Marshall Artists Series announces 80th season lineup

July 17, 2016 GMT

HUNTINGTON - When you turn 80 years old, it’s time for a big celebration.

You don’t wait around to get the party started, you go big, and by golly, you order dessert first.

Thus the Marshall Artists Series, one of the nation’s oldest college-based artists series, comes out of the gates - swinging it sweet and in classic style, with the one-and-only Tony Bennett, and follows the living legend up with the 2016-17 series that features 10 shows that includes a healthy blast of national Broadway tours, such legendary artists as Wynton Marsalis, as well as 12 award-winning indie films, a special event with comedian Lewis Black and the Artists Series perennially sold out wine festival called Uncorked.

Angela Jones, director of marketing and external affairs for MAS, said the Artists Series, which has hosted everyone from Eleanor Roosevelt and Dizzy Gillespie to Helen Hayes, Bette Davis, Willie Nelson, Little Richard, Glen Campbell and Harry Belafonte, is ecstatic to kick off the season with Bennett.

Bennett is a Kennedy Center honoree, Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient and the oldest person in recorded music history to have a No. 1 album, when his collaboration with Lady Gaga,“Cheek to Cheek,” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts in September 2014.

“The first show is Tony Bennett, we wanted to do him last year but couldn’t work it out,” said Jones. “When you talk about bucket list artists to see he is one and he is going to be here. We are very excited about that. He’s a living legend and someone who has reinvented himself over and over again. He keeps on breaking his own records like being the oldest artist to debut at No. 1 because he keeps it so fresh.”

Penny Watkins, executive director for the Marshall Artists Series, said in a release that the events showcased in the 2016-17 season offer a fresh perspective in the ever-evolving world of arts and entertainment.

“For our 80th season, we are presenting a lineup that is exciting and diverse,” said Watkins. “We have music greats this year including living legend, Tony Bennett, singer-songwriters, Gavin Degraw and Andy Grammer - Live in Concert, and Motown powerhouse Freda Payne in a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald. Jazz legend Wynton Marsalis brings the world famous Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with a Big Band Holiday show that is sure to get the holidays kicked off in a jazzy way. We have the best of Broadway including ‘Pippin,’ ’42nd Street,′ and the 20th Anniversary tour of the groundbreaking musical, Rent.′ The State Ballet Theater of Russia makes a much anticipated return visit with the beloved ballet, ‘Cinderella.’ “Additionally, we have a unique music and dance event from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Choir from South Africa. The multicultural choir’s performances incorporate dancing, and theatre along with their music. Plus, comedian Lewis Black brings his ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes: The Naked Truth Tour’ to Huntington. We are proud to play a critical role in advancing the Marshall Artists Series’ mission to foster greater understanding and appreciation of the performing arts.”

Here’s a closer look at the shows coming into the 2016-17 season.

The Baxter Series

No one in popular American music has recorded for so long and at such a high level of excellence than Tony Bennett, who comes to the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29.

With millions of records sold worldwide and platinum and gold albums to his credit, Bennett has received 19 Grammy Awards, including a 1995 Grammy for Record of the Year and the Grammy Lifetime Award. Bennett became a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2005, was named an NEA Jazz Master in January of 2006, received a Citizen of the World award from the UN, and a Billboard Magazine Century Award in honor of his outstanding contributions to music. His latest collaboration with Lady Gaga - “Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga: Cheek to Cheek” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, making him the oldest artist in recorded music history to have a number one album.

The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Choir

Direct from South Africa, The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Choir comes to the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17. The choir consists of 55 members, both students and alumni, who come from all walks of life and prides itself in being multicultural in both its membership and the music it performs.

Since its inception in 1994, the choir has gained a reputation for its unique ability to successfully interpret both a Western and an African repertoire and has since become sought after at choral festivals internationally. Along with a diverse music selection, their performances incorporate dancing and theatre reflecting different music genres and styles, which simply heightens the experience for both the choir and the audience.

