Friday, December 30, 2011

New Shows in the New Year

There’s still 30 some hours left of 2011, but at the Fox Cities P.A.C. our sights are set on some great shows headed your way in the first part of 2012. January and February will be exciting months with a great mix of Boldt Arts Alive! Series performances. Plus, Million Dollar Quartet will be here February 7-12! If you’re looking for something to enjoy this winter once the holidays have passed, visit to see what’s headed your way in 2012.

Friday, January 20 – Dailey & Vincent
Dailey and Vincent have been creating a storm of excitement in the bluegrass world, and they’re bringing their own spin on the Statler Brothers’ harmonies and gospel favorites to the Center this January.  

Friday, January 27 – Swan Lake
The State Ballet Theatre of Russia delivers a stellar performance of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, following the story of a young swan maiden under a spell only true love can break.

Wednesday, February 1 – Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
For more than forty years, Ladysmith Black Mambazo has married the intricate rhythms and harmonies of their native South African musical traditions to create a sound that “gets into the blood.” The Grammy Award®-winning group is making headlines again as their latest release “Songs from a Zulu Farm” has just been nominated for Best World Music CD!

February 7-12 – Million Dollar Quartet
On December 4, 1956, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins gathered at Sun Records in Memphis for what would be one of the greatest jam sessions ever. Now that night has inspired a hit Broadway show with an irresistible tale of broken promises, secrets, betrayal and celebrations featuring a score of rock hits including “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “Walk the Line,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “Who Do You Love?” and more.

Montana Repertory Theatre's
Doubt: A Parable
Tuesday, February 21 – Doubt: A Parable

Montana Repertory Theatre tackles faith, trust, friendship and the Church with a deft and insightful touch in this Tony® Award-winning play by Pulitzer playwright John Patrick Shanley. 

Sunday, February 26 – Clifford the Big Red Dog – LIVE!
For more than 50 years, Clifford The Big Red Dog has been delighting children with his canine antics and adventures. With help from his friends on Birdwell Island – Emily Elizabeth, Cleo and T-Bone – Clifford finds new adventures in sharing, working together, being kind to others and, most importantly, having fun.

For a full list of events, visit today, and make plans to enjoy 2012 at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Broadway Buzz: How to Succeed on Broadway

Take a few Hollywood movie stars, a television “gleek” and a handful of recording artists, and you’ll see a lot of different actors succeeding on Broadway this season.

The revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying has had a few great months starring “Harry Potter” favorite Daniel Radcliffe, recently named Entertainer of the Year by Entertainment Weekly. But it’s time for a gleek to step into the spotlight! Darren Criss (“Glee”) will be taking Daniel Radcliffe’s role in his Broadway debut starting January 3 for three short weeks. Another familiar face, Nick Jonas (The Jonas Brothers), will be taking over the role after Criss returns to filming for “Glee.” 

Darren Criss as Blaine on "Glee"
A bright spotlight has also been shining on Hugh Jackman’s performance in Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway.  Even though the one man show closes January 1 after a ten-week run, Broadway fans won’t have long to wait before Jackman returns to the big screen as Jean Valjean in the new “Les Misérables” movie. I get chills just thinking about it.

Harry Connick Jr. is currently starring in the revival of the 1965 show On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. Harry Connick Jr. plays a psychiatrist who falls head over heels in love, and I don’t think his fans will have a problem falling in love with his charming character.

Out of all your favorite television and movie stars, who would you like to see live on Broadway? 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Broadway Buzz: War Horse Gallops to the Big Screen

If you’re looking for a fun activity this holiday, catch a great story coming to the big screen on Christmas Day, “War Horse.” Directed by the great Steven Spielberg, “War Horse” will avoid the gore seen in his previous war movies and has a personal tie to the director’s family. Spielberg was inspired to take on the project by his youngest daughter who is a competitive horse jumper (the family owns eight horses). Spielberg saw the Broadway play before committing to the project and was brought to tears by the emotional story.

Based on the 1982 book by Michael Morpurgo recently featured on the Today Show’s Al’s Book Club, the story of “War Horse” follows two friends – a horse named Joey and a young man named Albert. After Albert raises and trains Joey, the two are parted at the beginning of WWI when Joey is sold to be used in the war. Albert cannot forget his friend and sets out to find his horse and bring him home. Even though the story is set during the war, Spielberg said “This is much more a real story about the way that animals can actually connect people together. Joey’s miracles are actually in his great sense of optimism and hope, in the people he encounters, and how he brings something new into their lives.” Read more in the Vancouver Sun.

Photograph by Paul Kolnik

So why are you reading movie tips on a theater blog? Before hitting the big screen this December, “War Horse” made a name for itself as an acclaimed play. War Horse premiered onstage at London’s National Theatre in 2007 and moved to the West End in 2009 after two sold out runs. The show then opened on Broadway in April 14, 2011 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater and won five Tony® Awards including Best Play and is still running. A War Horse national tour was just announced, and the show will be visiting 20 cities in the 2012/13 season. Keep your fingers crossed for an engagement at the Fox Cities P.A.C.!

