*This story first appeared in The Budget’s June 6, 2018, Local Edition.
By Beverly Keller
Broadway hits, musical acts from every genre and high-energy performances are just part of the upcoming season that will grace the stage at the Performing Arts Center located on the campus of Kent State University at Tuscarawas thanks to the work of General Manager David Mitchell.
“This season is highlighted by our Broadway Series,” explained Dean and Chief Administrative Officers at Kent State at Tuscarawas, Dr. Brad Bielseki. “With all of our Broadway shows, we’re able to get the same national tours that are going to cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and Detroit. This season, we’re fortunate to have the smash-hit Jersey Boys for two performances in October as well as the family favorite Elf the Musical, Rent and the classic The King & I. This season is just phenomenal. These are shows that you’ve had to travel two hours for in order to see before now.”
The story behind the music involving Frankie Vallie and The Four Seasons is told through Jersey Boys, a Tony Award-winning musical performance that has been described as simply a phenomenon. From the streets of New Jersey to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, this musical features legendary hits like “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like A Man,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” and “December, 1963 (Oh What A Night).”
Based on the beloved 2003 New Line Cinema hit, Elf the Musical is the hilarious tale of Buddy, a young orphan child who mistakenly crawls into Santa’s bag of gifts and is transported back to the North Pole. As an adult, Buddy embarks on a journey to New York City on a quest to find his birth father. Along the way he discovers his true identity and helps New York remember the true meaning of Christmas.
In 1996, an original rock musical by a little-known composer opened on Broadway and paid a little Rent. And, as the story goes, American theatre was changed forever. Rent is the story of one year in the lives of seven artists as they follow their dreams no matter the cost. Its message of joy and hope in the face of fear is a timeless celebration of friendship and creativity. It also reminds the audience that love is all that really matters. The award-winning masterpiece is for mature audiences.
The King and I will transport the audience back in time to 1860s Bangkok. The award-winning Rodgers and Hammerstein work is sure to entertain and keep the audience humming along.
On the musical performance side of things, the season will launch in rock style with the music of Bostyx on September 8. The band features David Victor, former lead singer of Boston. The group will be sure to bring the 80s back to life with their covers of songs like “Amanda” and “More Than A Feeling” as well as “Come Sail Away” to name a few.
The acapella stylings of Backtrack will be featured October 20. This five-person band who calls New York City their home base belts out tunes from classical to electronic with ease. Country great Lorrie Morgan will grace the stage on November 3. She has been entertaining audiences for the past 20 years and has hits like “Watch Me” and “What Part of No” to her list of credits. Michael W. Smith will make his way to New Philadelphia on December 21, just in time for an early Christmas present.
Other headliners of the season include Diamond Rio, We Banjo 3 and Arrival, who is known for their ABBA-style shows that keep the fans dancing in the aisles.
Mitchell noted that one of the best parts of his job while connecting with these acts around the country is finding those who are willing to share with local students. “This season we’ve been able to coordinate with three different artists to spend extra time in the area and have a real impact: Backtrack; Composer and piano player Jason Farnham; and Collision of Rhythm.”
In addition to music, there will be laughter this season at the PAC as several comedians have been signed. “The entertainment business is an interesting thing,” Mitchell shared. “You never know when an artist is going to explode in the public consciousness. One such artist is comedian and online sensation Heather Land. Within the past eight months, she’s garnered over 2.5 million Facebook followers and her online videos have received over 300 million views. We’ve been lucky to get on her fall tour schedule.”
Blue collar comedians Jon Reep “Hemi Guy” and Etta May “Minnie Pearl with a Migraine” are also on the list.
Shows for the whole family like Christmas Wonderland, Peg and Cat LIVE! and Circque Eloize Saloon: A Musical Acrobatic Adventure are sure to give parents and kids a day out to remember.
Back again is the “Come Hear” series, one that is near and dear to Mitchell. “I’ m thrilled to continue our Come Hear Series for another year,” Mitchell said. “Designed to introduce our audiences to new artists they otherwise might not get a chance to experience, we received great feedback from everyone who came to a show last season.”
Artists scheduled include The Vindys, The Suitcase Junket and Adelee & Gentry.
The popular Cabaret Series also returns and features performances by Moustache Yourself, Blue Drivers, Hey Mavis and the Michael Shirtz Quartet. The cabaret tickets are $49 and include dinner. Work is being done to coordinate the menus to the genre of music to give the evening an all-inclusive feel with a theme.
Back again this year as a sponsor for the entire season is Michael Taylor Insurance and Financial. This marks their fourth year as this centerpiece for the Performing Arts Center at Kent State at Tuscarawas. In addition, the Tuscarawas County Community Foundation has increased its sponsorship of the PAC along with a host of local small business. “These partnerships enable us to keep our PAC ticket prices affordable and accessible to those who want to attend our shows,” Bielski explained.
The PAC is also the home of the Tuscarawas Philharmonic. While the season officially kicks off at Tuscora Park with a free show on September 2 known as Pops in the Park, they will open their season inside on October 13 with a Classical Mystery Tour. It will feature the music of the Beatles with hits like “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club” and other hits from the British invasion. The group will bring back the sound of Franc
D’ Ambrosio’s Christmas in New York on December 15. Suites for the Sweet will highlight the performance set for February 9. Horns a Plenty is the theme for the April 6 show. Based on the idea of trains, Symphony Express is the theme for the June 1 show.
A complete list of performances and ticket prices are online at www.kent.edu/tusc/pac. Pre-sale packages, six shows or more, can be purchased through June 10. Single show ticket sales begin June 11. Tickets can be purchased in person at the Performing Arts Center box office by calling 330-308-6400 or online at www.kent.edu/tusc/pac. The box office is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Free and convenient parking is available for all shows. The Performing Arts Center at Kent State Tuscarawas is located at 330 University Drive NE, in New Philadelphia.
Volunteers are a big part of what makes the Performing Arts Center operate and there is always a need. “Without the help of our volunteers, we couldn’t keep our prices as low as they are or offer the kind of entertainment that we do,” Mitchell shared. “We always need volunteers.”
Volunteer ushers work with patrons to help them find their seats and answer questions. Volunteers must be at least 18 years of age and no longer a high school student. They must have good customer service skills and be willing to work independently and as a part of a team when needed. They also must be able to climb stairs and stand for long periods of time. Orientation sessions are scheduled twice a year, normally in the fall for areas such as usher, greeter, ticket taker, coat check and others as needed. To get the process started, go to: https://bit.ly/2xFMqfl and fill in the form.