Norton Center for the Arts celebrates 30th anniversary season


Tickets for the Norton Center for the Arts at Centre College's 30th anniversary season are "Too Darn Hot," as it presents a broad range of vocalists, instrumentalists, dance ensembles and musical theater productions.

The season opens with some practical, magical "CATS" Sept. 24. The musical is the longest-running show in theater history, both in London and New York. "CATS" based on T.S. Eliot's "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats," is known for its spectacular costumes, intricate makeup and catchy numbers, such as "Memory," "The Rum Tum Tugger" and "Mr. Mistoffelees." It has played to over eight million people since 1981.

October brings four diverse acts: "Porgy and Bess" Oct. 9; Rockapella Oct. 11; The Four Tops Oct. 17; and pianist Verdi's "Rigoletto" Oct. 27.

Considered an American masterpiece, "Porgy and Bess" is the story of the crippled Porgy and the people of Charleston's Catfish Row. Created by George and Ira Gershwin, the original Porgy was Danville's own Todd Duncan.


Rockapella is the unique sound behind the Folgers coffee commercials. And for homecoming this year, the smooth Motown sounds of The Four Tops will rock the house at Newlin Hall. Finally, the Opera Verdi Europa will present Verdi's popular work "Rigoletto" as part of its first American tour.

In November, the music and dance extravaganzas continue with three presentations: Kodly String Quartet with pianist Michiko Otake Nov. 10; "Saturday Night Fever" Nov. 13; and Sing-A-Long "Wizard of Oz" Nov. 18 and 19.

The Kodly String Quartet is known for representing well the Hungarian musical tradition, and the ensemble has been praised consistently by international critics. "Saturday Night Fever," inspired by the successful 1979 film of the same name, could create a disco craze in Danville with popular songs such as "Stayin' Alive," "Night Fever" and "Jive Talkin'."

The interactive theatrical film experience of Sing-A-Long "Wizard of Oz" will allow audience members to participate in a costume contest as well as sing along with Dorothy and hiss at the Wicked Witch of the West. It's been called "'Rocky Horror Picture Show' goes to Oz."

December features Neil Sedaka Dec. 6 and The King's Singers Dec. 10. Sedaka has been an important figure in rock and roll history, and is know for chart-toppers such as "Calendar Girl," "Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen" and "Breaking Up is Hard to Do." The King's Singers will bring an evening of British wit and charm to go along with its unique and acclaimed vocal offerings. The group's repertoire ranges from popular songs to Elizabethan madrigals.

The new year will be heralded with "Swan Lake" Jan. 13 and Gomalan Brass Quintet Jan. 25. The Moscow Festival Ballet returns with Tchaikovsky's heart-rending yet beloved tale of Prince Siegfried's fight against evil and his attempts to win Odette. The Gomalan Brass Quintet is made up of leading players from the most important orchestras of Italy, with a repertoire that covers Baroque, 19th-century romanticism, Broadway and jazz.

The month for Valentines brings a lot to love, with six assorted performances: "The Sound of Music" Feb. 4; Pilsen Philharmonic Feb. 9; "Lord of the Dance" Feb. 12; Newport Jazz Festival 50th Anniversary Celebration Tour Feb. 17; Roberta Flack Feb. 20; and "Kiss Me, Kate" Feb. 25.

One of the most popular musicals ever, "The Sound of Music" follows the seven motherless children, their stern father and the young governess Maria through the Austrian Alps in this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. The fourth largest city in the Czech Republic, Pilsen, has a long and distinguished musical history. The orchestra comes to the Norton Center for the Arts during its first American tour.

"Lord of the Dance," based on Michael Flatley's enormously successful homage to Irish dancing, has been seen by more than 50 million people worldwide. It has become the most popular touring dance production in history. The music world changed forever when the first Newport Jazz Festival was held in July 1954. The tour features a number of great jazz musicians celebrating the lasting legacy of the festival.

The smoky, sultry vocals of Roberta Flack will entertain the audience with songs such as "Killing Me Softly With His Song," "Tonight I Celebrate My Love" and "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face." And rounding out the month, the Tony Award-winning musical "Kiss Me, Kate" turns Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew" on its ear.

It's lions and lambs both in March with four productions: American Chamber Players March 8; Mancini at the Movies March 4; Israel Philharmonic March 11; and Les Ballets Africains March 30.

The American Chamber Players were founded in 1985 by violist Miles Hoffman, and the group has become known for its repertoire and performance standards. Monica Mancini will bring vocals to the multi-media tribute to popular composer Henry Mancini, her father. The composer's hits include "Breakfast At Tiffany's," "Moon River" and "The Days of Wine and Roses."

Conductor Yoel Levi and cellist Lynn Harrell are featured with the Israel Philharmonic, which is one of Israel's oldest and most influential cultural institutions. Les Ballets Africains has been called "sheer physical energy and beauty" by The New York Times, and the direct-from-Africa ensemble presents a vibrant mix of dance, song and rhythms with ancient tribal instruments.

The 2003-04 season wraps up with Murray Perahia twinkling the ivories April 27. His performance as conductor of and soloist with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields in 2001 brought the sold-out Newlin audience to its feet. Perahia is considered one of the great concert pianists of our time.

For more information or tickets, call (859) 236-4692. The Web site is

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