Photograph by Paul Kolnik
The captivating story is a definite draw to the performance, but so are the horses onstage. War Horse uses amazing puppetry to bring the horses to life in the production, including a young Joey. Each horse puppet is controlled by three people and mimic the movements of live horses, including pinning their ears to show emotion, fluent gaits and carrying a rider.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Shop Local, Think Global at the Fox Cities P.A.C.

Shopping local is a great way to support your community and find some wonderfully unique gifts. While you’re downtown looking for just the right present, stop in at the Fox Cities P.A.C. and get a gift that’s a perfect fit – a Fox Cities P.A.C. gift certificate.

Want to make your gift certificate extra special?
  • Plan a night out with dinner at a downtown restaurant 
  • Make it a girls' day with lunch and shopping before the show
  • Order a t-shirt or CD from one of the Center’s upcoming shows
Gift certificates are available in any amount to fit your holiday budget and can be used to any upcoming performance at the Fox Cities P.A.C. Plus, your giftee gets to pick the show that’s just right for their tastes and their schedule, and best of all, whether your loved one is a fan of musicals or dramas, comedy, dance or the Fox Valley Symphony, your gift this year could open a window to the world right here in the Fox Cities.

P.S. Last minute shoppers, the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center is open until 4 p.m. on December 23. Visit for ticket office hours or to order online!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Give a Kid A Book at A Christmas Carol

Tonight a time-honored tradition returns to the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center with NTC PRODUCTIONS A Christmas Carol. Dickens' "ghostly little tale" and its classic characters like Tiny Tim and Ebenezer Scrooge make for a great evening of holiday entertainment, but tonight, there's a chance to give back too.
Before the performance, ticket holders are invited to an Appleton Papers Inc. Community Engagement Activity featuring a presentation by Amy Stanwood from the Appleton Public Library. Before you see the show and its period sets and costumes, learn about Victorian holiday traditions and how they are woven throughout Charles Dickens’ classic tale.
In partnership with the Appleton Public Library, the Center will also be collecting books for Appleton Public Library’s Give a Child a Book drive. If you're inspired by the holiday season to help those less fortunate, bring along a new, unwrapped book appropriate for children up to age 18 and share the joy of reading this holiday season.

To learn more about tonight's performance, visit Enjoy the show!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Show and Tell: Danú

The enchanting voice of Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh filled the Fox Cities P.A.C. and wrapped its audience in haunting vocal melodies from the moment Danú stepped on the stage.This is the first time this leading traditional Irish ensemble has performed in Appleton, as well as their final stop of their current tour.

The stage was simply adorned with only the necessary microphones and seating, as well as one festive Christmas tree warming the stage with its glow. The musicians themselves were pure and straightforward in their presentation. The Fox Cities Performing Arts Center was decorated with simple yet stunning garlands strung through the Center and plenty of ushers ready and available to help. All of this preparation set the stage for each attendee to be utterly dazzled by the music of Danú: Christmas in Ireland.

The ensemble hailing from the historic County Waterford shared a wide variety of Irish music: from slow, evocative ballads to lively jigs to traditional Christmas carols. The audience immediately responded to the warmth of the musicians and were especially delighted when two Irish step dancers from the local Trinity Irish Dance Academy joined the group onstage. The pair garnered huge rounds of applause every time they made an appearance during the show.

Each member of the ensemble spoke briefly during the performance, sharing some personal information about themselves, their country, or even sharing a favorite poem. This in and of itself was quite a treat, at least if you're a lover of foreign accents, like myself. One musician even quipped during the course of the night, that the Irish accent had recently been voted the "sexiest accent in the world," beating out others such as French and Italian.

The musicians and audience seemed quite comfortable interacting with each other. The ensemble themselves, while very experienced on stages around the world, were likely set even more at ease by the fact that they would be heading home to Ireland soon. One particular moment that left the crowd roaring with laughter was as Eamon Doorley who plays the Irish Bouzouki was sharing with the audience that Irish people greatly enjoy music and feel free to voice that enthusiasm with a variety of shouts that may even vary based on the region they live in. After voicing an assortment of various Irish whoops and hollers that may accompany a lively concert, he asked, "Do you have any particular way you shout here?" At which one brave audience member quipped loudly, "Go Pack!"

Danú's lead vocalist and flutist, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, captivated audience members with her solos, despite admitting to having a cold. On a few numbers, Ms. Amhlaoibh sang in her native Gaelic, or Irish, as she called it. She seemed especially delighted to be joined by Northeast Wisconsin's own White Heron Chorale on the Christmas carols "Silent Night" and "Angels We Have Heard on High."

