Eclectic is the word Robert Hutchens uses to describe the first full season for the Clayton Center for the Arts.
As well he should. The executive director has put together a program that features chainsaw jugglers, Latin dancers, Broadway stars, Shakespeare and spiritual singers.
Groucho will make an appearance, as will “Elvis,” Dave Brubeck’s son Chris and a group of Israeli dancers who wear aluminum.
“The first ‘Clayton Center Presents’ season includes an extraordinarily varied lineup of art and entertainment,” said Hutchens, executive director of the Clayton Center for the Arts. There are 12 shows in the season, with season packages beginning with a choice of five shows, all the way to the whole season. Discounts are applied depending on how many shows a patron chooses for his or her “package.”
Hutchens said patrons who buy tickets for five to seven performances will receive a 10 percent discount. Those who buy tickets for between eight and 11 shows receive a 15 percent discount. “Those taking the entire roster of 12 will get an amazing 25 percent discount,” he said. Only one show, “An Evening with Groucho,” isn’t discounted, as it is a dinner theater show with a straight $75 ticket price.
A lucky 13th show is also being announced, although it isn’t part of the season package. Blount Countians will get the chance to see Maryville-native Nathan Nicholson with his group The Boxer Rebellion Band during their first United States tour. Fresh off being featured in the Drew Barrymore flick “Go the Distance,” the band will play at the Clayton Center for the Arts on Oct 8.
Add to that the monthly live radio broadcasts on WIVK, the WVLT television broadcasts from First United Methodist Church, the Young Pianist Series from Knoxville, the “On Golden Pond” production by the Foothills Community Players and “The Nutcracker” by the Appalachian Ballet Co., and there should be no lack of things to draw crowds to the Clayton Center for the remainder of 2010 through 2011.
“I hope people will try things they’ve never tried before,” said Hutchens. “They have the opportunity to do that with this season. There is always the possibility you are going to discover something that you will love for the rest of your life, and you never had any idea it was there waiting for you.”
Hutchens said he has every reason to be optimistic. When staff was preparing to open the center this past spring for an abbreviated season, he was worried the public wouldn’t respond. “I thought, ‘What if nobody wants to come.’ I was just afraid. But then once the doors opened, they were knocking us down,” he said.
The executive director for the center said the idea for the abbreviated season was that a two or three months season would give staff time to learn how things worked. “Even in that short time, we had over 60 events and 25,000 people in the door in about two months -- and that’s a conservative estimate,” he said. “After that, we had at least two weeks more of performances.”
Hutchens said the next big step for the Clayton Center is for people throughout the region to realize the facility is a major place for great entertainment and art.
“When people talk about the Civic Auditorium, the Tennessee Theater, the Bijou Theater, we want them to also mention the Clayton Center for the Arts as one of the major venues, a place where something is always going on. A place that is just bustling with activity,” he said.
On sale now are the season subscriptions, said Hutchens.
“What we’re selling right now is season subscriptions. We’re offering 10 to 25 percent discounts based on the number of shows you buy,” he said. “This is the time to buy subscriptions, not single ticket sales, except for the ‘Neil Berg’s 100 Years of Broadway’ show.”
Here are capsules of the upcoming shows.
•Friday, September 17
“Neil Berg’s 100 Years of Broadway”
The season opens with “Neil Berg’s 100 Years of Broadway” and brings five of Broadway’s leading performers as well as an all-star New York band to the Clayton Stage. They will perform the most beloved and memorable songs from a century of Broadway musical history, including recent as well as more traditional hits. So accomplished are these actor-singers, that they bring to life not only the melodies of the songs, but the characters and scenes from which they come. The performance will take place in the Ronald and Lynda Nutt Theatre at 8 p.m. on Sept. 17.
•Tuesday, October 12
The Boxer Rebellion
(Not part of season subscription. Tickets are not yet available.)
Nathan Nicholson is a Maryville-native who performs with the London-based, alternative rock band “The Boxer Rebellion.” In October, Nicholson, whose father is attorney Joe Nicholson, will bring the band to Maryville as part of its first United States tour. The band is having a breakout year, and are featured in the Drew Barrymore movie “Go the Distance.”
Hutchens said he had to convince their agent to bring them to the Clayton Center for the Arts by promising to raise the orchestra pit but leave out the seats so people could stand in front of the band as they perform.
“They’re used to having a standing audience,” he said. “We’re trying to give them the ambiance and energy they need and are used to in the hall.”
Hutchens said this show is not part of the subscription series. “It is a part of the upcoming events, and getting them was an unexpected stroke of luck,” Hutchens said.
Prices ranges for the show range from $12 to $20.
