Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chuck & Barb Merry and Tom Prosser Honored with Distinguished Service Award

At yesterday's Chairman's Luncheon, the Center took a moment to recognize three individuals who have gone above and beyond in serving the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center with its annual Distinguished Service Award. This year, the awards were presented to Chuck and Barb Merry and Tom Prosser for their years of service to the organization and their continued efforts to promote the performing arts in the Fox Cities.

Mike Weller, chairman of the Center's board of directors invited Boston Pops' conductor Keith Lockhart to share a few words about the Boston Pops Symphony Orchestra and the importance of community support for the arts.

Distinguished Service Award Winners:  (L to R) Chuck Merry, Barb Merry and Tom Prosser

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Finding Just the Right Gift

When it comes to the holidays, there is a very fine line between holiday fun and holiday stress when it comes to shopping for the perfect presents. Whether you’re shopping for mom and dad or your in-laws, your niece or your neighbor, the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center has two great options for you to consider.

 Tickets are a perfect reason to plan a night out for a specific performance you think they’ll love. Do you have an Elvis or Johnny Cash fan on your list? Million Dollar Quartet would be a great fit. Clifford The Big Red Dog – LIVE! is a fun show to share with the family, and, honestly, who doesn’t love Mary Poppins? To find out which tickets will be available to wrap up this holiday season, visit and look for the Ticketmaster icon. These shows are on sale now and can be purchased in person at the Center, by phone at (920) 730-3760 or online from the comfort of your home.

Gift certificates offer a ton of flexibility, so your giftee can plan their own special day. Certificates allow them to select their own performances, pick their own seats and customize their own live arts experience. Plus, they’re available in any amount, so you don’t have to blow your Christmas budget on front row seats. Instead, your gift will be a catalyst that shares the performing arts and invites people to discover a performance they will genuinely love and remember forever.

Curious to learn more about gifting a live performance? Let a ticket agent assist you in selecting a perfect gift today at (920) 730-3760 and order by December 16 to ensure your gift arrives before Christmas.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Broadway Buzz: Broadway Comes to You on Turkey Day

Don’t forget to get up early (or set your DVR!) on turkey day for the 85th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade at 9 a.m. Watch performances by the Broadway stars from Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Sister Act, super-hero favorite Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark and Daniel Radcliffe with the cast of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

Locally, the Fox Cities P.A.C. is preparing to participate in the 41st Annual Downtown Appleton Christmas Parade tonight. Center staff and volunteers have been working hard over the past several weeks preparing an amazing float for this year’s theme “Lighting the Season.” Here’s a sneak peek at the Center’s float assembly!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Show & Tell: Les Miserables is an Emotional Masterpiece

I’ve seen many musicals over the past twenty years, and I must say that last night’s opening performance of Les Miserables at the Fox Cities P.A.C was among my favorites. Having never seen the show before and, admittedly, not knowing much beyond the basic storyline, what I experienced was nothing short of spectacular.

Upon entering the theater, my husband and I were both impressed by the elaborate and beautiful set. The scenery was stunning. Because this is the 25th anniversary of the show, the producers have reworked much of the scenery and added special effects like none I’ve seen before. The projected backdrops added color, motion and depth to the stage making it easy to forget you were watching a live performance. The special effects and lighting added to the mood and feel of the performance perfectly. One high point for me was the battle scene at the barricade where the sounds and flashes of gun fire made me jump in my seat and duck for cover. As awesome as the set and effects for the performance were, the talent of the cast was equally impressive.

Fear, misery, despair, sacrifice, greed, betrayal, passion, joy, and love are only a handful of the emotions executed perfectly by the cast throughout the two-and-a-half hour performance. The story of Les Miserables is an emotional whirlwind that begins with ex-con Jean Valjean serving time on the chain gang. After his release Valjean is bitter with society and returns to a life of crime. When he is about to be arrested again, a bishop lies to a police officer, Javert, to save him. Astonished, Valjean swears to turn his life around for the better. Throughout the next ten years, Valjean repays the acts of kindness shown to him including sparing the life of Javert after he has been exposed as a spy.

Emotions grow stronger as the story grows darker. When a revolution breaks out the audience is bombarded with rage, upheaval, despair, longing, and worry. But underneath it all there is a thread of love. As the revolution mounts and Valjean realizes that his daughter is in love with Marius, who is fighting at the barricade, Valjean prays to God to keep Marius safe. The prayer scene is arguably one of the best of the entire show. The pure emotion and power behind the music brought tears to my eyes.