Laughter was in order when Danú's musicians shared unique Christmas traditions of Ireland such as "hunting for the wren" the day after Christmas, called St. Stephen's Day. The ensemble was joined onstage by a "straw boy" or, as Ms. Amhlaoibh described it, a hula skirt taken to the extreme. The costume is sometimes worn on St. Stephen's Day as Irish folk let loose after spending Christmas Day on their best behavior with what could be described as an "Irish Mardi Gras." Guitarist Donald Clancy also shared about his mother's tradition of baking a Christmas Cake and had the audience in stitches with his descriptions. But this couldn't compare to the song he invited the crowd to sing along with him with lyrics like, "the crust, it was nailed on with glue," and insisted they pronounce "ate-ing a slice" just as the Irish do.

Danú's spirited jigs had the audience tapping their toes and clapping along. Sparkling melodies led by flute, accordian, and fiddle danced as well as any sugarplum fairy. It was music that makes one want to hop up and do a jig... If one knew how to do so.

The tradition of placing a lit candle in one's window for Christmas started in Ireland, and it began as means to display that home's openness to the Holy Family with no place to stay, as well as any passerby who may need warmth or food. At night there are times it looks as if stars have been sprinkled over the countryside as families place their candles in windows. It turns out, Danú's warm and magical music was a candle inviting all those who could hear to come inside and enjoy the warmth of a Christmas in Ireland: An Nollaig in Eirinn.

Show & Tell: Danu: A Christmas in Ireland Brings New Meaning to a "Family" Christmas

If you’re lost the magic of Christmas amid the hustle and bustle of the season you need not look any further than our very own Fox Cities P.A.C. which is more “a glow” with Christmas than any card you’ll receive this year.

Danú: A Christmas in Ireland took the audience at the Fox Cities P.A.C. on a musical Christmas journey through Ireland, time, and the Christmas memories of our own hearts.

Danú adopted the audience into their big Irish family by using music, storytelling and the sharing of Irish traditions. The audience sang the ingredient list to help bake the Christmas Cake, went on a traditional wren chase searching for the little red birds on December 26th, the Feast of St. Steven, and sang along as the Christmas candle was lit and placed in the family window.

With instruments ranging from flutes and guitars to the Irish bodhran, it was awe inspiring how only six musicians could weave together each song with more musicality than a full symphony. The complexity of the arrangements and the band’s layering of the music of traditional and familiar Christmas pieces were nothing short of brilliant.

With every note the Irish ensemble of six inspired the audience to approach their personal traditions of Christmas, no mater what they are, with rejuvenated wonder and respect.

Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, sole woman of Danú, soothed the audience with a voice made for lullabies and sacred songs. Her beautifully haunted timbre was perfect for those old and traditional Irish pieces and the favorite carols more recognizable to the audience at the Fox Cities P.A.C. such as “Silent Night.”

Danú was joined throughout the program by the local talents of The White Heron Chorale and Irish step dancers from the Trinity Academy of Irish Dance. These local performers fit right into the Irish family and made their hometown audience proud.

Several of the pieces were lively and fast, sparking a whispered buzz through the audience of how even the skilled musicians of Danú could play so many notes so rapidly. Although impressive in their own right, the highlight of the evening for this theatergoer was “Le Coinnle na N’Aingeal” (the "Candles of Angels"). This song is about the simple Irish tradition of placing a lit candle in the window to welcome the Holy Family or any visitor seeking hospitality in the night. For me, Christmas lived in the voice of Amhlaoibh as she poured this prayer like song into the hearts of the audience.

Danú: A Christmas in Ireland set the Christmas scene at the Fox Cities P.A.C. perfectly.

With such a traditional family feel I almost felt guilty leaving after the encore without hugging each band member and saying goodbye.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Show & Tell: Danú: A Christmas In Ireland

If you were not already in the Christmas spirit, spending a few hours taking in the performance tonight by the Irish ensemble Danú was sure to fix that problem. These six amazing musicians took the audience at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center on a trip back in time. At one point you felt as though you were being welcomed into a full family home, and then later like you had just walked into a warm Irish pub on a brisk December evening.

They opened with “The Wexford Carol,” a song with origins back to the 12th century. It started slow and soft with only a solo vocal accompanied by the button accordion. Soon the other instruments joined in, piece by piece, until they reached a frenzied, foot stomping, crescendo. In no time at all you realized that this would be an entertaining evening.

While the music was inspiring, the stories and tales of Irish traditions that peppered the set between songs brought with them an instant warmth and humanity. There were poems about Christmas and the traditional hunting of the wren, a celebration that takes place on December 26th, which is also known a St. Stephens Day in Ireland. It is a day full of music and celebration, being described by the band as an “Irish Mardi Gras.” Later in the second set, we found ourselves wrapped up in that spirit as we were encouraged to sing the ingredients of a fruitcake recipe during the chorus of a song. For every tradition that is unique to Ireland, there seemed to be one that we had in common, if only with a slight twist. Throughout the performance the audience was brought into the act with singing, enthusiastic clapping and shouting.

