From Johann Sebastian Bach to Bollywood, the Performing Arts Series of Johnson County Community College is offering an amazing variety of events to celebrate its 25th anniversary.
For classical fans, there are world-class ensembles such as the Bach Collegium Japan orchestra and chorus and the Romeros.
Arlo Guthrie, a Performing Arts Series favorite, is bringing his Alice’s Restaurant 50th Anniversary Tour to the Carlsen Center.
For those with a taste for the exotic, there’s a Bollywood extravaganza and for the aliens among us, Blue Man Group.
Emily Behrmann, the general manager of the Performing Arts Series, says that she had three goals in mind while programming the 25th anniversary season: to pay tribute to the series’ past, look to the future and recognize the importance of hometown collaborations.
“I wanted to bring back some of the artists that have been so popular and have been very memorable for our audience, like Arlo Guthrie and the Ballet Trockadero,” Behrmann said. “I also wanted to bring in some new things, so Jane Lynch and Blue Man Group are brand new for us. The other connection I wanted to make was to Kansas City, because I do feel we are the ‘Performing Arts Center West.’”
During her tenure as general manager, which began in 2009, Behrmann has made it a point to bring Kansas City’s homegrown talent to the Carlsen Center and give Johnson County a taste of the urban core’s artistic vitality.
Next season, Behrmann will once again present “New Dance Partners.” This time, Kansas City’s cutting edge Owen/Cox Dance Group will be collaborating with the Oklahoma City Ballet.
Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, who was born and raised in Kansas City and is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Conservatory of Music and Dance, will bring her acclaimed Brooklyn-based ensemble, Urban Bush Women, to the Carlsen Center for a Nov. 7 performance.
“She was in the dance department at the Conservatory in 1973,” Behrmann said. “She went on to found this company which has been around since 1984 and has really redefined African-American dance and female dance. One of the pieces they’ll be performing on our program is an autobiographical work that Zollar created about growing up in Kansas City.”
On Feb. 27, 2016, the Performing Arts Series will present another Kansas City collaboration when the Irish folk music group Danu performs with the Kansas City Chorale, conducted by Charles Bruffy.
The conductor has been doing a lot of research recently and is planning a concert of his own devoted to Irish music, so this will dovetail nicely with the Chorale’s current direction.
On Oct. 30, the Performing Arts Series is partnering with the Friends of Chamber Music to present the Bach Collegium Japan orchestra and chorus.
This ensemble has established itself as one of the world’s finest interpreters of Bach’s music. Aficionados rave about collegium recordings and compare them to those of Karl Richter, Nikolaus Harnoncourt and other renowned Bach performers.
Touring orchestras have always been an important part of the Performing Arts Series, but they are becoming rare commodities as touring costs soar. Behrmann, however, was able to snag the Polish Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra. This very solid European orchestra will perform an all-Beethoven program on March 5, 2016.
“Orchestras sound wonderful in Yardley Hall, with its very warm and wonderful acoustic,” Behrmann said, “but there are a lot of large orchestras out there that don’t tour anymore.
“We don’t have as many opportunities to present that sort of program these days, so this seemed like a good season to return to that. Once again, to pay honor to our past and bring in a large orchestra that would do a really monumental program.”
The Romeros, “the royal family of the guitar,” will perform on Feb. 20, 2016. Celedonio Romero, patriarch of the family, founded the quartet in 1960 and performed with it until his death in 1996. Two of his sons, including guitar superstar Pepe, and two of this grandsons will perform at the Carlsen Center.
Arlo Guthrie has made several appearances at the Carlsen Center and has always been incredibly popular. Of course, the high point of any Guthrie concert is when he performs “Alice’s Restaurant,” the ultimate hippie anthem. When he’s at the Carlsen Center, Guthrie will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of his trademark song.
“We’re going to get a version that can only be described as epic,” Behrmann said. “Arlo is just masterful, so we’re really looking forward to that event, and we’ll have a preshow dinner here on campus that will feature recipes from the real Alice’s Restaurant.”