“They are university students and alumni and the makeup of the choir is very diverse, and it is also not just choral music but also a lot of traditional dance as well,” Jones said.


One of the world’s beloved stories is told through ballet at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 24. Back by popular demand The State Ballet Theater of Russia’s full-scale production will feature 55 dancers, and is choreographed by Vladimir Vasiliev, former Principal Dancer with the Bolshoi Theater Ballet and “The Best Male Dancer of the 20th Century.” The State Ballet Theater of Russia was founded by legendary dancer and former Prima Ballerina of The Bolshoi Theater Ballet, Maya Plisetskaya, and is now under the direction of award-winning dancer and Moiseyev Dance Company soloist, Nikolay Anokhin.

Jones said this is the same company that brought in “Swan Lake” last year.

“Ballets are really expensive production wise, Jones said. “But it just so happened that we worked really well with them last year and they wanted to come back so we decided to do it. People love to take their little girls who take ballet to see professional ballet, and to get to see it at the Keith-Albee like they did years ago. It is a theater designed for that.”

’42nd Street’

The quintessential backstage musical comedy classic comes to the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18.

Based on a novel by Bradford Ropes and Busby Berkeley’s 1933 movie, “42nd Street” tells the story of a starry-eyed young dancer named Peggy Sawyer who leaves her Allentown home and comes to New York to audition for the new Broadway musical Pretty Lady. When the leading lady breaks her ankle, Peggy takes over and becomes a star. This musical features some of the greatest songs ever written, such as “We’re In The Money,” “Lullaby of Broadway,” “Shuffle Off To Buffalo,” “Dames,” “I Only Have Eyes For You,” and of course “42nd Street.”

The Mount Series

Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Gavin DeGraw and acclaimed, Billboard chart topping artist Andy Grammer are live in concert at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21. Fans can expect to hear DeGraw perform songs from his 10-plus year career including classics “I Don’t Wanna Be,” “Chariot,” and “Not Over You.” Multi-platinum selling artist Andy Grammer will dazzle crowds with his upbeat songs including smash hit “Honey, I’m Good,” “Good To Be Alive (Hallelujah),” “Back Home,” and “Keep Your Head Up.”

The Artists Series is teaming up with the MU CAB (Campus Activities Board), for this show.

“It is awesome to work with them because they have students who make up their board so it is really great to get that student input,” Jones said.


Making a stop on its historic 20th anniversary tour, the smash hit Broadway phenomenon returns to the stage of the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10.

Twenty years ago - 1996, an original rock musical by a little-known composer opened on Broadway and forever changed the landscape of American theatre. Two decades later, Jonathan Larson’s “Rent” continues to speak loudly and defiantly to audiences across generations and all over the world with its inspiring message of joy and hope in the face of fear. This timeless celebration of friendship and creativity reminds us to measure our lives with the only thing that truly matters-love.

This will be the first time the national tour of “Rent” has been at the Artists Series since November 2001.

A Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald

Freda Payne stars in A Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10 at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center.

Freda Payne, celebrated Motown R & B and jazz vocalist, is best known for her No. 1 hit, “Band of Gold,” and “Bring the Boys Home,” and as the star of Broadway shows as “Jelly’s Last Jam,” “Sophisticated Ladies” and “Blues in the Night.”

But this next year, Payne takes to the road to pay tribute to the unforgettable musical stylings of the late, great blues legend, Ella Fitzgerald. Payne will conjure up the spirit of Ella” with her renditions of “A-Tisket, a-Tasket,” “Sweet Georgia Brown,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing.” and “Mack the Knife,” as well as many other Fitzgerald classics.

“This is going to be a really neat show with Freda Payne the Motown dynamo,” Jones said. “She is doing a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald because Ella would have turned 100 in 2017. I think it’s going to be such a great show because Ella is known for such style and Payne is too as she’s starred on Broadway in “Sophisticated Ladies,” and “Jelly’s Last Jam.”