For those without a strong background in Irish instrumentals and songs, there were haunting renditions of the familiar seasonal songs “Silent Night” and “Angels We Have Heard On High.” The entire audience was singing along with “Silent Night” at the end, giving everyone in their seat a true surround sound experience. The music of Danú was enhanced this evening with periodic appearances on the stage by the White Heron Chorale and a pair of Irish step dancers.

To see unique instruments such as the Irish bouzouki and the bodhran in prominent roles was a first for me. The sounds that could be coerced from the bodhran, an Irish drum, seemed limitless. The encore started with a drum solo that had the Center crowd on its feet clapping along until the end of the last song. I left the Center with the sounds of the flute and fiddle bouncing around in my head, a spring in my step and a renewed anticipation of the upcoming holiday visits with family and friends.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Make It Kids' Night On Broadway with Mary Poppins

Tomorrow morning at 10 a.m., tickets for Disney’s Mary Poppins go on sale to the public at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center. Among them is a limited number of tickets set aside for Kids’ Night on Broadway* on Tuesday, March 6. Designed to introduce a new generation to live theater, the Center is pleased to offer a free kids’ ticket (up to age 14) with the purchase of one regularly priced adult ticket. Tickets are available through the Center’s ticket office only, while supplies last. 

Plus, in addition to the special ticket offer, the Center will be hosting Kids’ Night on Broadway activities beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the Kimberly-Clark Theater. Join 94.3 The Drive’s Chuck Lakefield for family friendly fun before Mary Poppins. Create your own personalized kite with help from The Building for Kids Children’s Museum, participate in a “Spoonful of Sugar” race, take pictures at a Mary Poppins inspired photo station and more. These activities are free and open to all ticket holders for the Tuesday, March 6 performance with support from Appleton Papers Inc.

To learn more about Mary Poppins, visit!

*Offer only available through the Center’s ticket office while supplies last. Offer is not valid on previously purchased tickets. Some restrictions apply.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Make a Year-End Gift to the Performing Arts

In this season of giving, share your love for the performing arts with others by becoming an Annual Partner at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center. As a nonprofit organization, the Center relies on financial support from the community it serves to deliver world-class cultural performances, community programs and an education series that introduces more than 23,000 students to theater each year.

As you plan your year-end giving, learn more about how your gift makes an impact at the Fox Cities P.A.C. Visit today and make your tax-deductible gift before December 31.

Friday, December 2, 2011

December 4, 1956: The 'Million Dollar Quartet' is Born

It all began the night Sam Phillips booked a recording session for Carl Perkins on December 4,
1956. Perkins was there to try out some new tunes with the hopes of recreating the recipe for
success he'd found earlier that year. Thinking that Perkins' sound needed a slight update,
Phillips had brought in one of his newest artists, the young pianist Jerry Lee Lewis. Perkins and
his band, along with Lewis, laid down some songs, including what would become one of the
best-known Perkins songs, "Matchbox." (The song was only a minor hit when Perkins recorded
it, but when the Beatles released a version in 1964, it reached the top 20 of the Billboard

While many of the details of the rest of the day's events are still in dispute, this much is known:
Perkins and Lewis were later joined by Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, and they held an
impromptu jam session. It was a reunion for Cash, Perkins and Presley, who had toured the
south together in 1955. Lewis was still a star on the rise, but he quickly bonded with Presley
over their shared knowledge of spirituals.

The recordings of the session - later released in a series of albums beginning in 1981 - show all
of the men, particularly Presley, at ease with the music and generally just having a good time

Phillips, ever the savvy marketer, knew the growing importance of the music and mainstream  press, and he helped turn the impromptu jam into a media event, calling a local reporter and
photographer to document the scene. The writer, Bob Johnson, dubbed the four the "Million
Dollar Quartet" in his piece in the Memphis daily paper the next day, where he called the
session "an old fashioned barrel-house session with barber shop harmonies resulting."

While the Million Dollar Quartet session was indeed turned into a media event, it was clearly
still an organic and real get-together. In that way, it is of historical significance not only as a
landmark event in the age of rock 'n' roll's genesis, but as a significant milestone in the ever-
changing world of 20th Century popular culture and mass media.

Now Million Dollar Quartet is a smash-hit Broadway show inspired by music history and headed to the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center February 7-12. You can find out more about the show and the legends who inspired it at

Tickets for Million Dollar Quartet start at $53 and can be purchased by calling Ticketmaster at (800) 982-2787 or the Center’s ticket office at (920) 730-3760. Tickets can also be purchased in person at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center’s ticket office or online at