See the world in 24 Center for the Performing Arts events

June 05, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State’s 2017–18 season features 24 events that celebrate artistic talents worldwide with productions that engage audiences and challenge them to experience a variety of cultures. Individual-tickets go on sale at 8 a.m. Monday, June 26.

The center will host its varied schedule at Eisenhower and Schwab auditoriums Sept. 14 through April 18, 2018. Highlights include performances by cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Kathryn Stott; a stage adaptation of the beloved movie “Dirty Dancing”; Grammy-winning jazz vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant; Dorrance Dance’s “ETM: Double Down”; Argentinian percussive dance sensation Che Malambo; a return of Yamato: The Drummers of Japan; Spanish Harlem Orchestra; the Philadanco!-Rennie Harris Puremovement production “Straight Outta Philly”; surreal theater troupe Mummenschanz; and a return engagement of “Jersey Boys.”

The center also is promoting the Penn State School of Music concerts “Mosaic” Dec. 3 and “Ein deutsches Requiem” April 14.

Beginning Monday, June 12, visit the Center for the Performing Arts for complete details about the events.

Beginning June 26, patrons may purchase tickets online; by phone at 814-863-0255 or 800-ARTS-TIX, and in person at Eisenhower Auditorium (weekdays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.), the Penn State Downtown Theatre Center (weekdays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and the Bryce Jordan Center (weekdays 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.).

“It’s always exciting to announce a new season,” said George Trudeau, center director. “Come make the center part of your life. As Yo-Yo Ma eloquently said, 'An artist creates art for life’s sake.'”

2017–2018 season

(presented in Eisenhower Auditorium, unless otherwise specified)

Jazz vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant will kick off the center’s season Sept. 14 at Schwab Auditorium. Since winning the 2010 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition, McLorin Salvant has amassed heaps of awards and praise. Her sophomore album “WomanChild” was nominated for a 2014 Grammy Award, and “For One to Love” won the 2016 Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album. Her work can be heard in commercials for Chanel and in the soundtrack for the Emmy-winning 2015 HBO docu-drama “Bessie.”

Flip FabriQue, a young and hip six-acrobat nouveau cirque troupe based in Montreal, will make its Penn State debut Oct. 11 with the gravity-defying “Catch Me!” The New York Times called the production “otherworldly," saying, “This troupe offers acts that don’t seem humanly possible, like walking up a building face."

Mexican-American singer-songwriter, actress, social activist and self-described hippie Lila Downs will make her Penn State premiere Oct. 17. The Grammy and multiple Latin Grammy award winner’s recordings highlight her familiarity with traditional Latin American and Mexican folk, ranchera and bolero music. Downs’ work also reflects her mastery of Spanish and various indigent languages native to Central and Latin America. She recently released her ninth album, “Salón, Lágrimas y Deseo.”

“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” will present an outlandish and intellectual musical comedy Oct. 19. The uproarious British crime caper won four Tony Awards, including Best Musical, as well as seven Drama Desk Awards, four Outer Critics Circle Awards and a Drama League Award. The New York Times declared the production “will lift the hearts of all those who’ve been pining for what sometimes seems like a lost art form.”

Five-time Grammy-winning soprano Dawn Upshaw, accompanied by pianist Gilbert Kalish and Sō Percussion, will perform Oct. 24 at Schwab Auditorium. With this performance, the opera and experimental vocalist continues her collaborative effort with Kalish and forms a new partnership with the avant garde quartet. The program will feature compositions by Pulitzer Prize winners, including a collection of Civil War-era spirituals by George Crumb and a Caroline Shaw (Roomful of Teeth) piece co-commissioned by the Center for the Performing Arts.

“Straight Outta Philly,” a collaboration between Philadelphia-based dance troupes Philadanco! and Rennie Harris Puremovement, will use modern and hip-hop-inspired street dance to break down barriers Oct. 27. Harris and his company, which celebrates 25 years promoting the choreographer’s urban style, aim to educate audiences about hip-hop culture through modern dance and discussions. Philadanco!, founded in 1970 as an outlet for black dancers denied entry to other local dance schools, has become one of the country’s leading contemporary companies.

