The Fox Cities Performing Art Center’s 2017-18 season is a whirl of world-class, powerful performances that will both challenge and hearten the human spirit. From Broadway and ballet to improv and an all-immersive art experience, the 2017-18 lineup has a show for everyone.
It’s hard to believe it has been 15 years since the Fox Cities PAC’s first season. A lot of performers, productions, sets, sounds and story lines have rolled through Appleton and yet the thrill of a season announcement never disappoints.
“What excites me about this new season is the diversity of the arts offerings and all of the really incredible engagement activities that we are building to help strengthen connections between different segments of our community,” says Maria Van Laanen, president of the Fox Cities PAC, who joined the organization in 2001 before the facility opened its doors for its very first season. “We have an opportunity to make a life-changing impact.”
The 15th anniversary season features a lineup of 10 titles as part of the Boldt Arts Alive! Series, 4 titles in the Spotlight Series, and 8 Broadway titles in the Kimberly-Clark Broadway Across America – Fox Cities Series, which will bring some of the world’s most sensational and beloved productions to the Appleton stage. There is a show for everyone with productions like Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Waitress, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I, An American in Paris, and School of Rock.
The conversation we’re looking to explore throughout the season is how powerful an experience can be when it’s shared through generations. We have so much to learn from each other if we just take the time to listen and be influenced by the lessons learned in the past. – Maria Van Laanen, President, Fox Cities PAC
“When you’re able to share a classic like The King and I and see how Anna and the King of Siam handled their cultural differences, and how the King started to relate to his younger generation, I think that inspires us to look at our own family and communities, as well,” Van Laanen adds.
Revered by the New York Times as the “defining musical of the decade,” Wicked returns to the PAC for the fourth time. RENT will visit for the third time with its 20th anniversary tour, and Les Misérables, the world’s longest running musical, will be back for the second time.
“We’re on the front end of the national tour of some brand new musicals – Waitress, An American in Paris, and School of Rock,” Van Laanen notes. “Waitress has an original score by Sara Bareilles. It’s the first time she wrote for musical theater and she hit it out of the park. It’s also an all-female creative team and that’s the first time that has happened on Broadway! It’s great to see female directors, composers and playwrights getting more attention in musical theater.”
Andrew Lloyd Webber is behind School of Rock, which features 14 new songs plus the original songs from the movie, and musical theater’s first-ever kids rock band playing their instruments live on stage.
“When you think of Andrew Lloyd Webber, you usually think of Phantom of the Opera and these lavish productions,” Van Laanen says. “But with School of Rock, he got to relive his youth when he wrote Jesus Christ Superstar. He was excited about the challenge to write the score and bring the movie to the musical theater stage.”
The 2017-18 Kimberly-Clark
Broadway Across America-Fox Cities
August 30 – September 10, 2017
Pittsburg CLO & KC Starlight
Disney’s The Little Mermaid
October 31 – November 5, 2017
November 28 – December 3, 2017
The Lincoln Center Theater Production
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I
January 23-28, 2018
An American in Paris
February 20-25, 2018
March 20-25, 2018
School of Rock
April 24-29, 2018
20th Anniversary Tour
May 11-13, 2018
Van Laanen (who is a Tony voter) has the opportunity to see new shows as they open, something she says speaks to the Fox Cities as a national tour stop. “As soon as I see a show I’m in love with, I call up the producer to say ‘Congratulations, I love the show – don’t forget about Appleton!’”
The Boldt’s Arts Alive! Series will bring 10 cultural, courageous performances, such as Take Me to the River: Memphis Soul and Rhythm & Blues Revue – a moving, live concert journey through the soul of American music with artists celebrating the inter-generational and inter-racial musical influence of Memphis in the face of pervasive discrimination and segregation.
“These types of performances will allow us to continue having community conversations centered on this idea of what it feels like to be in the underrepresented segment of our population,” Van Laanen explains. “The subject matter in these productions have the power to help us work on passionate inclusiveness and connect us to what’s happening here in our community.”
The American modern dance company, DIAVOLO, will also return to the PAC for a two-part interpretation of what it’s like to lose and reshape ourselves as we traverse through our daily lives and work.
For the holiday season, the Makaroff Youth Ballet, Fox Valley Orchestra Symphony and Appleton Boychoir will come together for a performance of The Nutcracker.
“When I look at the level of quality of The Nutcracker, I’m hard pressed to find a production that is more beautiful than the one produced here in the Fox Cities,” Van Laanen says. “That’s such a point of pride! The fact that we can join forces with other nonprofits in our community to provide experiences to their constituencies makes their nonprofit that much stronger and meaningful, and keeps their members more connected to that organization.”
The 2017-18 Boldt Arts Alive! Series includes:
Steep Canyon Rangers
October 9, 2017
14th Annual Fox Cities Choral Music Festival
October 17, 2017
DIAVOLO 25th Anniversary Tour: L.O.S.T.
October 20, 2017
Take Me to the River: Memphis Soul and Rhythm & Blues Revue
starring Charlie Musselwhite, Bobby Rush, William Bell, Frayser Boy, Al Kapone, The Hi Rhythm Section
and the Stax Academy Alumni Band
November 8, 2017
Mannheim Steamroller Christmas
by Chip Davis
November 26, 2017
Makaroff Youth Ballet’s
featuring the Appleton Boychoir and the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra
December 16-17, 2017
Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy:
Visions from Cape Breton and Beyond
February 6, 2018
Montana Repertory Theatre’s
On Golden Pond
by Ernest Thompson
February 16, 2018
with the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra
May 2, 2018
June 9, 2018
The newest program, known as The Spotlight Series, takes place in the Kimberly-Clark Theater, a space meant for smaller, more intimate performances. The series will enter its second season in 2017-18 and feature a club-style show with jazz icon and Grammy and TONY award winner Dee Dee Bridgewater; a one-man reenactment of Star Wars® classic trilogy complete with every character and flying ships in a hilarious, 90-minute production; Broadway’s Next H!T Musical, an improvised musical comedy awards show; and an all-immersive, family-oriented arts experience with Compagnia TPO’s Farfalle in which the artists engage with projections wrapping all the way around the theater, and will also feature a sensory-friendly performance geared specifically to those who may have sensory sensitivities or other disabilities.
“Our audiences have responded positively to having the opportunity to try new art forms in that smaller space,” Van Laanen explains. “You feel like you’re in a club setting and the music performances are more interactive.”
The 2017-18 Spotlight Series includes:
One-Man Star Wars® Trilogy
November 25, 2017
Dee Dee Bridgewater
February 8-9, 2018
Broadway’s Next H!T Musical
April 6-7, 2018
Compagnia TPO’s Farfalle (Butterflies)
May 9-10*, 2018
*May 10 will be a sensory-friendly performance
Going into her 15th season, Van Laanen mused on the most fulfilling part of her job: “It’s when I’m able to observe our community being inspired and connected in some new way because of their experience at the PAC. The thing that got me hooked on this business was the education aspect and seeing students’ imaginations ignited by what they’re seeing on stage – especially students who are at-risk or maybe otherwise challenged in the school environment. When they attend a performance, all of a sudden there’s an equalizing effect and they can understand a subject that they were struggling to comprehend before that arts experience, or they suddenly see an opportunity to succeed beyond their current life circumstances.”
Season ticket packages and group tickets are on sale now! Single ticket on-sale will take place in the fall. For more information, visit foxcitiespac.com.
Text: Alison Mayer
Photos: Provided by the Fox Cities PAC