Norton Center for the Arts director Steven A. Hoffman's third season as director of the Centre College performing arts venue continues a trend toward edgier, cross-genre fare while giving a nod to the venue's star-studded past.
"We had people tell us they liked the new stuff," said Hoffman, whose first season programming the center was the 2011-12 schedule that is just ending. "But they did mention they'd like a little more star power."
To that end, the 2012-13 season, which was to be announced Saturday night, will kick off with Alison Krauss and Union Station in late August and includes superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma, 1980s rockers Huey Lewis and the News, and the touring production of the Broadway revival of Hair.
The lineup also will include visits from violinist Nadja Salerno Sonnenberg and her New Century Chamber Orchestra, two performances by the critically acclaimed Aquila Theatre Company of New York, and the China National Symphony Orchestra with wunderkind pianist Peng-Peng Gong.
Hoffman took the helm at the Norton Center in 2010, after it had been under the direction of George Foreman for more than a quarter century. Foreman's signature was bringing acts to Danville that people never thought would visit a town of about 15,000.
In his first year of programming, Hoffman took a different tack, creating a season with more eclectic fare, including the Brooklyn Rundfunk Orkestrata, with a cross-genre reinterpretation of The Sound of Music and Moulin Rouge: The Ballet. One of the biggest successes, Hoffman says, was the Club Weisiger Series in the center's smaller, 367-seat hall. That series sold out four of the five events, including avant garde cellist Hahn-Bin, guitarist Stanley Jordan and Monday's appearance by the Portland Cello Project.
"It was a huge success," Hoffman says. Next season, the series will include piano soloist Lise de la Salle, Charles Ross and his legendary One-Man Star Wars show and the Jeremy Kittel Band, featuring the namesake violinist/fiddler who is cut from the Chris Thile mold of new Americana artists.
Patrons might notice the long gap on the schedule between Alison Krauss on Aug. 25 and Huey Lewis on Oct. 19. That's because the center must make way for the U.S. vice presidential debate between Vice President Joe Biden and his unnamed Republican challenger on Oct. 11. Norton's main space, Newlin Hall, will require extensive alterations for the event, so it will be dark for more than a month before the debate. The center hosted the 2000 vice presidential debate between Republican Dick Cheney and Democrat Joseph Lieberman.
As in 2000, on the day of the debate the center will host a festival of local artists, topped off with a post-debate concert by the Marshall Tucker Band.
Next season will continue initiatives to partner with more Danville and Central Kentucky businesses and artists in presenting shows. Hoffman says the center is moving away from serving pre-show dinners, instead partnering with restaurants including Mallard's, Mermaid's Bar and Bistro, and the Twisted Sifter Cake Shop.
For lobby entertainment, Hoffman says, the center now looks for acts that will complement the headliner that night.
Marketing and development director Mandy Prather says that more than half the Norton Center audience comes from outside Danville and Boyle County. "We want people to come to the Norton Center to get the flavor of Danville."