Yo-Yo Ma will perform for the third time at Penn State in a Nov. 3 concert with pianist Kathryn Stott. Ma has gone from child prodigy to world-renowned cellist with more than 100 recordings and 18 Grammy Awards. He is comfortable performing a variety of music, including bluegrass, traditional Chinese melodies, tango and classical. He has performed with Silk Road Ensemble, Emanuel Ax and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. His musical works and collaborations have been used in numerous films. Animated versions of the Chinese-American musician have appeared on many TV shows, including “Mister Rogers Neighborhood,” “Arthur,” “The West Wing” and “The Simpsons.” The cellist has been a United Nations Messenger of Peace since 2006. He also was chosen by President Barack Obama in 2009 to serve on the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. England’s Stott, in addition to mastering the English and French classical repertoire, has collaborated with Ma since 1985. Together, they won two Grammys for their recordings “Soul of the Tango” and “Obrigado Brazil.”

Spanish Harlem Orchestra, the New York City-based Latin dance music orchestra, will make its Center for the Performing Arts debut Nov. 9. The ensemble, founded 14 years ago by band leader Oscar Hernández and producer Aaron Levinson, won a Grammy for Best Salsa/Merengue Album for its 2005 release “Across 110th Street” (featuring Panamanian singer/actor/politician Rubén Blades) and for 2010’s “Viva la Tradicion” (Best Tropical Latin Album). The band’s 2017 self-titled recording features appearances by jazz icons Chick Corea and Joe Lovano.

The Los Angeles Times called the new touring production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music” “sparkling, refreshing and lively,” and Dallas Morning News advised, even if you’ve seen this show before, “it’s worth going again to see it this way.” The uplifting tale of the healing power of song for Maria and the Von Trapp family was rebooted for the stage by Tony Award-winning director Jack O’Brien. The production will be the season’s first two-night engagement with performances Nov. 14 and 15. The production features the songs “Do-Re-Mi,” “Edelweiss,” “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” and more.

Apollo’s Fire, The Cleveland Baroque Orchestra, which has become a cherished visitor to Penn State, will return to Schwab Auditorium Nov. 30 for “Christmas on Sugarloaf Mountain: An Appalachian Celebration.” The period-instrument ensemble, led by harpsichordist and artistic director Jeannette Sorrell, will present an evening of Celtic-inspired folk and Appalachian Christmas songs. Soprano Amanda Powell and tenor Ross Hauck will accompany the orchestra.

Camerata RCO, an ensemble comprised of members of Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, will perform Jan. 24 at Schwab Auditorium. The octet regales audiences with performances of repertoire for wind and string instruments. The musicians have released recordings of works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Arcangelo Corelli, Gustav Mahler and Maurice Ravel. In concert at Penn State for the first time, Camerata RCO will perform Mozart’s "Clarinet Quintet in A" and Franz Schubert’s "Octet in F Major." Netherlands-based newspaper NRC Handelsblad called the ensemble’s performances an “amalgam of simplicity and expression.”

The Birdland All-Stars featuring Tommy Igoe, the legendary New York City jazz club’s finest musicians led by a world-class drummer and educator, will take its talents on the road for the first time in five years. The Jan. 26 concert will feature new arrangements of music by David Bowie, Sting, Steely Dan, Herbie Hancock, Charlie Parker and more.

Yamato: The Drummers of Japan, which has presented more than 2,500 shows in 51 countries, will return to Penn State Jan. 30 with a production of “Chousensha – The Challengers.” In an all-new production, the members of the traditional taiko drum ensemble will introduce original compositions that push the performers to their physical limits.

“Mr. Popper’s Penguins,” the musical adaptation of Richard and Florence Atwater’s popular children’s book, will chill out Feb. 11. With its “thoroughly hummable score and snappy lyrics … its cuteness is hard to resist,” said The New York Times. The action-packed all-ages adventure features life-sized performing penguin puppets created by Nick Barnes, whose company Blind Summit oversaw the puppetry featured in the 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony.

