Hancher pulling out all the stops for 'first' season

Steve Martin, Martin Short will christen auditorium's stage Sept. 24


Steve Martin (left) and Martin Short are bringing their show,
Hancher Steve Martin (left) and Martin Short are bringing their show, “An Evening You’ll Forget for the Rest of Your Life,” to Hancher Auditorium’s Sept. 24 gala celebration. Martin also will perform with his bluegrass band, the Steep Canyon Rangers.

Steve Martin and Martin Short will christen Hancher’s stage at the start of a wild and crazy first season for the University of Iowa’s new $113 million performing arts center.

The comedians who rocketed to stardom via “Saturday Night Live” will perform together for Hancher’s Sept. 24 gala. Steve Martin, a crackerjack banjo player, also will perform with his bluegrass band, the Steep Canyon Rangers.

Don’t be fooled by their name for the show: “An Evening You’ll Forget for the Rest of Your Life.” Chuck Swanson, Hancher’s executive director, promises the event filled with Champagne and surprises will be an evening to remember.

“It is just fabulous, they’re so good,” said Swanson, who saw the pair perform in Milwaukee. “They’re both just so entertaining, and so unusual, so creative.”

He also hopes the festive atmosphere will give the 2016-2017 season’s performers an amped-up “artist experience.”

“For them to be on that stage, looking out at that excited audience — that audience that is just over the moon for opening night — that will just add fuel to the fire that will take them to another level. They’ll get caught up in the specialness of the evening,” he said.

Season brochures have been mailed to Hancher donors, who have the first chance to buy tickets. Most shows go on sale to the public June 10.


Tickets to the first Broadway show, “The Book of Mormon,” onstage Oct. 11 to 16, will go on sale Aug. 5.

The coming season reads like a who’s who among elite artists. Among the shows: jazz saxophonist David Sanborn, who studied at the University of Iowa, will perform with his band Sept. 29; operatic soprano Renee Fleming on Oct. 8; the Joffrey’s new setting of “The Nutcracker” ballet, Dec. 1 to 4; pianist Emanuel Ax, who helped choose Hancher’s new Steinway concert grand piano, Dec. 6; “Mamma Mia!” in its final tour, Feb. 25 and 26, 2017; cellist Yo-Yo Ma on March 5; and the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra on March 25.

Dance is back, orchestras are back, Broadway is back — all those events that need the big Hancher stage and its state-of-the-art facilities to showcase them with finesse. Several dance and musical events are Hancher commissions, continuing a long-standing UI tradition.

The size of the new Hancher stage is comparable to the one in the 1972 building that was ruined in the floods of 2008.

But a decision was made to reduce the seating capacity from 2,533 to 1,800. This is intended to allow audiences and performers to make a more intimate connection.

“More than anything, we are interested in the experience,” Swanson said. “In big halls, a lot of times it’s hard to hear, it’s hard to see. This space — the intimacy, the feel of this theater — the experience is going to be like no other.

“It’s going to be a beautiful experience. People are going to be able to see, they’ll be able to hear, and that artist is going to feel so connected to the audience. That just helps to get those hearts pounding.”

Fewer seats also means people shouldn’t wait until the last minute to try to order tickets, Swanson said. Several shows, including “The Nutcracker,” will have several performances, making it easier to accommodate anticipated ticket demands.


The first-floor Strauss Hall, which doubles as a rehearsal space, will provide an even more intimate setting, seating 100 to 200 people for Club Hancher events, as well as a puppet show and music and dance presentations.

In a fitting salute to Hancher’s beginnings, New Orleans’ Preservation Hall Jazz Band, the first touring act on the original Hancher stage, is returning to launch the new season with a free concert. Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue will join the ensemble on the Hancher lawn Sept. 16.

“I’m so happy with way the season turned out,” Swanson said. “Nobody’s going to be disappointed.”

The new Hancher Auditorium is at 1 Park Rd. on the UI campus, north of its previous site and west of North Dubuque Street and the Iowa River.



9, 11: Hancher open houses

16: Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue and Preservation Hall Jazz Band, free outdoor concert on the Hancher Green

24: Steve Martin and Martin Short, “An Evening You’ll Forget for the Rest of Your Life” — black-tie-optional gala

29: David Sanborn Electric Band


2, 5, 6: Puppet State Theatre Company of Scotland, “The Man Who Planted Trees,” in Strauss Hall

8: Soprano Renee Fleming

11 to 16: “The Book of Mormon” — Broadway

20: Step Afrika! “The Migration: Reflections of Jacob Lawrence” — dance, Hancher commission

27: Cellist Maya Beiser in “The Day,” by David Lang — Hancher commission

28: Laurie Lewis and the Right Hands, in Strauss Hall — bluegrass/country



5: “Pomp, Brass, and Lunacy!” Tomas Kubinek, Wycliffe Gordon, Orchestra Iowa, University Choirs — Hancher commission

11: Chucho Valdes Joe Lovano Quintet


1 to 4: The Joffrey Ballet, “The Nutcracker”

6: Pianist Emanuel Ax performing a new work by Samuel Carl Adams — Hancher commission

9: Asleep at the Wheel, “Merry Texas Christmas Y’all!”


20: The Cleveland Orchestra

27: Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion — dance

31 to Feb. 5: “The Sound of Music” — Broadway

8 and 9: “Soil,” in Strauss Hall — danceFEBRUARY

11: The Ying Quartet with Billy Childs

16: Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq in concert with the film “Nanook of the North,” in Strauss Hall

25 and 26: “Mamma Mia!” — Broadway


3 and 4: Circus Oz

5: Cellist Yo–Yo Ma

9: Las Cafeteras — music

23: Jessica Lang Dance

25: The Boston Pops’ touring Esplanade Orchestra

30: David J. Skorton — lecture

APRIL 2017

4 to 9: Mission Creek Festival collaboration

14 and 15: Fred Hersch Trio, in Strauss Hall — jazz

MAY 2017

4: “/peh-LO-tah/” by Marc Bamuthi Joseph — multidisciplinary show


Stanley Cafe: Open 5 to 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, beginning Oct. 6, serving appetizers and beverages

Culinary Arts Events: Four ticketed events featuring unique offerings from local restaurants Pullman Bar & Diner; Atlas Restaurant and Bar/Basta Pizzeria Ristorante; Oasis the Falafel Joint; and Share


Donors: On sale now. To become a donor, call the UI Foundation at 1-(800) 648-6973 or go to Hancher.uiowa.edu/support

Public: June 10 for most shows; Aug. 5 for “The Book of Mormon”

Box Office: (319) 335-1160, 1-(800) HANCHER (426-2437) or†Hancher.uiowa.edu

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