The high-flying hit circus-themed musical is back on Broadway for the first time since it thrilled audiences 40 years ago.

Written by Stephen Schwartz (“Wicked” and “Godspell”), “Pippin took home four Tonys in 2013 when it was revived on Broadway.

Since then the revamped show has hit the road on a national tour and stops by the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 4, 2017.

“Pippin” tells the story of a young prince on a death-defying journey to find meaning in his existence. Will he choose a happy but simple life? Or will he risk everything for a singular flash of glory.

The 2016-17 Superticket

Patrons who purchase a Superticket package will receive tickets to all events on both the Baxter Series and Mount Series, along with the Fall & Spring International Film Festival. Additionally, the Superticket package will include:

Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra present Big Band Holidays at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8 at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center. Jazz up your holiday celebration with nine-time Grammy winner Wynton Marsalis. The composer-performer-artistic director brings the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra for a magical evening of festive music that blends classical, jazz and holiday favorites. The 15-piece orchestra will perform brand new arrangements of songs both sacred and secular, from Billie Holiday’s “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” to favorites like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.

“They are ridiculously good and I’m really excited to hear all the jazzy arrangements of holiday songs,” Jone said.

Jones said while they dialed up an unprecedented three holiday shows a couple years ago, including Kathy Mattea’s Celtic Christmas concert, they always try to snag a unique show to help celebrate the holiday season.

“We are pretty lucky that we have so many different audiences like many of our season patrons some of whom have been there for 30-plus years,” Jones said. “And we have the whole university community of students, faculty and staff, and then people who live in the Tri-State, and people who are new to the area looking for something to do. We definitely have a lot of audiences to reach and I feel like we have been very lucky to be able to be as diverse with our offerings, and our holiday offerings.”

‘H is for Hawk’

Helen Macdonald, the New York Times best-selling author of the literary sensation “H is for Hawk” comes to the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4.

Macdonald will tell the story of how she adopted and raised one of nature’s most formidable predators to escape the grief she felt after the sudden death of her beloved father. Fierce and feral, her goshawk Mabel’s temperament mirrored Helen’s own, and together raptor and human “discover the pain and beauty of being alive” (People Magazine). This genre-defying debut is at heart a meditation on love, loss and our relationship to our natural world.

Jones said they are stoked to continue the Artists Series legacy of hosting lectures as well.

In fact, the Artists Series first show on Oct. 15, 1936, was a lecture from Antarctic explore Rear Admiral Richard Byrd, who came to lecture about polar exploration to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Marshall College.

“I think this will be really neat to have MacDonald who has a great story about finding yourself,” Jones said. “It has been since Lawrence Wright and Jean-Michel Cousteau that we have had in a guest speaker, so we are excited to be able to do that again.

Fall International Film Festival

The Fall International Film Festival will take place Oct. 2730 at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center. Featured films include: “Mustang” (Turkey), “Prescription Thugs” (USA), “The Lady in The Van” (UK), “VIVA” (Cuba), “A War” (Denmark), and “The Last Diamond” (France).

“I feel like we have some really strong films this year,” Jones said. “We are doing this documentary ′ Prescription Thugs’ so we want to be able to do a discussion following the film as we have been dealing with heroin abuse but that usually starts with pill abuse and so we are still dealing with the repercussions of it.”

One of the highlights of the fall is the British comedy “The Lady in the Van,” the quirky and true story of the true story of Mary Shepherd, an elderly woman who lived in a dilapidated van on Alan Bennett’s driveway in London for 15 years. That film stars Dame Maggie Smith, best known of late as one of the stars of “Downton Abbey.”

