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BEST OF FALL: Our picks for music, theater and dance

One of the strengths of the Kansas City arts community is that it takes to heart the notion that art is for everyone. The arts are not elitist: They form the heart and soul of our civilization: We forget that at our peril.

KC’s 2018-2019 season begins with a fall rich in live presentations ranging from the adventurous (the New Dance Series at JCCC; a world-premiere play about the teenaged Martin Luther King, Jr., at The Coterie) to the traditional (classics by Eugene O’Neill and Neil Simon; the Philadelphia Orchestra in concert), offered by groups large and small to audiences of all ages and backgrounds. Here is a sampling of some of the more promising events.



7-30 Kansas City Repertory Theatre; Last Days of Summer; Steve Kluger has adapted his own coming-of-age novel about a bullied kid in 1940s Brooklyn into an inspiring new musical, with music by Grammy Award-winner Jason Howland (world premiere); Spencer Theatre. Contact: 816-235-2700 or www.kcrep.org.

Bach Aria Soloists

8 Bach Aria Soloists; BAS at the Kemper; This free concert of favorites from BAS’s 18-year history inaugurates the innovative ensemble’s new season; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. Contact: 816-820-1473 or www.bachariasoloists.com.

12-30 Kansas City Actors Theatre; A Moon for the Misbegotten; One of the neglected masterpieces of the American stage, this sequel-like follow-up to O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night (which KCAT performed in 2013) gets a fresh take, with Ashley Pankow and Brian Paulette in the lead roles;H&R Block City Stage, Union Station Kansas City. Contact: 816-235-6222 or www.kcactors.org.

13-23 Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre; The Odd Couple; Neil Simon’s Tony Award-winning classic not only injected new life into contemporary comedy, it created two indelible American archetypes (Oscar and Felix); Bob Paisley directs; Warwick Theatre. Contact: 816-569-3226 or www.metkc.org.

13-30 Musical Theater Heritage at Crown Center; My Fair Lady; Lerner & Lowe’s 1956 musical based on Shaw’s Pygmalion, which won six Tony Awards and (in its 1964 film adaptation) eight Oscars, is directed by the fearless Heidi Van; MTH Theater at Crown Center. Contact: 816-221-6987 or www.musicaltheaterheritage.com.

Sean Chen / Photo by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

14-16 Kansas City Symphony; Beethoven’s Triple Concerto and Symphonic Dances; UMKC Conservatory Artist in Residence Sean Chen joins departing KCS Concertmaster Noah Geller, Principal Cellist Mark Gibbs, and Music Director Michael Stern for one of Beethoven’s most monumental works; the Symphony also presents Rachmaninoff’s final masterpiece; Kauffman Center. Contact: 816-471-0400 or www.kcsymphony.org.

14-16 Starlight Theatre; Chicago; The Broadway Tour of Kander & Ebb’s electrifying musical from 1975, based on real-life characters and with songs by one of the greatest composers our city has produced, lands at KC’s loveliest of outdoor venues; Starlight Theatre. Contact: 816-363-7827 or www.kcstarlight.com.

Kevin Willmott

18-October 21 The Coterie Theatre; Becoming Martin; Kevin Willmott’s world-premiere play about a Martin Luther King, Jr., observes the Civil Rights leader at the time when he first entered Morehouse College as a precocious teen; the co-author of Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq and BlacKkKlansman, Kevin has written a chrystalline and extraordinarily moving work to help the Coterie commemorate its 40th anniversary; The Coterie Theatre, Crown Center. Contact: 816-474-6552 or www.thecoterie.org.

21 1900 Building and Park University’s International Center for Music; Vladimir Viardo, piano; This 1973 Van Cliburn Competition Gold Medalist, who has grown into one of the most respected pianists of our time, makes a rare Kansas City appearance; 1900 Building.Contact: 816-221-4488 or www.1900bldg.com.

21-22 Carlsen Center Presents; New Dance Partners; The annual showcase of local choreographers and dancers presents new works performed by the Kansas City Ballet, Owen/Cox Dance Group, Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company and Störling Dance Theatre; Yardley Hall. Contact: 913-469-4445 or www.jccc.edu.

21-October 6 KC MeltingPot Theatre; Radio Golf; The final installment of August Wilson’s epochal “Pittsburgh Cycle” opens this courageous company’s official season; Just Off Broadway Theatre. Contact: 816-226-8087 or www.kcmeltingpot.com.

