We can’t get through the 2017-18 arts preview essay without saying the H-word, so here it is: “Hamilton” comes in October 2018, capping a Broadway Lights series so popular that season tickets have sold out. (You can still buy tickets to individual shows closer to opening dates.)
Now, even a reader with a bag over his head and his feet glued to the kitchen floor for the last year would know the hip-hop musical about our Founding Fathers is en route to Belk Theater. So there’s no point in my recommending it as a highlight of the year.
Charlotte Ballet’s “Nutcracker” has become an institution, though it felt fresh last Christmas with renovated sets and costumes. So who needs to list it among must-see events? Opera Carolina will do “Rigoletto” and “The Marriage of Figaro,” which both perennially rank among the 10 most-performed operas worldwide. But I’d rather mention things that push the company and its audience outside their comfort zones.
Hence this alphabetical list of 12 events I’m curious about among the 2017-18 rosters. Take a look, take out your wallet and take some chances. (Find links to all of these – and the rest of what’s going on – in our calendars: dance; music; theater; and visual arts. Plus: Find where you’re going, with our interactive map.)
▪ “American Idiot” (Sept. 27-Oct. 14) – This hard-rocking musical from the band Green Day seared viewers’ minds on its national tour. Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte, which has a way with transgressive musicals, gives this pessimistic look at American youth its local premiere.
▪ “And in This Corner, Cassius Clay” (Feb. 2-18) – Children’s Theatre of Charlotte has always done socially conscious plays without preaching. Idris Goodwin’s drama introduces us to future boxer Muhammad Ali as a teenager in racially segregated Louisville, Ky., in the 1950s.
▪ “Bonnie and Clyde: The Musical” (Feb. 2-March 11) – The Frank Wildhorn-Don Black tunefest about Depression-era robbers and murderers gets its local premiere at Matthews Playhouse in the same season as “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “South Pacific.” That’s a gutsy move.
▪ “Bright Star” (June 26-July 1) – This Americana-style musical by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell got buried by the H-bomb in the 2015-16 Broadway season, but its sweet songs and story about Southern lovers separated by fate work well. It’s in the Blumenthal’s Broadway Lights season.
▪ “I Dream” (May 18-24) – Opera Carolina will bookend its two favorites in the mainstage roster with two risky shows: “Cyrano,” about the long-nosed French cavalier who loves in secret, and Douglas Tappin’s R&B-flavored opera about the last 36 hours of Martin Luther King Jr.
▪ “King Hedley II” (March 28-April 7) – Director Lou Bellamy and On Q Productions teamed in 2015 for August Wilson’s “Seven Guitars,” part of his Pittsburgh cycle of plays. They reunite for this sort-of sequel about a former prisoner who’s trying to open a video store in the 1980s.
▪ Leonard Bernstein tribute (March 23-24) – The Charlotte Symphony will pay tribute to the protean conductor-composer, who’d have been 100 next Aug. 25, with his suites from “On the Waterfront” and “West Side Story” and his first symphony, known as “Jeremiah.”
▪ “Lingua” (May 4-13) – Dancers don’t typically need language to communicate, but Caroline Calouche isn’t a typical choreographer. This intimate, full-length piece combines dance, cirque and theater techniques to see how language influences the way we think and interact.
▪ “The Most Incredible Thing” (March 9-18) – Choreographer Javier de Frutos will be a key ingredient in artistic director Hope Muir’s mix at Charlotte Ballet. This piece is his full-length interpretation of a Hans Christian Andersen short story, set to music by Pet Shop Boys.
▪ New York Philharmonic String Quartet (Oct. 5) – When you combine the first-chair violinists, violist and cellist from a world-class orchestra, you get a supergroup. Charlotte Concerts will kick off its season with this foursome, which plays anything from Beethoven to John Adams.
▪ Nnenna Freelon (Nov. 4) – The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art has become one of the Queen City’s few havens for jazz. The jewel of its eight-concert series may be either French harmonica master Frédéric Yonnet (March 2) or this U.S. singer-composer, a six-time Grammy nominee.
▪ “The Grapes of Wrath” (Oct. 27-Nov. 12) – Frank Galati’s Tony-winning adaptation of John Steinbeck’s novel about migrant workers during the Depression has parts for 31 actors and a band. That’s quite a crowd for a small stage, but Theatre Charlotte will pack them in this fall.