“Viva,” is a Cuban-set Spanish-language film oddly enough by Irishman Paddy Breathnach which rocked the Telluride Film Festival in 2015 during its world premiere over Labor Day weekend. The films traces stars Hctor Medina as Jesus, a young hairdresser working at a Havana nightclub that showcases drag performers, who dreams of being a performer himself. When his estranged father Angel (Jorge Perugorra) abruptly reenters his life, father and son clash over their opposing expectations of each other.

Spring International Film Festival

The Spring International Film Festival will take place March 2-5, 2017, at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center. Featured films include: “Dheepan” (France), “The Second Mother” (Brazil), “Truman” (Spain/Argentina), “Sweet Bean” (Japan), “The Dark Horse” (New Zealand), and “Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World” (USA).

One of the highlights of the Spring fest is “Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World” (USA). It’s a documentary by iconic German director Werner Herzog. Premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, Herzog interviews Bob Kahn, Elon Musk, Sebastian Thrun, and other leaders of the technology world about the existential impact of the Internet, robotics, AI, the Internet on human life.

“It’s all about the Internet and how we are all addicted to technology and have to rely on it, I think the questions that will be raised by this film will be really interesting,” Jones said.

Jones said also of much topical significance is “Dheepan,” the winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, that is about immigration as it tells the story of three Tamil refugees who flee the civil war-ravaged Sri Lanka and come to France, in the hope of reconstructing their lives but winds up as a caretakers of a rough housing project controlled by drug dealers.

The 2016-17 special event

This event is not a part of any series and must be purchased separately.

Acclaimed comedian Lewis Black brings his “The Emperor’s New Clothes - The Naked Truth Tour” to the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8.

A Grammy-Award winning stand-up comedian, Black is one of the most popular performers working today. He came into national prominence with his appearances on “The Daily Show.”

Those appearances led to comedy specials on HBO, Comedy Central, Showtime and Epix. He has won Best Male Stand-Up at the American Comedy Awards. Black has released 8 comedy albums, two have won Grammy Awards and he has published three best-selling books. His live shows provide a cathartic release of anger and disillusionment. He is a passionate performer who is more of a grumpy optimist than a mean-spirited curmudgeon.

“People definitely love seeing comedy as part of the Marshall Artists Series and we definitely have a strong history of doing comedy,” Jones said of the Artists Series, which has hosted such comedians as legendary comics as Jay Leno, Whoopi Goldberg, Bill Cosby, Tim Conway and Don Knotts, as well as contemporary comics such as Daniel Tosh, Margaret Cho, Def Comedy Jam, Jim Gaffigan, and many more.

Get your tickets

The deadline to purchase or renew season ticket packages is Friday, Aug. 5.

Season Package pricing is: Superticket (Baxter, Mount + Special Events + Film Festivals)

Superticket Plus 1 $849

Price 2 - $600Price 3 - $490Price 4 - $395

Baxter Series

Baxter Plus 1 - $399Price 2 - $265Price 3 - $205Price 4 - $165

Mount Series

Mount Plus 1 - $350Price 2 - $245Price 3 - $205Price 4 - $170

International Film Festival (Includes Fall & Spring Festivals) - $80

Series prices listed above do not include W.Va. state sales tax and Keith-Albee Restoration Fee.

New season subscription orders and season package renewals for current patrons are on sale now. Deadline for season ticket renewal is Friday, Aug. 5. All orders will be processed in order of date and time received. Tickets to individual events go on sale, Monday, Aug. 22.

The Marshall Artists Series is again offering a payment plan that we hope will offer our patrons greater flexibility in their season planning - two-payment plan. If you are interested in our two-payment plan call 304-696-3326.

The Marshall Artists Series accepts all major credit cards. Season packages may be ordered via telephone by calling our administrative offices at 304-696-3326. Orders may also be mailed in to Marshall Artists Series, One John Marshall Drive, Huntington, WV 25755-2210, be faxed to 304-696-6658 or emailed to artistsseries@marshall.edu. The Marshall Artists Series office is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday in the Jomie Jazz Center on Fifth Avenue across from Marshall University’s Student Center.