Individual tickets go on sale late in summer. For more information, go to whartoncenter.com.