Piano men, puppies, ghosts share Springfield Arts Council’s 45th season

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

The Springfield Arts Council’s (SAC) winter series began with shows devoted to Shakespeare, dance and even a mime artist in 1977-78.

It grew to include a wider variety of entertainment and featured high-profile artists such as Vincent Price, Jonathan Winters, Ray Charles and Burt Bacharach, and was the first to bring traveling Broadway shows to Springfield with as many as 16 shows a season during its peak.

Now known as the Showtime series, the SAC continues the tradition for its 45th season with five acts celebrating some of pop music’s best, a holiday classic and puppies, all at the Clark State Performing Arts Center. Single and season tickets are on sale.

The SAC’s annual signature Summer Arts Festival was into its second decade when then-executive director Chris Moore was looking to present shows that didn’t fit the festival due to technical nature with more theatrical requirements or more expensive than the festival budget allowed.

“This was a way to do these projects. We tried to find alternatives and things we think people in our community would like,” said Tim Rowe, current SAC executive director, who has been part of planning and presenting numerous Showtime seasons.

Season 45 will begin on Nov. 18 with a concert featuring the music of a legendary singer/songwriter performed by the family members of another music legend with “Celebrate the Music of Neil Diamond: I am … He Said.”

The sons and a nephew of late rock and roll star Bobby Vee, who have spent their lives onstage, will do what they refer to as a celebration, not a tribute of Diamond’s songs, which include classics “Cracklin’ Rosie,” “Sweet Caroline,” “Song Sung Blue” and others.

“It’s not going to be easy to see Neil live anymore due to his health, and this is a way for us to celebrate this popular music with a world-class band,” said Rowe, who’d been looking at presenting this show before COVID-19 hit.

While “Home Alone” and “Elf” are considered newer holiday classics, “Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol” had a head start by years. The SAC will present the timeless story of redemption with all the trimmings on Dec. 15 to mark the season.

“This is a way of celebrating the holidays in the style of Broadway,” Rowe said. “There will be multiple colorful sets and costumes, and it’s family-friendly. It’s something of a tradition and is a familiar title and timeless.”

Rowe offered a unique challenge for visitors to the SAC website: To watch the promotional video link for “The Beat Goes On” and try to make yourself believe you haven’t seen the one and only Cher.

It’s actually Lisa McClowry, who sounds, sings and looks like Cher did from her days with Sonny Bono to her single smashes. She will perform in a Feb. 16 concert.

“There are a lot Cher impersonators out there, and when I saw Lisa, she blew me away. I thought I was watching the actual Cher,” said Rowe.

Pet acts have long been popular at the Summer Arts Festival. “Puppy Pals Live!” will take that type of act up several notches indoors on March 16.

Discovered on “America’s Got Talent,” this act of adopted and rescued dogs will do stunts and spectacular feats that will leave the audience amazed and amused. This show has a lower ticket price and will be performed a little earlier in the night to bring in a family audience, with special guest ventriloquist, juggler and magician Mike Hemmelgarn opening.

“This would be a great night to bring the family out, especially if you’ve never been to the Performing Arts Center,” said Rowe.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

One of the Showtime series’ best received shows in recent years was one featuring the music of Elton John and Billy Joel. The performer who does Billy Joel will return along with others to take on “The Greatest Piano Men,” to close the season on April 19.

Storytelling, video and, most importantly, music of piano gods including Joel, John, Ray Charles, Liberace, Little Richard, Stevie Wonder and Jerry Lee Lewis will be performed separately and together.

“They sing and play just like these performers. This is a way to enjoy that music and sink back into the memories you have of them,” Rowe said. “I think all five of these shows are fun and will have audiences on their feet and a chance to get away from their homes for an evening of entertainment in our town.”

For tickets or more information on the Showtime series, go to www.springfieldartscouncil.org/.

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