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Entertainment & Lifestyle

Broadway favorites, new sounds in E.J. Thomas’ new season

9/12/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

The music of The Beatles will be performed in “Rain,” returning to E.J. Thomas this season.
Alton Brown will bring his food-centric show to E.J. Thomas Nov. 5.
Photos courtesy of E.J. Thomas Hall
DOWNTOWN AKRON — With the Akron premiere of several new shows and performers, plus a few old favorites, The University of Akron’s E.J. Thomas Hall is getting ready to celebrate its 40th anniversary season.

Single ticket sales for some events began Sept. 6, and tickets for other events will be on sale throughout the next month, according to Beth Lynch, press and promotions director.

In addition to the Broadway in Akron series, the venue this year will begin a new series called The Contemporaries.

“These are young, innovative, kind of edgy trendsetters in the music world,” Lynch said.

The series kicks off Nov. 3 with 2CELLOS, a Croatian duo that made a splash on YouTube in 2011 with their rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal.” The series also includes keyboard prodigy and virtuoso composer-performer Cameron Carpenter Nov. 13 (taking place at the Akron Civic Theatre on its Mighty Wurlitzer Organ); 24-year-old avant-pop classical violinist Amadeus Leopold Nov. 16; and Juilliard-trained contemporary jazz performer Jon Batiste & The Stay Human Band Jan. 23.

This year’s Broadway in Akron season features two shows that should appeal to those who love classic rock ’n’ roll and the stories behind the early days of that genre.

First is “Million Dollar Quartet,” a jukebox musical that takes the audience behind the scenes at a historic collaboration among greats Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins at Sun Studios in Memphis in 1956. Songs include “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Fever,” “Sixteen Tons,” “Who Do You Love?”  and “Great Balls of Fire.” The show will be performed Oct. 22-23 at 7:30 p.m., and single tickets are now on sale.

Later in the season will be the Akron debut of “Memphis,” the 2010 Tony Award winner for Best Musical. It tells the story of a white radio disc jockey and a black female singer as they experience the new sound of music in the 1950s. “Memphis” will be on stage March 25-26 at 7:30 p.m., and single tickets will be on sale beginning Oct. 11.

This season also has some star power, as Sally Struthers comes to town as the lead in “Hello, Dolly!” Struthers, a two-time Emmy winner for her role on “All in the Family,” also had a recurring role on “Gilmore Girls.” In 2014, “Hello, Dolly!” is marking 50 years since its Broadway debut, and it will be on stage in Akron Jan. 9-10 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets will be on sale beginning Sept. 20.

Two other shows scheduled before the end of the year are already on sale. “Alton Brown Live!” features the Food Network’s “Good Eats” host in a stage show combining comedy, lecture, music and cooking on Nov. 5 at 7:30 p.m.

On Nov. 17 at 4:30 p.m., the holidays will be celebrated with the return of “Mannheim Steamroller Christmas,” with Grammy Award winner Chip Davis. The performance will feature the signature seasonal sounds of Mannheim Steamroller plus multimedia effects.

Another holiday show is Cirque Dreams Holidaze, scheduled for Nov. 30 at 8 p.m. The international cast of artists will perform as gingerbread men flipping in midair, toy soldiers marching on a wire and reindeer soaring above to the accompaniment of an original musical score. Ticket sales begin tomorrow, Sept. 13.

Other special engagements this year include:

  • “Bring It On: The Musical,” the Broadway version of the 2000 film about rival cheerleading squads, Feb. 5 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets go on sale Sept. 27;
  • “Rain — A Tribute to the Beatles” returns with a note-for-note performance of the music of The Beatles March 4 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets go on sale Oct. 4;
  • Blue Man Group returns in its theatrical tour April 22-23 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets go on sale Oct. 18; and
  • The hit musical “Mamma Mia!” returns May 6-7 at 7:30 p.m. with its collection of ABBA songs in a show that tells the story of a young woman seeking her father as her wedding looms. Tickets go on sale Oct. 25.

Also on the schedule, with tickets on sale now, are:

√ Sarah Brightman, Oct. 1, 8 p.m.;

√ Brian Wilson and Jeff Beck, Oct. 27, 7:30 p.m.; and

√ Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Johnny Clegg, March 15, 8 p.m.

For more information and a complete schedule of events, go to www.broadwayinakron.com and uaevents.com. Tickets are available at all TicketMaster locations, via ticketmaster.com, by calling 800-745-3000 or the Thomas Hall Ticket Office at 330-972-7570.

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