Behrmann always makes a point of programming for a range of tastes and audiences, but next season is perhaps more diverse than ever before. For example, coming up are the National Circus and Acrobats of the People’s Republic of China, Ballet Hispanico and the Bollywood Masala Orchestra and Dancers of India.
“That’s going to be kind of a monumental show,” Behrmann said. “It’s truly Bollywood with a huge cast — I think 17 people are on stage — in very colorful, traditional costumes. It’s infectious and very uplifting. There’s a lot of movement. People will be dancing in their seats. It’s a feel-good kind of evening.”
Behrmann says that she wanted next season to reflect how Johnson County has changed in the last 25 years.
“There’s a lot of diversity in the county,” she said. “There’s certainly a lot of diversity among the student body on our campus, so we’re trying to connect the series to that reality and provide something for every community.”
One production on the new season that will have universal appeal is Blue Man Group. Indeed, when Chris Wink, Matt Goldman and Phil Stanton created the character 25 years ago, they wanted him to be both an alien and a sort of everyman, representing all ethnicities, all classes and all ages. Blue Man Group is avant-garde, experimental performance art that Berhmann describes as “Vegas-y.”
“It’s big, it’s loud, it’s funny, it’s silly and it’s surprising,” she said. “There are lots of lights, lots of colors, just a really fun evening. It’s a great family event, appropriate for kids and their parents and grandparents. But it’s still innovative, still on the cutting edge.
“Blue Man Group is a highly produced, very colorful show with great music. It’s a sound that is very different from a lot of events you may have been to.”
Savion Glover and STePz
Tap dancer Savion Glover is an American treasure.
Taught by tap greats such as the Hines brothers, Honi Coles, Sammy Davis Jr. and Buster Brown, Glover is carrying on the rich tap legacy and adding his own brand of funk.
The Harriman-Jewell Series will present Glover and his Ensemble in STePz on Saturday at Helzberg Hall. In STePz, Glover pares down tap to its essence, utilizing staircases to present classic tap styles danced to some of Glover’s favorite artists like Prince, Stevie Wonder and John Coltrane.
KC Women’s Chorus
The Kansas City Women’s Chorus is an ensemble worth discovering. Created in 1999, the diverse chorus sings an equally diverse repertoire.
Led by its interim artistic director, Robert Lamar Sims, the Kansas City Women’s Chorus will present “We Sing Her Song” on Saturday, a concert by female songwriters, at the Rose Theater on the campus of Rockhurst High School.
8 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. April 26. $17-$22. The Rose Theater, 9301 State Line Road. www.kcwomenschorus.org.
Performing Arts Series of Johnson County Community College
July 9: Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary
Aug. 30: Wichita Grand Opera presents Giacomo Puccini’s “Turandot”
Sept. 12: Jane Lynch
Sept. 25 and 26: “New Dance Partners”; Owen/Cox Dance Group with special guest company, the Oklahoma City Ballet.
Oct. 9: National Circus and Acrobats of the People’s Republic of China
Oct. 10: Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble
Oct. 18: Arlo Guthrie presents the “Alice’s Restaurant 50th Anniversary Tour”
Oct. 23: Spirit of India: Bollywood Masala Orchestra and Dancers
Oct. 25: Igudesman and Joo: And Now Mozart
Oct. 30: Bach Collegium Japan orchestra and chorus
Nov. 7: Urban Bush Women
Nov. 14: Classic Albums Live: “The Dark Side of the Moon”
Dec. 5: Reduced Shakespeare Company: “The Ultimate Christmas Show (Abridged)”
Dec. 12: Jim Brickman: “Comfort and Joy”
Jan. 22-24, 2016: Blue Man Group
Feb. 6: Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
Feb. 13: The Australian Bee Gees Show: A Multimedia Tribute Concert
Feb. 20: The Romeros
Feb. 27: Danu, with local Irish dancers and the Kansas City Chorale
March 5: Polish Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Boguslaw Dawidow
March 19: Ballet Hispanico
April 2: Pablo Ziegler Quartet for New Tango