April 30 2009 12:00 AM

Center announces 2009-‘10 season


Yeah, the economy is lousy and arts funding is down, but Michael Brand, executive director of the Wharton Center, and his crew are still, in his words, “throwing down the gauntlet” when it comes to bringing the best in performing arts to mid-Michigan.

As an example, Brand cites Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas the Musical,” announced this week as part of the 2009- ’10 Wharon season. Brand said the New York production of the show is only hitting nine markets during the holiday season, including the Wharton Center from Dec. 8-13, which he sees as the prime week. “They could go anywhere they wanted,” Brand said.

In addition to “White Christmas,” other big names in the season include violinist Itzhak Perlman, essayist David Sedaris, jazz crossover artist Ramsey Lewis and journalist Michael Pollan.

Season subscriptions are available now, with priority seating and discounts between 10 and 20 percent, depending on the package. Individual presale tickets will be available in September. Subscriptions and a full schedule of events are available by calling 1 (800) WHARTON or visiting www.whartoncenter.com.

For now, here’s a breakdown of what’s coming.


‘The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein’ – Feb. 2-7, 2010

From the demented mind behind such silly movie classics as “Blazing Saddles,” “Space Balls,” “Robin Hood: Men in Tights,” and, of course, “Young Frankenstein,” comes the second musical stage adaptation since Brooks’ wildly successful “The Producers,” in which a New York doctor and heir to Dr. Frankenstein travels to Transylvania to clear up issues pertaining to property that’s been willed to him. We’re going to guess hilarity ensues.
“White Christmas” (Dec. 8 – 13), “A Chorus Line” (April 6 – 11), “South Pacific” (April 27 – May 2).

Broadway Specials

‘August: Osage County’ - Feb. 16 & 17, 2010

Following last season’s foray into putting plays on the Wharton stage with “Frost/ Nixon,” this is two-night run of one of the most critically acclaimed shows of 2008, during which it netted five Tony Awards (including Best Play) and the Pultizer Prize for Drama. “It’s a major work of art,” Brand said. “Going to this will definitely change your life.”
“Movin’ Out” (Oct. 16 & 17), “101 Dalmations” (Jan. 26 - 31, 2010), “Phantom of the Opera” (May 19 – June 6, 2010).


Itzhak Perlman – Nov. 9

In an age when most people can probably name more “American Idol” judges than first-rate musicians, Perlman remains an enduring superstar in the world of classical music. No stranger to the Wharton Center, the Israeliborn, super-acclaimed violinist has appeared on “Sesame Street,” “The Tonight Show,” and several PBS specials, and is frequently requested to perform at White House h a p p e n i n g s . For instance, in Januar y, Perlman performed alongside cellist Yo-Yo Ma at the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
Ahn Trio (Oct. 18), Emerson Quartet (Jan. 21, 2010), Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (March 21, 2010)


Pilobolus - Feb. 24, 2010

Perhaps given its biggest stage at the 2007 Academy Awards, where members of this dance troupe posed behind a screen to create images suggestive of some of the year’s more popular films, this Connecticut-based dance company has been wow-ing audiences and critics since the early ‘70s with its intensely physical contortions and sense of humor.
River North Dance Chicago (Oct. 21), Moscow Festival Ballet: Coppelia (Jan. 8, 2010)


Preservation Hall Jazz Band - Dec. 4 & 5

Formed nearly 50 years ago to showcase the top talent of the New Orleans jazz scene, this traveling ensemble, named for the hall where it was founded, continues in its mission of honoring the musical traditions of New Orleans and spreading its gospel throughout the world.
Ramsey Lewis Trio and Ann Hampton Callaway (Oct. 21), Esperanza Spalding (Jan. 20, 2010), Byron Stripling (April 29, 2010)


Herb Alpert & Lani Hall – Nov. 15
While his name will always resonate with record-crate diggers as the guy who gave us the ubiquitous, scandalous album art for “Whipped Cream and Other Delights,” Alpert is also the man who put instrumental, Latin-influenced tunes at the top of the charts in the mid-to-late 1960s, not to mention the founder of A&M Records, responsible early on for launching the careers of the likes of Joe Cocker, The Carpenters and Cat Stephens.
In November, he’ll appear at the Wharton Center with his singing wife, Lani Hall, the original voice of Sergio Mendes’ Brasil ’66. Michael Feinstein: “The Sinatra Project” (Oct. 10), David Sedaris (Oct. 18), Rat Pack Christmas (Dec. 18-19), Band of the Irish Guards Royal Regiment of Scotland (Feb. 4, 2010), “One Night of Queen” (March 22, 2010), Eileen Ivers & Immigrant Soul (March 25, 2010).

World Music and Dance

Shaolin Warriors - Nov. 6

OK, OK, Wu-Tang Clan references aside, the Shaolin Warriors are known for raising a serious martial arts ruckus. If you haven’t caught these kung-fu monks on late-night TV, just hit up the YouTube for outrageous feats of weapon wielding, kick flying and pain ignoring that makes the characters of video game classic “Mortal Kombat” seem pretty weak (except Sub Zero, because that dude can shoot ice out of his hands).
Viskey Ukranian National Dance Co. (Oct. 23), Bellydance Superstars (March 4, 2010), Nrityagram (March 17, 2010), Noa (March 24, 2010)

Worldview Lecture Series

Michael Pollan – April 12, 2010
If you’ve read a book or watched a movie or had a serious discussion on the state of America’s industrial-food complex in the last four years, chances are, at some point, you encountered the work of this author/ academic/journalist and the simple, entertaining and fascinating dissect job he does of the whole thing in his 2006 best-selling book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.”
Robert Kuttner (Oct. 19), Jill Bolte Taylor (March 1,