Jazz pianist Bill Charlap and trio mates, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington, will perform Feb. 13 at Schwab. The two-time Grammy nominee is the artistic director of New York City’s Jazz in July Festival and producer of notable jazz festivals in New York City and Los Angeles.

Pianist Wu Han, violinist Philip Setzer and cellist David Finckel will return to Schwab Feb. 15 to conclude the trio’s two-season offering of Ludwig van Beethoven piano trios. The classical supergroup features Han, a Taiwan native and former child prodigy; Setzer, a founding and current member of Emerson String Quartet; and Finckel, a longtime Emerson player.

From the creators of the touring productions of “South Pacific” and “The Sound of Music” comes a fresh look at a rags-to-riches fairy tale with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella,” Feb. 20 and 21. The touring production boasts a contemporary take on the classic tale and features a live orchestra performing music to the would-be princess’ transformation, including the songs “In My Own Little Corner,” “Impossible/It’s Possible” and “Ten Minutes Ago.” Five-time Tony Award nominee Douglas Carter Beane, who wrote the book for the touring production, said he researched Charles Perrault’s 1697 version of the children’s tale for inspiration.

Dorrance Dance, founded by MacArthur “genius” Fellowship-winning tap dancer, choreographer and former “Stomp” performer Michelle Dorrance, will present “ETM: Double Down” Feb. 27. The production, literally “electronic tap music,” features a team of tappers who build upon musical sounds and loops by dancing atop foot-triggered electronic percussion pads. According to the Village Voice, "if tap is your jam, this production should be your destination."

On March 15, the dancers of Argentina’s Che Malambo will blend precise footwork and percussive movements and music to introduce audiences to their country’s "gaucho" tradition. The Latin American cowboy-themed production features rhythmic and precise footwork, drumming and rope lasso choreography. “The men dance with a power and passion that builds into a kind of ecstasy,” said a Boston Globe reviewer.

The National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba will tour the U.S. with the gold medal winner of the 2017 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. The March 20 concert, part of the orchestra’s second tour of the U.S., will feature Cuban and Latin American music. The Morning Call of Allentown named the orchestra’s 2012 stateside performance — featuring works from the classical canon as well as arrangements of lesser-known pieces by Cuban and Latin American composers — one of the Lehigh Valley’s top classical concerts of 2012.

“Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story on Stage,” called “an instant aphrodisiac” (, “the biggest theater sensation of all time” (London’s Daily Mail) and “nostalgic fun” (The Tennessean), will set up shop for performances March 21 and 22. The high-energy song-and-dance-themed musical is based on the 1987 film about a young vacationer who becomes smitten with a sexy and passionate Catskills resort dance instructor. The production includes Solomon Burke’s “Cry to Me,” Eric Carmen’s “Hungry Eyes,” and Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes’ “I’ve Had the Time of My Life.”

The Danish String Quartet, an ensemble the Washington Post called “one of the best quartets before the public today,” will make its Penn State debut April 6 at Schwab Auditorium. The group made its official debut in 2002 at the Copenhagen Summer Festival in a performance The New York Times called “one of the most powerful renditions of Beethoven’s Opus 132 String Quartet” heard live or recorded. The quartet will perform Béla Bartók’s String Quartet No. 1; Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 7, Op. 59, No. 1; and a selection of Nordic folk tunes from the ensemble’s 2014 album “Wood Works.”

Swiss mask-and-mime theater troupe Mummenschanz will return to Penn State April 8 to present “You and Me.” The production, which will tour the U.S. for the first time in 2018, will highlight the troupe’s master manipulation of shadow, light and everyday objects. Founder Floriana Frassetto described the show “like a cartoon coming to life in front of you,” while The New York Times called the troupe’s “witty madness” “dazzling and delightful.” Since forming in 1972, the ensemble has performed on Broadway, as well as on “Sesame Street,” “The Muppet Show” and “Northern Exposure.”

