Inside Wharton Center's 2017-18 Broadway season

Apr 19, 2017

Go inside the 2017-18 Wharton Center season, which was publicly announced Weds., April 19th. In part one, WKAR's Jamie Paisley focuses on the ever-popular Broadway productions coming to mid-Michigan.


There is plenty to love in the just-announced Wharton Center 2017-18 season of Broadway favorites… although the 1st production coming in mid-October is one that hasn’t been on a New York stage yet.

"And one of them hasn't even played the United States until this U.S. tour started," explains Wharton Center’s Executive Director Mike Brand. "which is David Ian's production of The Bodyguard. It's a script that follows the movie very closely. It is just chocked full of hit music and it is a huge audience pleaser."

[Music from the musical version of 'The Bodyguard']

In addition to her famous cover of Dolly Parton’s 'I Will Always Love You,' the musical version of The Bodyguard also contains several other hit numbers by the late Whitney Houston. But there are two other musicals coming the Wharton Center’s 2017-18 season which also highlight women songstresses: February’s On Your Feet! celebrates the music of Latina superstar Gloria Estefan.

[Music from the cast of On Your Feet!]

While January’s production of Waitress features original music by pop singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles.

[Music from the cast of Waitress]

Regarding this trend of utilizing musicians not usually associated with Broadway, Mike Brand says "It's kinda the new hybrid and the new infusion of rockers, American songwriters that are now integrating to New York's Times Square/Broadway theater creating an energy that is very American. So, Broadway has become America's art form, both in education and also in our presentations of these national tours."

In December, the family friendly musical Finding Neverland, exploring the life of Peter Pan creator J.M. Barrie arrives on stage; While March of 2018 heralds the smash Broadway hit Something Rotten! which lampoons Shakespeare and musical theater itself. But to close the 2017-18 season at the Wharton Center… well, Brand 'just can't wait' to say it:

"Well, we're bringing the 'King' back! The one 'king' musical, which is The Lion King. Since it's creation, it never lost it's title."

[Music from the cast of The Lion King]

This Lion King run even includes a sensory friendly performance during that blockbuster production’s two-and-a-half weeks at the Wharton Center in July of 2018. That long residency includes dates set aside specifically for subscription members. But subscription has another benefit as Wharton Center’s Diane Willcox explains: "We are looking toward Hamilton in our '18-'19 season which is one of the largest hits in the world. People really crave access to that and, of course, we wanted to allow our subscribers greatest opportunity for that. So, if you do subscribe this year to the '17-'18 season to 5 or more productions and then you renew to 5 or more in our '18-'19 season, you will have first access to tickets to Hamilton."

[Music from the cast of Hamilton]

Tomorrow on WKAR, we’ll learn about the rest of the just-announced Wharton Center season, including easily the most famous cellist in the world; a playwright who the Pulitzer last week; plus the favorite mall elf of longtime NPR listeners.

NOTE: Due to broadcast time restraints, this feature left out that the tour of An American in Paris featuring music of George Gershwin comes to the Wharton Center in November of 2017. See below for the full rundown of the MSUFCU Broadway at Wharton Center series:

The Bodyguard                                                                     October 17-22, 2017
An American in Paris                                                          November 14-19, 2017
Finding Neverland                                                               December 12-17, 2017
Waitress                                                                                  January 23-28, 2018
On Your Feet!                                                                         February 13-18, 2018
Something Rotten!                                                                March 13-18, 2018
Disney’s The Lion King                                                        July 11-29, 2018
The Lion King Sensory-Friendly Performance               July 21, 2018 (Matinee)