‘West Side Story’ / Photo by Lynn Lane

22-30 Lyric Opera of Kansas City; West Side Story; The company celebrates the centennial of Bernstein’s birthday with his most enduring stage work, a Romeo and Juliet retelling that became a landmark both of American opera and of the Broadway musical, directed by Francesca Zambello; Kauffman Center. Contact: 816-471-7344 or www.kcopera.org.

26 Harriman-Jewell Series; The Philadelphia Orchestra with Yannick Nézet-Séguin; The 118-year-old orchestra makes its first local visit in more than a decade, led by its dashing music director and featuring soloist Lisa Batiashvili performing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto; Kauffman Center. Contact: 816-415-5025 or www.hjseries.org.

26-December 2 New Theatre Restaurant; Always … Patsy Cline; This “jukebox musical” with hits by the great Country star is based on the real-life friendship between Patsy and her longtime pen-pal Louise Seger; New Theatre Restaurant. Contact: 913-649-7469 or www.newtheatre.com.

Ramsey Lewis

27 Folly Jazz Series; Ramsey Lewis and Urban Knights; The 36th season opens with a living legend of contemporary jazz, who has been at the piano for more than half a century; Folly Theater. Contact: 816-474-4444 or www.follytheater.org.

28-October 28 Quality Hill Playhouse; Broadway and All That Jazz: Songbook of the ’20s and ’30s; This program exploring the roots of the American Songbook is the first in an inventive, season-long series that takes us through the songbooks of the 40s, 50s, 60s & 70s, and 80s to the present; Quality Hill Playhouse. Contact: 816-421-1700 or www.qualityhillplayhouse.com.



3 Kauffman Center Presents; Black Violin; Violinist Kev Marcus and violist Wil B are formally trained soloists who meld classical, hip-hop and other styles toward what’s been called “classical boom,” but you really have to hear it to grasp its unique blend; Kauffman Center. Contact: 816-994-7200 or www.kauffmancenter.org.

Joshua Bell / Photo by Marc Hom

4 Lied Center of Kansas; Joshua Bell, violin; The rock star of classical violin music performs in recital with pianist Sam Haywood; Lied Center of Kansas, Lawrence. Contact: 785-864-2787 or www.lied.ku.edu.

11 1900 Building and Park University’s International Center for Music; Shmuel Ashkenasi, violin; The legendary violinist, who holds posts at three schools including the Curtis Institute of Music, performs with Park’s own Director of Collaborative Piano,Lolita Lisovskaya-Sayevich; 1900 Building. Contact: 816-221-4488 or www.1900bldg.com.

12-21 Kansas City Ballet; The Wizard of Oz; The indefatigable tale is retold in dance here, with new choreography by Septime Webre and music by Matthew Pierce, the same team that brought us the KCB’s Alice (in Wonderland)in 2014; Kauffman Center. Contact: 816-931-8993 or www.kcballet.org.

Te Deum’s Matthew Shepard

14-15 Te Deum Chamber Choir; To Life: Bernstein and Contemporary Jewish Music; Matthew Shepard leads a program that includes Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms,works by David Lang and Aaron Jay Kernis, and two world premieres; Village Presbyterian Church (October 14) and St. Andrew’s Episcopal church (October 15). Contact: www.te-deum.org.

17-November 11 Unicorn Theatre; Sweat; The ever-provocative Lynn Nottage won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for this urgent drama about factory layoffs and the tensions they spark; Unicorn Theatre. Contact: 816-531-7529 or www.unicorntheatre.org.

18-November 11 Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre; The Orphans’ Home Cycle; Karen Paisley directs the final, three-part magnum opusby Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Horton Foote, which recounts the family saga of the author’s own father; Warwick Theatre. Contact: 816-569-3226 or www.metkc.org.

19-November 11 Kansas City Repertory Theatre; Of Mice and Men; Steinbeck’s Depression-era classic about the fragmentation of the American dream, directed here by Jason Chanos, always seems to find resonance; Copaken Stage. Contact: 816-235-2700 or www.kcrep.org.

20-21 Kansas City Women’s Chorus; LUNAcy; KC’s recently ramped up women’s choir presents a program of music and lyrics inspired by the moon; White Theatre at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City. Contact: www.kcwomenschorus.org.