•Tuesday, October 26
The daring musical duo Richter/Uzur fuse rock, folk and classical to create a sound that is modern, traditional, but most of all unique. “There can be no better environment for the sounds to be heard than the acoustically brilliant Lambert Hall,” Hutchens said.
The duo will perform at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26 in the Harold and Jean Lambert Recital Hall.
•Friday, November 5
Sam Bush and Missy Raines
Bluegrass legendary great Sam Bush is one of the season’s headliners. “An award-winning master of banjo, fiddle and mandolin, Bush has shared the stage with such luminaries as Lyle Lovett and Garth Brooks,” Hutchens said. “He is joined by another pioneer in bluegrass, Missy Raines, a bassist who has achieved acclaim in the world of bluegrass.”
Raines has formed a band, Missy Raines and the New Hip, to explore fusions of jazz, bluegrass, pop and funk forms. They will appear in the Ronald and Lynda Nutt Theatre on Nov. 5 at 8 p.m.
•Tuesday, November 16
Robert deMaine and Andrew Armstrong’s Chamber Music
Robert deMaine, first chair cellist of the Detroit Symphony, and internationally renowned pianist Andrew Armstrong will bring an exquisite evening of classical virtuosity to the Harold and Jean Lambert Recital Hall, at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 16. All the events in Lambert Hall are limited in seating to 250, so fans of classical music are urged to procure their seats early.
•Saturday, January 15, 2011
American Spiritual Ensemble
The first Clayton Center for the Arts presentation for the New Year is the American Spiritual Ensemble. Performing at 8 p.m. on Jan. 15 (Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday) in the Ronald and Lynda Nutt Theatre, the performance is part of the county’s MLK Jr. Celebration. Those who attended the opening night gala of the Clayton Center will remember the spellbinding singing of Maryville College graduate John Wesley Wright, who is one of the members of the American Spiritual Ensemble. The ensemble is a group of professional soloists who combine their voices in a chorus of tribute to the soul-stirring spiritual.
•Friday, January 21
“The Aluminum Show”
“It isn’t difficult to figure out how The Aluminum Show came to be in the 2010-11 season. What may be difficult to figure out is what The Aluminum Show is,” Hutchens said. Like Pilobolus and The Blue Man Group, the Israeli troupe of dancers has defined its own genre. Clad in imaginative, often bizarre, structures of recycled aluminum, the performers execute a choreography of shapes and colors that surprise, intrigue and enchant.
They appear at 8 p.m. Jan. 21 in the Ronald and Lynda Nutt Theatre.
•Tuesday, February 1
Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana
“Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana has the passion, rhythm and flamboyance currently so popular in ballroom dancing shows, but all the dancers are professionals, celebrating the national dance and songs of Spain,” Hutchens said. The dancers take the Nita Eckles West Stage in the Ronald and Lynda Nutt Theatre, at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 1.
•Saturday, February 11
“All Shook Up”
The musical “All Shook Up,” features the songs of Tennessee’s own Elvis Presley. The story of a teenage rebel shaking up a small town is told through such numbers as “Jailhouse Rock,” “Hounddog,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Teddy Bear” and many more favorites. The show will be in The Ronald and Lynda Nutt Theatre, at 8 p.m. on Feb. 11.
•Wednesday, March 9
Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors”
“The Acting Company of New York City is one of the most respected touring repertory theatres in the country,” Hutchens said. “It has produced such famous performers as Kevin Kline and Rainn Wilson, who plays the character Dwight on television show ‘The Office.’” The company will perform Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors” on the Ronald and Lynda Nutt Theatre at 7:30 p.m. on March 9.
•Saturday, March 19
“The Passing Zone”
“The Passing Zone” is a juggling act and a comedy team who has performed on “The Tonight Show,” “The Today Show” and have been invited to perform at the White House. “Among the things they juggle are buzzing chainsaws and humans -- not at the same time,” Hutchens said. “Their repartee is as sharp as the things they juggle.” They appear at 7:30 p.m. March 19 in the Ronald and Lynda Nutt Theatre.
•Saturday, March 26
“An Evening with Groucho”
Frank Ferrante, critically acclaimed actor in New York and London, transforms himself before the audience’s eyes into an uncanny reincarnation of Groucho Marx for “An Evening with Groucho.” This dinner theater production will be in the William Baxter Lee III Grand Foyer at 6:30 p.m. March 26.
•Friday, April 8
Chris Brubeck and Triple Play
The season closes with one of the most famous names in jazz: Brubeck. Chris Brubeck, son of legendary Dave Brubeck, joins Joel Brown and Madcat Ruth in “Chris Brubeck and Triple Play.” The show features blues, rock, folk and jazz and is set for 8 p.m. April 8 in The Ronald and Lynda Nutt Theater.
To purchase tickets, call 865-981-8590 or come by the Clayton Center for the Arts box office from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.