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Thursday, June 18, 2015 12:11 am

Something for everyone

New season at Sangamon Auditorium covers the waterfront

The holiday-themed Elf: The Musical hits the stage Nov. 6.


The 2015-2016 season for Sangamon Auditorium, UIS has been announced, and at the risk of an internal contradiction, the shows, beginning in September, are typically eclectic. Auditorium director Robert Vaughn has built a roster that manages to address the very young, the very old and all points in between, spanning classical music, history, jazz, Broadway, reggae, tap-dancing and video games – and even some of these simultaneously.

Let’s start with those video games. Chamber musicians Fifth House Ensemble will return on April 16, 2016, to perform a special arrangement of composer Austin Wintory’s Grammy-winning score for the videogame “Journey.” According to Vaughn, Fifth House members “will set up, and audience members will play the video game. Then the musicians will react to the video game in real time while performing the score.”

As a follow-up to last season’s popular Blues Reunion event, famed drummer and recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Sam Lay will perform with Chamber Blues on Sept. 25 as part of the auditorium’s Kitchen Sink series. Best known as the original drummer for Paul Butterfield, Lay has also played with other blues and R&B giants such as Howlin’ Wolf and Little Walter. The day before there will be a screening of the documentary Sam Lay in Bluesland, directed by John Anderson, followed by a question and answer session with the musician and the filmmaker.

The Lakota Sioux Dance Theatre will perform its family-friendly show on Oct. 9.
“I’ve been looking, over the years for a quality opera touring project,” says Vaughn somewhat ruefully, “and it’s just become too expensive to tour opera anymore.” This state of affairs has led to the popular live streaming performances of the Metropolitan Opera which screen regularly at AMC movie theaters throughout the country. Vaughn has found an exciting compromise via a deal with the Met to present the Rising Star Concert Series (Sept. 19), a touring revue which will present several up-and-coming examples of world-class operatic talent playing the auditorium with simple piano accompaniment. “This way we have the opportunity to hear those glorious voices,” says Vaughn.

Jose Porcel returns from Spain on Oct. 4 to retake the main stage and present “Flamenco Fire,” featuring what a press release describes as “seductive choreography, vibrant costumes and passionately expressive music…with gypsy, Jewish, Arabic and Indian influences.”

The Lakota Sioux Dance Theatre will perform its family-friendly show entitled “Come to the Center,” on Oct. 9 described as communicating “the powerful resonance of dance in Plains Indian Society, as well as the importance of songs as living history and oral tradition.” In addition to the performance, the program will include pre-concert activities in the lobby for families to participate in.  

Fans of magic and illusion won’t want to miss The Illusionists on Oct. 13, a show Vaughn describes as “just a phenomenal thing, a big, beautiful show on the scale of Broadway productions.” Speaking of Broadway, along with The Illusionists, Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway (Oct. 20) and the holiday-themed Elf: The Musical (Nov. 6) represent three hit titles from the Great White Way which have never played the Springfield-area market before.

Fans of magic and illusion won’t want to miss The Illusionists on Oct. 13.


There are four additional Broadway shows stopping at the auditorium in 2016: family favorites Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (May 17) and Annie (Feb. 13) alongside the perennially fun and popular 42nd Street (March 4) and the somewhat heavier E.L. Doctorow adaptation, Ragtime: The Musical (May 3).

The other family-oriented shows this season are the Cat in the Hat musical (Oct. 23), based on the beloved-by-all-generations Dr. Seuss book and the reggae-flavored Three Little Birds (Feb. 15) based on the late Bob Marley’s song of the same name created by the Marley family.

The holiday season will see the return of the perennially popular Mannheim Steamroller Christmas (Nov. 12) as well as a performance by O Sole Trio (Dec. 5) which did a well-received salute to Italian music last season. “You’ve basically got opera-trained voices and Royal Conservatory musicians doing this holiday music, which will be just glorious,” says Vaughn.

The holiday season will see the return of the perennially popular Mannheim Steamroller Christmas on Nov. 12.


On the more folksy front, well-known, idiosyncratic singer-songwriter Greg Brown will perform Jan. 22; Celtic music standard bearers The Chieftains return March 1; and NPR-anointed “Empress of the Unexpected” Susan Werner will bring her quirky, genre-bending songs to the auditorium stage on June 25 (that’s 2016).  Other less easily categorized concerts on the roster are Chris Mann (of NBC’s “The Voice”) on March 11, British Regiments Featuring the Band of the Royal Marines and the Pipes, Drums and Highland Dancers of the Scots Guards on Feb. 11 and Cameron Carpenter featuring the International Touring Organ (April 8).

A pair of utterly unique musical acts help to round out the upcoming season. Time for Three (May 7) is described as “category shattering” in its blending of classical, country and western, gypsy and jazz” styles, while Feb. 21 will bring unprecedented star power and artistry when tap dance virtuoso Savion Glover teams with legendary jazz percussionist Jack DeJohnette (once the drummer for Miles Davis) for an evening of dance and live jazz that promises to be an experience to savor.

Not really fitting into any easy category, Victoria (Jan. 29) is a poignant, two-person multimedia piece by Quebecois artist Dulcinea Langfelder. As described by Vaughn, it’s about “preserving the joy and quality of life, toward the end of life, in the face of various dementia-related situations – and it’s just a gorgeous piece.”

Contact Scott Faingold sfaingold@illinoistimes.com.

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