Victoria Botero / Photo by Aaron Bevin

20-21 Owen/Cox Dance Group; Morena; Soprano Victoria Botero joins the Group for a program of contemporary choreography set to music traditionally sung by women in Sephardic, Arabic and Armenian cultures; Polsky Theatre. Contact: 816-235-6222 or www.owencoxdance.org.

24 Kauffman Center Presents; Chanticleer: Then and There, Here and Now; America’s Grammy Award-winning all-male choir marks its 40th anniversary with a program of highlights from its long journey; Kauffman Center. Contact: 816-994-7200 or www.kauffmancenter.org.

29 Harriman-Jewell Series; Mariinsky Orchestra with Valery Gergiev, conductor, and Denis Matsuev, piano; The maestro returns to Helzberg Hall, this time with his whole orchestra, to present music of Rachmaninoff (the Paganini Rhapsody) and Mahler (the bone-rattling Fifth Symphony); you haven’t lived until you’ve heard this orchestra play Mahler; Kauffman Center. Contact: 816-415-5025 or www.hjseries.org.



1-18 Musical Theater Heritage Theater at Crown Center; Show Boat; Jeff Church directs Jerome Kern’s and Oscar Hammerstein II’s landmark musical as part of the company’s MTH Heritage Series; MTH Theater at Crown Center. Contact: 816-221-6987 or www.musicaltheaterheritage.com.

2-18 Spinning Tree Theatre; The Nance; Kansas City’s most urbane theater company presents the local premiere of the Douglas Carter Beane/Glen Kelly hit, which won three Tony Awards; Just Off Broadway Theatre. Contact: 816-569-5277 or www.spinningtreetheatre.com.

3-11 Lyric Opera of Kansas City; Madama Butterfly; Karah Son stars as Cio-Cio San in Puccini’s nail-biting tale of love, betrayal and American imperial cluelessness, which also features KC native Daniel Belcher as Sharpless; Kauffman Center. Contact: 816-471-7344 or www.kcopera.org.

3-18 White Theatre at the J; Lerner & Lowe’s Camelot; Written back before we realized you could make a musical out of anything, this audacious Arthurian re-telling was like a thunderbolt in 1960; White Theatre at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City. Contact: 913-327-8054 or www.thejkc.org.

 8-18 The Barn Players; Rock of Ages; Eric Magnus directs Chris D’Arienzo’s Tony Award-nominated show featuring ’80s music of Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Whitesnake and others; The Arts Asylum. Contact: 913-432-9100 or www.thebarnplayers.org.

Marilyn Maye

11 Carlsen Center Presents; Marilyn Maye: Celebrating “90 at Last,” Featuring the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra; Not just because of longevity but because of artistry and style, Marilyn has earned the title “First Lady of American Song”; Yardley Hall. Contact: 913-469-4445 or www.jccc.edu.

16-18 Kansas City Symphony; Mozart, Bach and Schubert’s Ninth; Grandeur and awe are on the bill in this program with Schubert’s “Great” Symphony and John Adams’s On the Transmigration of Souls, a dark contemplation of the events around 9-11; Kauffman Center. Contact: 816-471-0400 or www.kcsymphony.org.

Shah Sadikov / Photo by Russ Mehl

17 NAVO Arts; Mozart Out of the Jungle; For its fourth season, this adventurous group of area musicians focuses on chamber and orchestral music, with concerts in partnership with the Overland Park Orchestra and Reach Out Kansas, Inc. This program includes Mozart’s Serenata notturna and Exsultate jubilate (with soprano Sarah Tannehill Anderson), and Alfred Schnittke’s Moz-Art à la Haydn,based on one of Mozart’s unfinished fragments; Unity Temple on the Plaza. Contact: www.navoarts.com.

28-December 30 Unicorn Theatre and UMKC Department of Theatre; The Wolves; Sarah DeLappe’s play, a finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize, uses a women’s soccer team to discuss issues of individuality versus group effort in a complex world; Unicorn Theatre. Contact: 816-531-7529 or www.unicorntheatre.org.

30-December 15 KC MeltingPot Theatre; On Shoulders Now; Playwright (and MeltingPot Artistic Director) Harvey Williams’s holiday tale looks at what happens to America’s disenfranchised during the “season of cheer”; Just Off Broadway Theatre. Contact: 816-226-8087 or www.kcmeltingpot.com.

30-December 23 Kansas City Ballet; The Nutcracker; Devon Carney’s still fairly new version of the holiday favorite in its fourth iteration, and it becomes more polished and distinctive each year; Kauffman Center. Contact: 816-931-8993 or www.kcballet.org.



