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Thursday, May 30, 2013 11:45 am

Sangamon Auditorium expands its borders

An eclectic 2013-14 season is waiting in the wings

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Jersey Boys plays seven performances here in March.

Sangamon Auditorium’s upcoming season, starting in September, is a heady mix of surefire crowd-pleasers and boundary pushing one-offs, finding Broadway touring companies rubbing shoulders with classic rockers, country and folk virtuosos, jazz musicians, world music extravaganzas, operetta ensembles, family entertainers and the occasional uncategorizable act.

The season’s theatrical musicals run the gamut from the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players’ H.M.S. Pinafore (March 23) to the Jan. 22 production of Hello, Dolly! (with Sally Struthers of All in the Family and Gilmore Girls fame in the title role) to the current hit version of The Addams Family (May 7), catering to both syndicated TV and ’90s movie nostalgia. In contrast, Memphis (Oct. 29) “addresses social injustice, prejudice, cuts pretty close to the bone on some of those issues,” according to Auditorium Director Robert Vaughan.

One recurring theme this season is rock and roll. Million Dollar Quartet (March 25) recreates the historic Sun Records session that brought together Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash, while the phenomenally popular Four Seasons biography/jukebox musical Jersey Boys will stop for a full seven performances March 4-8. Jefferson Airplane/Starship mainstay Marty Balin will perform Sept. 21 and classic rock juggernaut Foreigner will cover the full spectrum between “Hot Blooded” and “Cold as Ice” on Nov. 15 with a concert and VIP reception.  At 8 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 31, 2014, innovative pianist and NPR From the Top host Christopher O’Riley’s Out of My Hands program splits the difference between the classical canon and interpretations of songs by alternative rock artists like Nirvana, The Smiths and Tears for Fears.

Americana singer-songwriter Iris Dement appears Oct. 18.
Other concerts include the traditional country sound of Americana standard bearer Iris DeMent (Oct. 18) and the varied Masters of the Fiddle featuring Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy. Jazz fans will be happy to note the March 21 concert by Cyrille Aimée, winner of the 2012 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, as well as the San Francisco Jazz Collective, who perform on March 30. Australia’s Ten Tenors will return to the auditorium with a set of Broadway standards on Feb. 8 and Peter Nero presents his Gershwin Project on April 11. Stride pianist Judy Carmichael, who has performed with such luminaries as Rod Stewart, Robert Redford and President Bill Clinton, will take the stage on Dec. 6. The Perennial favorite Mannheim Steamroller Christmas concert will return on Dec. 16

“There is a curatorial obligation to get certain things out here,” says Robert Vaughn. “A lot of people in the area would not have access to many of these things otherwise.” Fulfilling this obligation, a certain balance is struck each season between established acts and lesser known but edifying performers. This season, the popular, mysterious and flamboyant Blue Man Group will stop for a two-night stand Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, while April 27 brings the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. International fare is represented by the Oct. 25 appearance by the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble, which Vaughn describes as consisting of a “company of 70 people, just an enormous production with glorious costumes” and the highly percussive spectacle of TAO: Phoenix Rising from Japan (March 13 and 14).

As always, this season also brings a variety of family-oriented programming, including Michael Cooper’s spooky but fun Masked Marvels & Wondertales on Nov. 10, Junie B. Jones  on Jan. 24 and Five Little Monkeys and We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, both in April.

“There are literally thousands of people involved in putting these shows onstage,” says Vaughn. “From the time I first go out and talk to booking agents, then to the advisory board, to people in the community, to marketing folks, ticketing, technical crew, the staffs of the shows, the volunteer ushers. . . ,” he pauses. “That’s a lot of people!”

Scott Faingold blogs about the arts as “Faingold at Large” at illinoistimes.com. He can be reached via sfaingold@illinoistimes.com.

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