The love between Marius and Cossette culminates in their marriage. At the wedding, Marius learns the truth about Valjean and how he rescued him from the revolution and from death. Marius and Cossette go immediately to Valjean where she learns the truth about her life before Valjean passes away. My absolute favorite part about the ending of the play was that Valjean was allowed to die with forgiveness, honor and dignity – something he could not achieve years earlier. 

At its heart, I found Les Miserables to be an uplifting story about the survival of the spirit and the power of forgiveness. It is a testament to the power that one person has to change when given the opportunity to do so.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Show & Tell: Les Miserables

For my inaugural evening as a Show & Tell reviewer, I drew Les Miserables, one of the best known musicals of the past 25 years. My daughter and I were filled with anticipation as we entered the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center Tuesday evening for the opening night of a eight performance run here in Appleton.

I must first admit that prior to this I did not know much about this classic show. I was advised by some friends that I should at least get an overview of the storyline and characters. Fortunately, there is a concise synopsis in the program to assist any novices, such as myself. Once the lights went down and the curtain came up, we were taken on a wonderful 2 ½ hour ride.

Two of the constants in the performance were Jean Valjean, an ex-con who has broken his parole, and Javert, the officer sworn to bring him back to justice for his past transgressions. Their paths crossed throughout the evening as Valjean strives to be a man who does right by those around him while dealing with the secrets of his past. Both characters bring a strong voice to the story, notably Valjean’s “Bring Him Home” and Javert’s “Soliloquy.”

There was no shortage of amazing vocal moments from the rest of the characters, including “On My Own,” “”I Dreamed a Dream” and the haunting “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.” The set and visual effects blended seamlessly as the story unfolded.

All in all, this was an amazing evening of theater. I enjoy performances that bring emotions right to the surface, and then let them out. This show did not fail to deliver. As we left the Center, I felt very fortunate to have been able to see such a performance in our community. It is easy to see why this story has produced a run of such length. If like me, you have not yet experienced Les Mis, seize the opportunity while it is right in your backyard. You will not be disappointed.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Don’t Miss a Minute with Show & Tell

This week the 2011/12 Kimberly-Clark Broadway Across America – Fox Cities Series kicks off with Les Misérables Tuesday night. Even if you don’t have tickets for the opening performance, you can follow the excitement online!

Stewart and Michele, two of the Center’s Show & Tell reviewers will be at opening night and plan to post their reviews here following the show. But this Tuesday, you won’t have to wait until the curtain comes down. Follow Michele’s experience throughout the night on Twitter! Just search for the hashtag #fcpaclive, and you’ll have the latest from @foxcitiespac!

Our Show & Tell crew is made up of 11 people from throughout the Fox Cities. Check out the contributor list, and watch for written reviews, video clips and featured tweets from Michele and Elissa! Get to know each member of the team through their experiences at the Center, and join in the conversation with a comment of your own!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Unwrap a Present Early from the Fox Cities P.A.C.

Whether we like it or not, winter has arrived. The one good thing about shorter days is that there’s more time to enjoy a night out at the Fox Cities P.A.C., and this season, there are plenty of chances to enjoy a special holiday performance. Unwrap your present early this year, with one of these great shows!

Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra featuring Rockapella
November 28 & 29
On the tails of Thanksgiving, the Center has an early present for you with two performances by the Boston Pops Esplandade Orchestra featuring Rockapella. Under the direction of Keith Lockhart, you can expect exciting new arrangements of the holiday classics to get you in the spirit of the holidays.

Danú: A Christmas In Ireland
December 13
Celebrate the season with a high energy Emerald Isle performance by Danú complete with flute, fiddle, button accordion and the gorgeous voice of Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh. Plus, watch for special guests who will help bring an Irish Christmas to life onstage.

A Christmas Carol
December 15
A Fox Cities favorite, you can make Dickens’ “ghostly little tale” a family tradition with A Christmas Carol. Follow the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge on a journey to find the true meaning of Christmas.

Get in the holiday spirit this year with a new CD! Do you have a favorite carol? Tell us which song you love most and why for a chance to win the latest CD, “Sleigh Ride,” from The Boston Pops Orchestra!

Congrats to Danielle Beyer! She shared her favorite Christmas carol, "Carol of the Bells," on Twitter, and now she's won some new songs just in time for the holidays!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Broadway Buzz: What do Les Mis, Phantom and Cats Have in Common?

What do Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera and Cats have in common? Not only are they three of the longest running musicals of all time, but they all have been produced by Cameron Mackintosh. Even if the name doesn’t ring a bell, most of the musicals he has produced will. Take a look at his production history and see how many titles you recognize. Ever wonder how such an influential man got his start?