Heartland Men’s Chorus

1-2 & 9 Heartland Men’s Chorus; Sleigh! Dashing through the Holidays with HMC; The 33-year-old chorus presents a program of choral masterworks and favorite songs and carols; Folly Theater (December 1 and 2) and Yardley hall (December 9). Contact: 816-931-3338 or www.hmckc.org.

2 Carlsen Center Presents; Winterlude: Angela Hagenbach Quintet; This great singer-songwriter with the dazzling vocal range presents an evening of jazz at its best; Polsky Theatre. Contact: 913-469-4445 or www.jccc.edu.

3-4 Te Deum Chamber Choir; Peace and Joy; Ten years after its inception, the peerless choir has decided to offer its own holiday program at last; Village Presbyterian Church (December 3) and The Create-It Studio (December 4). Contact: www.te-deum.org.

5 White Theatre at the J; Amit Peled, cello; Grammy-nominated performer and teacher known for his children’s book, A Cello Named Pablo, is constantly searching for new ways to make classical music approachable; White Theatre at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City. Contact: 913-327-8054 or www.thejkc.org.

5-February 17 New Theatre Restaurant; Shear Madness; More than 12 million people worldwide have seen this wacky whodunit, now in its 31st year; this version features Home Improvement’s Richard Karn; New Theatre Restaurant. Contact: 913-649-7469 or www.newtheatre.com.

7 Bach Aria Soloists and Heart of America Shakespeare Festival; A Winter’s Tale in Word and Song; Pertinent scenes from several of Shakespeare’s plays are performed script-in-hand by leading actors to live music by Bach, Handel, Vivaldi and Cecilia McDowall; Polsky Theatre. Contact: 913-469-4445 or www.jccc.edu.

7-9 Kansas City Symphony; Messiah; Former KCS Associate Conductor Aram Demirjian returns as guest conductor for this annual classic, with top soloists and the KC Symphony Chorus; Kauffman Center. Contact: 816-471-0400 or www.kcsymphony.org.

Joyce DiDonato and Yannick Nézet-Séguin

13 Harriman-Jewell Series; Joyce DiDonato and Yannick Nézet-Séguin, mezzo-soprano and pianist in recital; When a Prairie Village native teams up with the music director of both the Metropolitan Opera and Philadelphia Orchestra, it’s hard to predict what might happen; in this case, Kansas City will be treated to a rare complete performance of Franz Schubert’s deliciously depressing Die Winterreise (just in time for the holidays!); Folly Theater. Contact: 816-415-5025 or www.hjseries.org.

14-18 Kansas City Symphony; Christmas Festival; Jason Seber III conducts an extravaganza of children’s choirs, handbells, and the Kansas City Symphony Chorus. Contact: 816-471-0400 or www.kcsymphony.org.

Cynthia Sheppard

15 Kansas City Women’s Chorus; Secret Santas; KCWC joins the holiday fray; Central Presbyterian Church. Contact: www.kcwomenschorus.org.

26-30 Kansas City Broadway Series (Broadway Across America/Theatre League); The Book of Mormon; With nine Tony Awards and almost unprecedented accolades (The New York Times called it “the best musical of the century”), how can you resist?; Music Hall. Contact: 816-421-7500 or www.broadwayinkc.com.

Cover photo: Black Violin, photo by Colin Brennan. 

For a feature on Kansas City’s upcoming Open Spaces, a city-wide celebration of the visual and performing arts, see our August 18th print edition and read about it at even greater length here at Arts Corner. 


To reach Paul Horsley, performing arts editor, send an email to paul@kcindependent.com or find him on Facebook or Twitter. For more info, visit the Arts Corner at www.kcindependent.com.

Paul Horsley, Performing Arts Editor 

Paul studied piano and musicology at WSU and Cornell University. He also earned a degree in journalism, because writing about the arts in order to inspire others to partake in them was always his first love. After earning a PhD from Cornell, he became Program Annotator for the Philadelphia Orchestra, where he learned firsthand the challenges that non profits face. He moved to KC to join the then-thriving Arts Desk at The Kansas City Star, but in 2008 he happily accepted a post at The Independent. Paul contributes to national publications, including Dance Magazine, Symphony, Musical America, and The New York Times, and has conducted scholarly research in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic (the latter on a Fulbright Fellowship). He also taught musicology at Cornell, LSU and Park University.



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