Musicals, Grammy winners and more headed to Penn State for CPA’s upcoming season

YoYo Ma will visit Penn State in November.
YoYo Ma will visit Penn State in November. Photo provided

The Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State announced its 2017-18 season lineup this week, with upcoming events that include dance sensations, Grammy Award-winning musicians and beloved musicals.

In the works for more than a year, the season has been a labor of love for the CPA staff, as they hunt down the best shows to bring to State College, investigating what’s on tour, what’s being produced and what can easily be routed through central Pennsylvania.

“We typically look for several national touring Broadway productions; a few dance programs featuring contemporary, classical or international dance options; large- and small-scale jazz presentations; a variety of classical music presentations and an assortment of family-friendly programming,” said Laura Sullivan, marketing and communications director of the CPA.

The season opens Sept. 14 with jazz vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant.

“She will perform with her band — piano, bass and drums. We had wanted to schedule her in on the season last year, but we could not find a suitable date on the calendar,” Sullivan said. “Her album, ‘For One to Love,’ earned the 2016 Grammy Award for best jazz vocal album. She has had a quick rise to success. Her vocals are powerful and soulful, and she has amazing range, depth and stage presence.”

Salvant is hardly the only Grammy winner slated to appear.

“We are also looking forward to vocalist Lila Downs,” Sullivan said. “Winner of a Grammy and four Latin Grammys, she has been influenced by the folk and ranchera music of Mexico and South America, as well as North American folk, jazz, blues and hip-hop. She is a passionate human rights activist, and she often highlights issues in her lyrics that relate to social justice. She has just released a new album, and we are excited that she will be touring in support of it.”

Others include five-time Grammy-winning soprano Dawn Upshaw, Oct. 24; world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Nov. 3, who boasts more than 100 recordings and 18 Grammys; and Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Nov. 9, winner of a Grammy for Best Salsa/Merengue Album.

Within the realm of dance, audiences can catch two movement companies based out of Philadelphia, Philadanco and Rennie Harris Puremovement, collaborating to present “Straight Outta Philly.” A combination of hip-hop and contemporary dance, the presentation is part of the Centre for the Performing Arts Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiative.

Sullivan said some of the biggest crowd hits are the Broadway shows.

“Our Broadway presentations always bring some of our largest crowds,” she said. “This season we are offing five national touring Broadway productions. I think we will see a lot of interest in ‘Dirty Dancing — The Classic Story on Stage’ and Rogers and Hammerstein’s ‘Cinderella,’ as well as our returning presentation of ‘Jersey Boys.’ ”

Families are also in luck this season.

“We have a variety of performances that are great for families, including ‘Mr. Poppers Penguins,’ based on the novel by Richard and Florence Atwater and a presentation by Mummenschanz, a Swiss-based visual theater company that has been presenting incredibly imaginative works for more than 45 years. Both of these offerings are on Sunday afternoons at 4 p.m., a time of day selected based on input from our patrons who found the former 2 p.m. time challenging for younger children who often take an afternoon nap.”

Children or no, Sullivan stressed that the CPA delivers something for everyone, including options that encourage audiences to step out of their comfort zones.

“We always strive to present a balance of the familiar and the perhaps not-so-familiar, as well as a global arts perspective. I always encourage people to go outside their personal comfort zones and select at least one event that peaks their curiosity, but might be a stretch programmatically.”

For more information, visit the CPA website, cpa.psu.edu. Tickets go on sale June 26.

CPA 2017-18 season lineup

Cécile McLorin Salvant, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 14

Flip FabriQue “Catch Me!,” 7:30 p.m. Oct. 11

Lila Downs, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 17

“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder,” 7:30 p.m. Oct. 19

Dawn Upshaw, Gilbert Kalish and Sō Percussion, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 24

“Straight Outta Philly” featuring Rennie Harris Puremovement and Philadanco!, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 27

Yo-Yo Ma and Kathryn Stott, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 3

Spanish Harlem Orchestra, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 9

“The Sound of Music,” 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14-15

Apollo’s Fire “Christmas on Sugarloaf Mountain: An Appalachian Celebration,” 7:30 p.m. Nov. 30

Camerata RCO, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 24

The Birdland All-Stars featuring Tommy Igoe, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 26

Yamato: The Drummers of Japan “Chousensha —The Challengers,” 7:30 p.m. Jan. 30

“Mr. Popper’s Penguins,” Based on the novel by Richard and Florence Atwater, 4 p.m. Feb. 11

Bill Charlap Trio, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 13

Wu Han, piano, Philip Setzer, violin, David Finckel, cello, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 15

Rodgers + Hammerstein’s “Cinderella,” 7:30 p.m. Feb. 20-21

Dorrance Dance “ETM: Double Down,” 7:30 p.m. Feb. 27

Che Malambo, 7:30 p.m. March 15

National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba, 7:30 p.m. March 20

“Dirty Dancing —The Classic Story on Stage,” 7:30 p.m. March 21-22

Danish String Quartet, 7:30 p.m. April 6

Mummenschanz “You & Me,” 4 p.m. April 8

“Jersey Boys,” 7:30 p.m. April 17-18


Mosaic, 4 p.m. Dec. 3

“Ein deutsches Requiem” Johannes Brahms, 7:30 p.m. April 14