On Stage – the Artist Series

The Artist Series has been bringing the performing arts to the First Coast for quite a while. They started out with a mission of “making the arts more accessible to students,” but today they are doing that and much more. National and international acts can be found on their stages. From Broadway to dance, from world culture to opera, they’ve fed our appetite for great shows. The 2013-2014 season is their 48th.

Milt Russos, Artist Series Executive Director says Jacksonville’s performing arts scene “is vibrant” and gives people of different ages and tastes “lots of entertainment options.” Downtown Jacksonville in particular, says Russos, “has great performing arts of all types, including the best of Broadway, national and international concert headliners, and large-scale events throughout the city’s first-class venues.”

We asked Russos about the highlights of the Artist Series spring season, and he had a lot to say: “We have three big music names coming this spring. World Guinness Record Holder for Best-selling Male Latin Artist, Julio Iglesias has a career that spans 45 years. Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons are hotter than ever after Jersey Boys made ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry,’ ‘Walk Like a Man,’ and other classic songs popular all over again. Singer, songwriter, and entertainer Paul Anka is best known for ‘Diana,’ ‘My Way,’ and more.”

When it comes to theatre, three Artist Series shows make his must-see list. War Horse, which he says is “one of the best shows I have ever seen and is easily among my top 10 favorites! With life-sized puppets strong enough for men to ride, this Broadway show uses theatrical stagecraft that you really have to see to believe.” He also recommends Memphis, which won Best Musical at the Tony Awards, among other accolades. He likes the show because it “features great songs and great choreography by Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys and Flashdance – The Musical).” Last, but certainly not least, he picks Million Dollar Quartet. This true story is about the night Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins came together to make some music. Says Russos, “The Jerry Lee Lewis character will knock your socks off!”

Here’s the upcoming calendar for the Artist Series. Please check the website at www.artistseriesjax.org for a complete calendar and for locations, as some shows are at the Wilson Center, and some are at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts. Also check EU’s Family Events section for additional Artist Series shows the whole family can enjoy.

Feb 5 GLENN MILLER ORCHESTRA With its unique jazz sound, the Glenn Miller Orchestra is considered to be one of the greatest bands of all time. The present Glenn Miller Orchestra was formed in 1956 and has been touring consistently since, playing an average of 300 live dates a year all around the world.

Feb 12-16 DEFENDING THE CAVEMAN has both sexes roaring with laughter, affectionately nudging each other as they recognize themselves in the stories being told on the stage.

Feb 18-23 WAR HORSE tells the story of a boy and his horse. This powerfully moving and imaginative drama, filled with stirring music and songs, is a show of phenomenal inventiveness that is currently playing to packed houses in London and around the world. At its heart are astonishing life-sized puppets created by South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company.

Feb 25 ALVIN AILEY: AMERICAN DANCE THEATER From the pulse-racing thrill of contemporary favorites to the spirit-lifting joy of beloved classics, these extraordinary dancers offer something for every taste.

Feb 28 CELTIC WOMAN The all-new stage production will celebrate Ireland and the Emerald Isles’ spellbinding Celtic heritage through an extraordinary presentation of traditional Irish anthems, pop standards and original music by Emmy-nominated music producer David Downes.

Mar 2 JULIO IGLESIAS Music icon Julio Iglesias set two Guinness World Records: the first one in 1983, for having sold the most records in the most languages in history, and the second one in 2013, for being the Best-selling Male Latin Artist, with over 300 million copies of his 80 albums released worldwide. In April 2013, in Beijing, he received the award to the First & Most Popular International Artist of All Time in China.

Mar 5 FRANKIE VALLI AND THE FOUR SEASONS Launched amid Jersey Boys-mania, Frankie Valli’s first new studio album in 15 years Romancing The ’60s has become the latest classic. Produced by Bob Gaudio, the set includes unforgettable new versions of such gems as ‘Spanish Harlem,’ ‘Call Me’ and ‘Take Good Care of My Baby.’

Mar 7 CARMEN Betrayal, jealousy, metamorphosis from a law-abiding soldier to a thief, smuggler and even murderer. America’s favorite opera sizzles with excitement as the irresistible gypsy Carmen seduces Don José, leads him from a life of respectability to one of crime, then casts him callously aside in favor of another – with dire consequences.

Mar 18-23 MEMPHIS From the underground dance clubs of 1950s Memphis, Tennessee, comes a hot new Broadway musical that bursts off the stage with explosive dancing, irresistible songs and a thrilling tale of fame and forbidden love. Inspired by actual events, MEMPHIS is about a white radio DJ who wants to change the world and a black club singer who is ready for her big break. Come along on their incredible journey to the ends of the airwaves–filled with laughter, soaring emotion and roof-raising rock ‘n’ roll.

Apr 3 PAUL ANKA By the 70s, the success of ‘My Way’ and a string of hits like ‘(You’re) Having My Baby’ confirmed Anka’s status as an icon of popular music. Other Anka hits include ‘Lonely Boy,’ ‘Put Your Head On My Shoulder,’ ‘(You Are My) Destiny,’ and many more.

Inspired by the electrifying, true story of the famed recording session that brought together rock ‘n’ roll icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins for the first and only time. On December 4, 1956, these four young musicians were gathered together by Sam Phillips, the “Father of Rock ’n’ Roll,” at Sun Records in Memphis for what would be one of the greatest jam sessions of all time. Million Dollar Quartet brings that legendary night to life with an irresistible tale of broken promises, secrets, betrayal and celebrations featuring timeless hits.

About Erin Thursby