State Theatre 2018-19 season mixes new with tried and true
Coming off a season that boasted the highest numbers in seven years, the State Theatre Center for the Arts, Easton, is trying a couple of new things, as well as bringing back some surefire hits in 2018-2019.
“We’re pumped.” says State Theatre president and CEO Shelley Brown. “We had a really good year. Since our 90th anniversary we have seen an uptick in attendance. The anniversary gave the theater a lot of visibility and the enthusiasm is contagious. When people are excited about being here it gives us a real shot in the arm.”
The State Theatre season includes Steven Wright, who opened the 2018-19 with his show Sept. 7; Diana Krall, Oct. 14, and Kenny G, Dec. 6. plus six Broadway touring shows.
“We are doing more than the usual Broadway,” Brown says. “We do well with Broadway shows and Broadway people like coming here.”
The Broadway musicals this year include “Something Rotten,” Nov. 1; “Spamalot,” Nov. 29; “Rock of Ages,” Feb. 17; “The Sound of Music,” Feb. 21; “Finding Neverland,” March 20 and 21, and two performances of “Kinky Boots,” April 6.
Brown says one new thing the State Theater is excited about is a collaboration with Nazareth’s Martin Guitar, Nov. 20.
“With so many venues, we think long and hard before giving the go ahead for new stuff,” Brown says. “But I’m loving this little thing we’re doing with Martin Guitar. It’s a new way to engage area guitar players and hopefully will be a first of many.”
“The Martin Guitar Super Experience” will feature two guitar classes on the State Theatre stage with Craig Thatcher, discussions of products, special music and a giveaway of a Martin guitar.
State Theatre also is newly-partnering with Allentown Symphony Orchestra for a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing in May.
“We’ve been talking for so long about doing something with the symphony and this program has a lot of family appeal,” Brown says.
The orchestra will play classical pieces written about the moon, music from space-related movies such as “Star Wars” and “Apollo 13,” accompanied by original photos from NASA.
Brown says a first-time performer coming to the State Theatre is Grammy award-winning saxophonist Kenny G. He will bring his “The Miracles Holiday & Hits Tour” to Easton, Dec. 6.
Kenny G will perform some of his biggest hits, including from his album, “Miracles: The Holiday Album,” one of the most successful holiday albums, selling more than eight million copies.
Also new to the State Theatre is former Philadelphia Eagles long- snapper and “America’s Got Talent” magician Jon Dornebos, who performed Sept. 21.
An act that has been playing the State Theatre for more than a decade and one that Brown calls her favorite is Fab Faux, a Beatles tribute band performing March 9. Apparently, the band returns the sentiment.
“The Fab Faux says the State Theatre is their home away from home,” Brown says.
The group was founded by Will Lee, bassist for “The Late Show with David Letterman,” and features Jimmy Vivino, bandleader for “Conan,” with Rich Pagano, Frank Agnello, and Jack Petruzzelli.
The Fab Faux doesn’t try to impersonate the Beatles, but rather faithfully recreates the sound of the Beatles’ music.
Pagano also is a member of an Elton John tribute group and that group is presenting “Early Elton” for “Stage on Stage,” Oct. 5, Brown says.
“The concept was an outgrowth of the State’s 90th anniversary gala in 2017,” Brown says. “During that event, people loved being on stage and backstage.”
Brown says they came up with the idea of having a smaller show on one side of the stage and the seats on the other, with a bar in the back.
“It’s more intimate,” Brown says. “The raw cement is urban and gritty and people love it.”
A group Brown is eagerly anticipating coming back is The Priests, a classical music group from Ireland, performing Nov. 30.
“The Priests do such a short tour and to be on their tour is special,” Brown says. “They’re quite extraordinary.”
The Priests 2008 album became the fastest-selling UK debut for a classical act and sold more than one million copies in Ireland alone, a record that still stands.
Another returning favorite is The Red Hot Chilli Pipers, March 14.
The band plays what they call “Bagrock,” which features rocking bagpipes on covers of popular songs.
Brown says the band has developed a relationship with the bagpipers from Liberty High School Grenadier Band and invite them on stage during their show.
Returning March 2 is The Orchestra, made up of former members of Electric Light Orchestra.
“The Orchestra is phenomenal,” Brown says. “It’s one of those shows that just takes off.”
Actor Chazz Palminteri also is returning to again screen “A Bronx Tale” and answer audience questions April 12.
“That program was so engaging,” Brown says. “His talking to fans makes it really special.”
The combination of a discussion with a star tied to the screening of a movie, with which the star is identified, has been a hit for the theater.
“We kind of invented the format,” Brown says.
In addition to Paminteri’s show, actor John Cusack discussed his 1989 film, “Say Anything,” after screening it Sept. 20 at the State Theatre.
One new program that has already been a hit is the theater’s new online ticketing system that allows patrons to order online and print their tickets at home.
“We tested it in three shows last season and 90 percent of the people printed their tickets at home,” Brown says.
Most of all, Brown says, she appreciates the continued support of the theater by the community.
“People have so much affection for this building,” Brown says. “90 was a big year for the old girl, but she’s looking pretty good.”
Tickets: State Theatre Center for the Arts box office, 453 Northampton St., Easton; statetheatre.org; 1-800-999-7828; 610-252-3132