According to The NewYork Times, Mackintosh knew at the age of eight that he wanted to be a producer when he attended a matinee of the musical Salad Days. He spent his early days as a stagehand and produced smaller musicals in London, but really boomed in the 1980s. In 1980 Andrew Lloyd Webber suggested they work together, and they produced a Broadway favorite, Cats. Les Misérables was produced in 1985 followed by The Phantom of the Opera in 1986 – both shows recently celebrated 25th anniversaries! Les Mis is currently the longest running music in the world, having played for over 25 years at the Queen’s Theatre in London.

But unlike other 80’s stars Cameron Mackintosh has continued the trend into the 2000s. Mackintosh is behind the comedic Avenue Q and family friendly Mary Poppins, coming to the Fox Cities P.A.C. this spring. He had a long standing ambition to produce a stage version of Mary Poppins, and met with original “Mary Poppins” author Pamela Travers in 1993 to acquire the stage rights for the show. After spending years in the planning process, Mary Poppins took flight in 2004 in London.

You won’t want to miss two of Cameron Mackintosh’s masterpieces this season at the Fox Cities P.A.C., Les Mis next week November 15-20 and Mary Poppins March 6-11. Let’s celebrate the 45 years Cameron Mackintosh has been producing musicals, and here’s to many more!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

In the Know About Les Misérables

It’s no secret that Les Misérables ranks up there with Phantom of the Opera and CATS as one of the world’s most recognizable Broadway shows. But like any great work of art, there are a thousand layers to explore with this performance.

Whether it’s a personal favorite or you’re thinking of seeing it for the first time, we thought we’d share a link to There you’ll find a host of information including a full synopsis, videos, a study guide (great for adults too!) and a dynamic timeline starting with the French Revolution. Beware of spoilers, but in truth, the history of Les Misérables may be just as interesting as the show.

One of my favorite tidbits is the site’s account of Victor Hugo’s inspiration. On the streets of Paris in 1845, Hugo witnessed the moment that would set Les Mis in motion. 

Hugo looked on as an impoverished man was arrested for stealing a loaf of bread. As the man stood in the streets, he saw a dazzlingly beautiful woman in an ornate carriage completely unaware of his plight. Hugo wrote, “The moment he became aware of her existence, while she remained unaware of his, a catastrophe was inevitable.” Now, 166 years later, Hugo’s observation of a stranger has touched the hearts of 55 million people in 41 countries. 

As you connect the real-life revolutions, an intriguing novelist, the book’s transition to the stage and its place in theater history, the story of Les Misérables’ success makes for an interesting read and one amazing Broadway performance.

For more information on Les Misérables playing November 15-20 at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, visit today.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Broadway Buzz: A Chance to Give Back!

The 2011/12 Kimberly-Clark Broadway Across America – Fox Cities Series officially gets underway with Les Misérables November 15-20, and the cast and crew have something special in store for their Fox Cities run. They’re going to be collecting donations for a charity that’s near and dear to the Broadway community, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

 Back in the late ’80s as HIV/AIDS was first making headlines, actors and producers in New York came together to build awareness of the disease, support The Actor’s Fund, and raise funds for AIDS service organizations nationwide. With campaigns like the Broadway Flee Market, an Easter Bonnet Contest and Broadway Bares (cover your eyes, kids) the group has tapped their creative talents to raise and award more than $123 million! 

When the lights come up at Les Misérables, that’s your cue! If every Broadway ticket holder in New York and across the country contributes just $1 dollar this year, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS could raise more than $25 million. Your spare change can make a real difference in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Don't want to wait? Make a gift online today at!

Making It Easier to Access the Arts

Earlier this month, the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center was presented with the Celebrating Abilities Award for Organizational Excellence. It was an honor to be recognized, and it shows what an impact the Center’s accessibility committee is making. 

In just the last year, the committee has overseen the installation of hearing loop capabilities in the Centers Kimberly-Clark Theater and ticket office lobby to assist patrons who are hard of hearing. It’s also played a pivotal role in continuing the Centers open captioning services with a grant fromOctoberfest.

The Fox Cities P.A.C. is not alone in striving to make the arts accessible to all. The Theatre Development Fund works with theaters in New York and throughout the country to promote awareness and action. Just check out their latest work to make Disney’s The Lion King accessible to autistic children and their families.

The Center offers a variety of services to ensure the arts are accessible for all. From accessible seating on all levels and at all prices points to complimentary valet parking for patrons displaying a valid disabled license plate or tag, and American Sign Language interpretation upon request, the arts are becoming more accessible every day.

For more information and a full list of access services offered by the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, visit or speak with a ticket agent at (920) 730-3760.