Washington Center’s new season offers lots of laughs, less world and country music

Stephen Stills and Judy Collins will perform together at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts on Oct. 2.
Stephen Stills and Judy Collins will perform together at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts on Oct. 2. Anna Webber/Washington Center for the Performing Arts

The Washington Center for the Performing Arts 2018-2019 season has some big names coming soon.

The biggest, though, might be coming before the season officially begins. Things kick off July 17 with Melissa Etheridge, previously announced, and then on Oct. 2, Judy Collins returns, this time with Stephen Stills. The two are touring together nearly five decades after their romance inspired such classics as “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.”

“We’re very excited for them to be here singing together,” Jill Barnes, the center’s executive director, told The Olympian. “Judy Collins sold out last time.”

Other well-known names: multiple Grammy-winning modern bluesman Keb’ Mo’ (Oct. 11), and Shoshana Bean (officially opening the season Oct. 4), who’s familiar to musical theater fans for her star turn as Elphaba in Broadway’s “Wicked” — and to longtime Olympians, because she grew up both here and in Portland.

There’s also a big name the center can’t reveal yet.

The center officially announces its season Wednesday, and season tickets are now on sale.

This season offers a lot of laught. In addition to the popular Comedy in the Box series and the annual semi-final round of the Seattle International Comedy Competition (Nov. 15), the comedy cornucopia includes the Best of Seattle Stand Up (Feb. 14), a show featuring semi-finalists from competitions past; Ladies of Laughter (March 15); “God Is a Scottish Drag Queen 2: The Second Coming” (May 4), the sequel to one of last season’s popular shows; and the return of the Capitol Steps (Nov. 3).

“We need more laughter,” Barnes said. “We wanted to provide more mainstage comedy, especially since our Comedy in the Box shows do sell really well.”

There will be two Broadway touring shows, “The Wizard of Oz” (Jan. 16) and “Kinky Boots” (Feb. 27). Last season’s sole Broadway offering, “A Night With Janis Joplin,” was cancelled when its Northwest tour moved to a time that didn’t work with the center’s schedule, and the tour of its Off-Broadway “Disenchanted” was canceled completely.

Barnes is particularly excited about “Boots,” which won six Tony Awards — including Best Musical — in 2013.

“It’s been trying to bring this one for a couple of years,” she told The Olympian. “It’s still on Broadway.”

There’s also a musical just for kids, “Pinkalicious: The Musical,” based on the popular PBS show.

For dance, there is Portland’s BodyVox (Oct. 25), which will be performing the Halloween-themed “BloodyVox.”

The ever-popular Celtic genre is represented by husband-and-wife fiddle masters Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy, but that’s it for world music.

Also among the missing is country, though such stars as Vince Gill have drawn big crowds in recent seasons. It just worked out that way, Barnes said, adding that she’s still hoping schedules will align to allow her to add one.

Returning — along with Comedy in the Box — are series stalwarts National Geographic Live, silent films accompanied by Seattle organist Dennis James, and Black Box Jazz, adults-only cabaret-style shows.

And there’s a new regular feature: the Center Salon (April 12), an evening of literature, music and art organized by local playwright Bryan Willis.

“This will be our fourth annual salon,” Barnes said. “Bryan told me that we’re now officially an Olympia tradition.

“We sold out last year,” she said. “This is the type of event that just really fills my cup.”

The Washington Center for the Performing Arts’ 2018-2019 season

Season tickets: Discounts are available for those who choose tickets to five or more performances. Season tickets are on sale today.

Individual tickets: Prices vary. Those that are part of the regular season go on sale Aug. 14. Tickets to Melissa Etheridge’s July 17 concert are already on sale. Tickets to Stephen Stills and Judy Collins’ Oct. 2 concert are on sale now for Friends of the Center and go on sale to the public Tuesday (June 19).

Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. S.E., Olympia

More information: 360-753-8586, www.washingtoncenter.org

Up next

Melissa Etheridge (July 17): The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter is known for her rocking tunes and social activism.

Stephen Stills and Judy Collins (Oct. 2): Once a couple, music legends and friends Stills and Collins have teamed up for a tour in support of their 2017 joint album, “Everybody Knows.”