Back by popular demand, for two performances April 17 and 18, will be “Jersey Boys.” The jukebox musical recounts the formation, success and breakup of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons and features the 1960s group’s hits, including “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Rag Doll” and “December 1963 (Oh, What a Night).” The documentary-style production was nominated for more than 20 awards and won the 2006 Tony for Best Musical, the 2007 Grammy for Best Musical Show Album and the 2008 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical.


Each performance will be in Eisenhower Auditorium, unless it is marked Schwab Auditorium (SA). Artists, programs, dates, and times are subject to change.

  • Cécile McLorin Salvant, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 14 (SA)
  • Flip FabriQue, “Catch Me!,” 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 11
  • Lila Downs, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 17
  • “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder,” 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19
  • Dawn Upshaw, Gilbert Kalish and Sō Percussion, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24 (SA)
  • “Straight Outta Philly” featuring Rennie Harris Puremovement and Philadanco!, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 27
  • Yo-Yo Ma and Kathryn Stott, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3
  • Spanish Harlem Orchestra, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9
  • “The Sound of Music,” 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14, and Wednesday, Nov. 15
  • Apollo’s Fire, “Christmas on Sugarloaf Mountain: An Appalachian Celebration,” 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 30 (SA)
  • Camerata RCO, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 24 (SA)
  • The Birdland All-Stars featuring Tommy Igoe, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 26
  • Yamato: The Drummers of Japan, “Chousensha – The Challengers,” 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 30
  • “Mr. Popper’s Penguins,” based on the novel by Richard and Florence Atwater, 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 11
  • Bill Charlap Trio, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13 (SA)
  • Wu Han, piano; Philip Setzer, violin; David Finckel, cello, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15 (SA)
  • Rodgers + Hammerstein’s “Cinderella,” 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 20 and Wednesday, Feb. 21
  • Dorrance Dance, “ETM: Double Down,” 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 27
  • Che Malambo, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 15
  • National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 20
  • “Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story on Stage,” 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 21 and Thursday March 22
  • Danish String Quartet, 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 6 (SA)
  • Mummenschanz, “You & Me,” 4 p.m. Sunday, April 8
  • “Jersey Boys,” 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 17 and Wednesday April 18 


  • "Mosaic," 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3
  • “Ein deutsches Requiem” by Johannes Brahms, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 14
  • Lila Downs, wearing large baubles around her neck and on her fingers, holds a microphone in her right hand and looks up to the left.

    Mexican-American singer-songwriter, actress, social activist and self-described hippie Lila Downs will make her Penn State premiere Oct. 17.

    IMAGE: Marcela Taboada
  • Yo-Yo Ma smiles while cradling his cello in his right arm and his left arm postured around a smiling Kathryn Stott.

    Yo-Yo Ma will perform for the third time at Penn State in a Nov. 3 concert with pianist Kathryn Stott.

    IMAGE: Todd Rosenberg Photography
  • A dancer watches his feet as he taps on various percussive boards.

    Dorrance Dance, founded by MacArthur “genius” Fellowship-winning tap dancer, choreographer and former “Stomp” performer Michelle Dorrance, will present “ETM: Double Down” Feb. 27.

    IMAGE: Christopher Duggan
  • The singer, wearing thick-rimmed glasses, cocks her head to her right.

    Jazz vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant, who won the 2010 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition, will kick off the Center for the Performing Arts’ season Sept. 14 at Schwab Auditorium.

    IMAGE: Mark Fitton
  • Drummer Tommy Igoe sits behind his kit and taps the cymbals while four brass musicians play behind him.

    A Jan. 26 concert by the Birdland All-Stars featuring Tommy Igoe will feature new arrangements of music by David Bowie, Sting, Steely Dan, Herbie Hancock, Charlie Parker and more.

    IMAGE: © Trisha Leeper
  • -- Two dancers hold violins decorated as faces in front of their heads.

    Swiss mask-and-mime theater troupe Mummenschanz will return to Penn State April 8 to present “You and Me.” The production, which will tour the United States for the first time in 2018, will highlight the troupe’s master manipulation of shadow, light and everyday objects.

    IMAGE: Photo Marco Hartmann
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(Media Contacts)

Last Updated June 20, 2017