The Washington Center’s 2016-2017 season will be smaller than last year’s, and that might be a good thing.
The season offers 34 shows compared to last season’s 44 and 2014-2015’s 36.
Last season was stuffed with shows, and audiences responded well, said Jill Barnes, the center’s executive director.
“We want to continue to deliver a diverse season of something for everyone,” she said. “We did a really good job of that last year. We had an increase in season ticket sales. We had a handful of sold-out shows. People really liked the season.”
However, it likely was too much of a good thing: There were seven weeks with two center-presented shows and one week with three. Some season ticket holders said they just had to stay home sometimes — which meant they skipped shows, and some of them weren’t happy about it, Barnes said.
This season’s center-presented shows will have a little more breathing room, although the center’s calendar still will be crowded with shows offered by community groups, including the Olympia Symphony Orchestra, Masterworks Choral Ensemble, Ballet Northwest and Studio West Dance Theater.
Offerings are still quite diverse, but there likely will be a little less of whatever your thing is — unless you like hip-hop mixed with classical.
Yes, the center is offering what might be its first ever hip-hop concert, by Black Violin, a violin- and viola-playing duo who have been wowing audiences around the country, including at Tacoma’s Pantages Theater, where the twosome sold out concerts in 2014 and again earlier this year, said Lacey Wright, the Broadway Center’s associate executive director.
Among the season’s other notable names are Rita Moreno, Garrison Keillor and Vince Gill, who’ll be here as part of Western swing supergroup The Time Jumpers. Country proved itself last season, when Travis Tritt was a hit, drawing new audiences to the center from farther away.
For those who like Celtic music, The Irish Rovers share a bill with We Banjo 3.
Like operettas? The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players will offer “The Pirates of Penzance.”
Golden oldies? Under the Streetlamp will take you back.
There’ll be one dance performance, by Portland’s BodyVox, and two National Geographic Live speakers.
This season lacks a show aimed primarily at kids and families, like last season’s “Stunt Dog Experience” and “Lightning Thief” — though “Stomp” and the Sing-a-Long “Sound of Music,” among others, should appeal to the young ones, Barnes said.
Want something funny? There’s another semifinal round of the Seattle International Comedy Competition, “Sister’s Christmas Catechism” and Comedy in the Box. If you want more intellectual humor, there’s public radio favorite Sarah Vowell.
And for those who are still able to laugh at politics, the Capitol Steps make a timely return just before Election Day.
“They weren’t here last year,” Barnes said, “but it’s such an exciting election year, we had to bring them on board. We did check the debate dates, and it’s not on a debate date.”
The 2016-2017 season
Here’s the complete lineup that will be presented by The Washington Center for the Performing Arts. The center also rents space to community groups and other touring productions.
An Evening with Rita Moreno (Oct. 13): The legendary Moreno presents an evening of story and songs, including Broadway classics, swing, jazz and selections from her new Spanish album “Una Vez Más.”
The Capitol Steps (Oct. 30): The comedy troupe returns just in time for the elections with the cleverly titled “What To Expect When You’re Electing.”
“Once” (Nov. 3): The national tour of the romantic musical with songs by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová. “Once” won eight 2012 Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
National Geographic Live — Nalini Nadkarni (Nov. 10): Nadkarni, a world-renowned forest ecologist and former professor at The Evergreen State College, studies rainforest canopies.
Seattle International Comedy Competition (Nov. 17): Comedians will compete in a semi-final round of the nationally renowned competition.
Seattle Rock Orchestra’s David Bowie and Glam Rock (Nov. 18): The orchestra returns with classical takes on hits by Bowie, T. Rex and ELO.
Sing-a-Long “Sound of Music” (Nov. 27): Lauren O’Neill hosts the sing-along version of the classic Julie Andrews musical.
“Sister’s Christmas Catechism” (Dec. 1): Sister, the nun from “Late Nite Catechism,” is back with her own version of the night Jesus was born.
The Time Jumpers (Jan. 13): Vince Gill is the best-known member of the 10-person Western swing supergroup, which has been nominated for two Grammy Awards.
Stomp (Jan. 22): The show turns just about everything — from matchboxes to hubcaps — into percussion instruments.
National Geographic Live — Steve Winter (Feb. 2): Photographer Winter shares his adventures with big cats.
An Evening with Sarah Vowell (Feb. 17): Vowell — the best-selling author, humorist and frequent contributor to public radio’s “This American Life” — is known for her dry wit and deadpan delivery.
The Irish Rovers and We Banjo 3 (Feb. 23): The iconic Irish band teams up with “Celt grass” up-and-comers We Banjo 3 for this tour, which includes a set from each band plus a collaboration.
BodyVox (March 3): The Portland dance troupe returns with “Urban Meadow,” a program of highlights from the past 14 years.
“The Pirates of Penzance” (March 14): The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players presents the comic opera about an orphan who falls in with a band of pirates.
Black Violin (March 28): This dynamic duo melds classical music and hip-hop to create a sound that has engaged audiences around the world.
An Evening with Garrison Keillor (April 10): The host of public radio’s “A Prairie Home Companion” brings his wit, wisdom and homespun humor back to Olympia.
Under the Streetlamp (April 14): Featuring cast members from “Jersey Boys” and other Broadway musicals, this vocal group is known for its tight harmonies and love of classic American radio tunes.
Lauren Fox in “The Songs of Joni Mitchell & Leonard Cohen” (May 5): Fox weaves together the songs of Mitchell and Cohen, who had a brief affair in the late 1960s, into a his-and-hers dialogue.
The Center Salon (May 13): The second annual salon will showcase the work of regional writers and artists, including playwright Bryan Willis and short-story writer Merridawn Duckler.
“Wonderful Wurlitzer” (May 23): Northwest organist Sharon Stearnes returns for another free concert, featuring sing-along pop tunes, classics and standards, all played on the 1924 Andy Crow Mighty Wurlitzer.
Silent Movies: The series with organist Dennis James celebrates its 11th year with “The Merry Widow” (Oct. 16), “Hamlet” (Jan. 29) and “Ben-Hur” (April 2).
Black Box Jazz: The cabaret-style music series will spotlight Craig Hoyer (Nov. 4), David Deacon-Joyner (Jan. 20), Nathan Breedlove (March 10) and Aaron & Ninee Wolff (May 12).
Comedy in the Box: The cabaret-style comedy series continues with performances Jan. 19, Feb. 9, March 9, April 6, May 11 and June 15.
Signing on for the season
What: The center’s 31st season, smaller than last year’s, includes shows by Black Violin, Rita Moreno and Garrison Keillor, and a Broadway touring production of “Once.”
Season tickets: Discounts are available for those who choose five or more performances. They go on sale Tuesday (June 14).
Individual tickets: Prices vary. They go on sale Aug. 16.
Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia.
More information: 360-753-8586 or washingtoncenter.org.
Before the official season begins, the center is offering a handful of summer events:
Storm Large (Thursday): The Portland powerhouse returns to Olympia to sing originals, classic American songs and rock anthems — and share her funny thoughts on matters great and small.
Center Stage Awards Gala (July 28): This new fundraiser will include entertainment, dinner and a live auction as well as the presenting of the first Excellence in the Arts Awards.
“Wonderful Wurlitzer” (Aug. 18): Sharon Stearnes, who performed a free concert on the 1924 Andy Crow Mighty Wurlitzer earlier this year, will play it again in this free concert.
“Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” (Sept. 23): The show, a blend of stand-up comedy and theater, is based on John Gray’s self-help book of the same name.