The season

Shoshana Bean (Oct. 4): Bean — who spent part of her childhood in Olympia and replaced Idina Menzel in Broadway’s “Wicked” — stops in one of her hometowns on a tour for her new disc “Spectrum.”

Dave Wickerham’s “The Great American Songbook” (Oct. 7): Internationally known organist Wickerham will play the center’s famed Andy Crow Wurlitzer.

Keb’ Mo’ (Oct. 11): The Grammy winning singer-songwriter-guitarist, whose stage name is an informal version of his given name, Kevin Roosevelt Moore, plays a solo show.

National Geographic Live -- Vincent J. Musi (Oct. 16): Photographer Musi is known for his sense of humor as well as his portraits for extraordinary animals.

BodyVox (Oct. 25): The Portland contemporary dance troupe, last at the center in 2017, gets creepy for Halloween.

Puddles Pity Party (Oct. 27): Singer Mike Geier has become a YouTube sensation as a sad clown who sings sad songs.

Capitol Steps (Nov. 3): The political satire troupe, a frequent visitor to the center, mocks politicians right, left and center.

Seattle International Comedy Competition (Nov. 15): The famed comedy competition makes its annual Olympia stop with a semi-final round.

“The Greatest Showman” Sing-Along (Nov. 25): The annual post-Thanksgiving sing-along goes contemporary with the 2017 musical inspired by the life of P.T. Barnum.

Six Appeal (Jan. 8): The Harmony Sweepstakes-winning a cappella ensemble began its climb to the championship by winning the regionals at the Washington Center in 2012.

“The Wizard of Oz” (Jan. 16): The 2011 Andrew Lloyd Webber musical based on the beloved film combines the classic songs with plenty of color and special effects.

Conversations with Richard Louv (Jan. 26): Louv will talk about “nature deficit disorder,” an issue that’s becoming increasingly common among children growing up in this more and more digital world.

Golden Dragon Acrobats (Feb. 7): This acrobatics show, last at the center in 2015, blends physical feats with traditional Chinese dance.

Best of Seattle Stand-Up (Feb. 14): It’ll be a funny Valentine’s Day at this show featuring past Seattle International Comedy Competition semi-finalists.

Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy (Feb. 24): This married couple is known for traditional Celtic fiddling with a contemporary twist.

“Kinky Boots” (Feb. 27): The owner of a shoe factory teams up with a drag queen in this Broadway-hit musical comedy.

“Pinkalicious: The Musical” (March 10): Pinkalicious, the subject of numerous books and a PBS Kids series, has an insatiable appetite for pink cupcakes.

Ladies of Laughter (March 15): This tour features some of the top comics from the national LOL competition.

National Geographic Live -- Thomas Peschak (March 28): The marine biologist-turned-photographer will take the audience on a tour of the world’s oceans.

Piano Battle (April 6): Pianists Andreas Kern and Paul Cibis play pieces by Chopin, Debussy and more, competing to win the audience vote.

New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players’ “The Mikado” (April 10): The Gilbert & Sullivan romance satirizes British politics and society by relocating them in an imaginary version of Japan.

The Center Salon (April 12): This evening of theater, poetry, fiction and more features author Jim Lynch, playwright Bryan Willis and Washington Poet Laureate Claudio Castro Luna.

“God Is a Scottish Drag Queen 2 -- The Second Coming” (May 4): Canadian comedian Mike Delamont, who played God at the center last season, returns with a sequel.

Taimane Gardner (May 16): Ukulele artist Gardner, a protégé of Don Ho, plays everything from Bach to Led Zeppelin on the traditional instrument of her native Hawaii.

Wonderful Wurlitzer (June 6): The Andy Crow Wurlitzer is the centerpiece of this annual free concert.

Series performances

Silent Movies: The series with organist Dennis James goes to the dogs in its 12th year with “Clash of the Wolves” (Feb. 17), starring Rin Tin Tin, and “Three Wagging Tales” (April 7).

Black Box Jazz: The cabaret-style music series will spotlight Olympia singer-songwriter Anjali Silva (Nov. 2), Portland guitarist Dan Balmer (Jan. 11), Seattle composer and trumpet player Samantha Boshnack (March 8) and Seattle pianist-composer Bill Anschell (May 10).

Comedy in the Box: The cabaret-style series continues with performances Jan. 10 and 31, March 7, April 18, May 9 and June 13.