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Home / Best of 2023: 10 arts events to put on your calendar
It’s time to gaze into my crystal ball and choose 10 sure-bet events for the new year. More acts will be added to area venue calendars, but these will stand up to the best of the rest.
1. Yo-Yo Ma, March 28, Hancher Auditorium, Iowa City
I had a ticket in my hot little hand March 5, 2017, the last time Yo-Yo Ma played Hancher, but I didn’t think anyone wanted to hear my coughing counterpoint to his angelic cello, so I stayed home. I won’t miss this do-over chance to revel in his world-class artistry.
He’s returning to Hancher for a sold-out concert with his longtime piano collaborator, Kathryn Stott. Together, they’ll whirl through a program ranging from Dvorak to “Shenandoah” and “Scarborough Fair,” as well as Wallen’s “Dervish.”
2. Jerry Seinfeld, July 14, Paramount Theatre, Cedar Rapids
I still get goose bumps thinking about the night Seinfeld stepped onto the Des Moines Civic Center stage and announced that we’d all get a refund, the standing ovation, cheers and applause lasted nearly as long as the 60-minute show.
I’m not expecting that same largesse when his sold-out pandemic-postponed show comes to Cedar Rapids, but fans are going to get their money’s worth out of the mind of the man who I said in my 2014 review, built his career by “creating much ado about nothing.”
3. Cedar Rapids Opera’s new twist on “Cosi fan tutte,” Jan. 20 and 22, Paramount Theatre, Cedar Rapids
I’ve seen Mozart’s delightful fidelity/infidelity test between betrothed couples several times, but local audiences have never seen it the way director Benjamin Robinson envisions it — as a 1980s soap opera.
Will the women remain true to the men who they’ve been told have gone off to war, or will their disguised fiances turn their big-haired heads, bobbing above gargantuan shoulder pads? Mozart meets South Fork sounds like a marriage made in heaven.
4. “Cabaret,” Feb. 10 to March 5, Theatre Cedar Rapids
“What good is sitting alone in your room? Come hear the music play” when TCR presents this groundbreaking musical that won eight Tony Awards in 1967 and four more for the 1998 Broadway revival.
It’s been a star vehicle for a whole constellation of actors in New York and London, from Joel Grey, Alan Cumming, Neil Patrick Harris and Eddie Redmayne as the Emcee to Jill Haworth, Judi Dench, Natasha Richardson and Michelle Williams as Sally Bowles.
TCR has its own stars stepping into those coveted roles: Aaron Murphy, who has been the lead actor many times locally, and Catherine Blades, who found the spotlight on Broadway in “Bye Bye Birdie,” and in various roles in film and television.
With themes that continue to resonate, TCR describes the show as exploring “the dark and heady life of Bohemian Berlin as Germany slowly yields to the emerging Third Reich.”
5. Hy-Vee INDYCAR Race Weekend, July 22 and 23, Iowa Speedway in Newton
Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney, Zac Brown Band, and Ed Sheeran will be revving up audience engines before and after the INDYCAR races at Newton. And the price of the concerts is included in the race-day ticket.
Last year’s lineup brought more than 80,000 people to the racetrack, so don’t wait too long to snap up this year’s tickets.
6. Greg Brown Retirement Shows, Feb. 16 and 17, Englert Theatre, Iowa City
Say it isn’t so: This Iowa folk legend is wrapping up his career, bringing his legendary artistry back to The Englert. The initial Feb. 17 date sold out so quickly that another show was added Feb. 16.
Before a May 2014 appearance at The Englert, I wrote: “One of American folk music’s most prolific and profound singer/songwriters of the past three decades, southeast Iowa native Greg Brown has earned respect from his peers. He’s also amassed a devoted fan base via his burnished, intimate baritone, a gift for swinging, organic melody and unvarnished poetic grace.”
Another last-chance concert: Eight-time Grammy winning, rockin’ blues, Kennedy Center honoree Buddy Guy, “Damn Right Farewell,” April 28, Hancher Auditorium, Iowa City.
7. American Ballet Theatre, May 6, Hancher Auditorium, Iowa City
ABT has been thrilling audiences since 1939, bringing dancers from New York to sites nationwide and to 45 countries. Recent stops in Iowa City thrilled audiences with “Whipped Cream” in April 2019, which I called “a feast of sight and sound, featuring 20 local performers and live music from Orchestra Iowa,” and again with a July 4 star-spangled spectacular on the Hancher Green with tickets priced at $5 in advance and $10 at the gate. And because of ABT’s long relationship with the University of Iowa venue, Hancher got first dibs for choosing the performance date.
This spring, ABT will close out Hancher’s 50th anniversary season with a mixed repertoire that includes “ZigZag,” set to the music of the venerable Tony Bennett.
8. Chicago, May 13, Xtream Arena, Coralville
Does anybody really know what time it is? Is it 25 or 6 to 4? Fueled by hot horns, Chicago has been colouring our world since 1967 and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016. Now, one of the bestselling bands of all time is coming to Coralville, with a new album in tow, “Born for This Moment,” released July 15, 2022.
9. Orchestra Iowa: Verdi’s “Requiem,“ March 10 at Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City and March 11 at the Paramount Theatre in Cedar Rapids
Hancher describes Giuseppe Verdi’s monumental work as “an epic showpiece for orchestra, choir and soloists that takes the audience on a journey from devastating sorrow to pure terror in the powerful ‘Dies Irae,’ to glorious joy and peace.”
10. Revival Theatre: “Sunset Boulevard,” Sept. 22 to 24, Theatre Cedar Rapids
Karla Goettel steps into the role of Norma Desmond in a musical Revival Theatre Company says “weaves a compelling tale of romance, obsession and faded glory.” This Tony-winning Andrew Lloyd Webber theatrical work is based on the 1950 film noir in which former silent-screen star Desmond, “alone in her Hollywood mansion with little more than celluloid memories … remains what she has always been: the greatest star of all.”
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