Category Archives: theater

Leonard Bernstein and Dear Evan Hansen – Great cultural events in Des Moines during 2018-2019

First came news that the Des Moines Symphony’s 2018-19 season (it’s 81st) will highlight the music of Leonard Bernstein (yes, oh yes, oh yes). Now there’s news today that the Tony-award winning musical Dear Evan Hansen will be part of the Greater Des Moines Civic Center’s next season, Feb. 5-10. (yes, oh yes, oh yes, oh yes.)

Bernstein programs I particularly want to attend include:

May 18-19 – West Side Story!!

April 27-28 – Bernstein’s choral Chichester Psalms. (Plus Iowa’s own Simon Estes singing selections from Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess.)

Oct. 27-28 – On the Town.



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Filed under Des Moines, theater

U of Iowa’s Hancher Auditorium…it’s baaaccck! and with the Joffrey Ballet no less

161770095.qoviR34c.hancher1It’s been 8 long years since a flood destroyed University of Iowa’s Hancher Auditorium, which brought – among other things – topnotch ballet companies to Iowa. The new Hancher – built near the site of the old one but on higher ground, we’re promised – will be back in business next fall and dance fans, in particular, should be thrilled.

First up: The world premiere of a new   “Nutcracker” on Dec. 1-4 danced by Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet. I don’t usually get psyched about ballet chestnuts but this is a new version that promises to be interesting, with choreography by of-the-moment Christopher Wheeldon (former New York City Ballet principal/choreographer) and sets by children’s author/illustrator Brian Selznick (“The Invention of Hugo Cabret” which was made in to the Oscar-winning movie “Hugo.”) Tickets go on sale for Hancher donors (I think I’m one of them….) on April 25 and everyone else on June 10. I’m eager to see what else Hancher has on tap!

Since 2008, Hancher has still operated with music and theater performances at alternative sites around Iowa City but dance performances, I gather, were harder to relocate – the original Hancher had a state-of-the-art dance floor that I’m assuming the new one will have as well.


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Filed under DESTINATIONS - Iowa, Iowa City, theater

Unexpected ticket to Broadway’s hottest musical: Hamilton

imageI had hopes but no expectations of snagging a ticket to “Hamilton” but on a rainy Wednesday, having found myself near Times Square (while visiting a friend at the Hearst building on 8th avenue) and with a free afternoon until dinner with another friend, I sauntered over to TKTS. No matinee Hamilton tickets, as expected.
Then I remembered reading about a ticket lottery at the theater on 46th where Hamilton is running. At 10:45 am a line was already forming and when I learned the slips for the lottery would be available at 11:30, with the drawing at noon for the 2 pm matinee, I decided “why not?” Very minor time commitment and it was fun talking to other people in line including a couple from the Twin Cities. By 11:30, as promised, the line was now about 300-400 people long and soon after dropping my slip in a bucket, I started making other plans for the day. With 20 tix available, and winners able to claim up to 2 tix each, It was a long shot.image

Still, it was great to be in the crowd as a guy drew slips out of the bucket and shouted them out with a bullhorn. Excited winners screamed and the crowd cheered them on. After the first 20 tix ($10 front row seats) were gone, the bullhorn guy announced an unexpected treat…10 standing room tix, $40 each.

For a brief moment, I tried to imagine what it would be like to hear my name through that bullhorn. And then suddenly, I heard “Betsy” and then some variation of my last name. I was stunned. I don’t remember raising my hand (as winners are supposed to do to indicate if they want one or two tix) but the crowd pushed me forward (I was way in the back) and sure enough, there was my scrawl on one of the slips the bullhorn guy held. WOW! About 15 “winners” collected and paid for tickets and then we left to grab a quick lunch before the show. (I found a decent tuna sandwich nearby.) Must admit it was really cool to unexpectedly feel lucky. Kind of felt like Mary Tyler Moore when she throws her hat up in the air.

imageAt 1:30 I was back in line to get into the theater with regular tix holders including three women from Vermont and New Hampshire who bought their tix last May for $190 each. The standing room slots were behind the mezzanine, center aisle, each numbered and assigned by ticket. I stood next to a sweet young woman from Massachusetts who knew the Hamilton score by heart and was thrilled. We were all thrilled. Standing for 3 hours with my iffy back wasn’t a big problem. We could lean into the half wall in front of us. And we had plenty of room to dance to the hip hop score. Kind of like a classy mosh pit. We couldn’t see the upper balcony of the set unless we rushed a few feet to the aisle and bent on our knees, which was a strange way to see a show but seemed sort of right, given how I got my ticket.

I loved loved loved the show, the music ( catchy hip hop and beyond), the dancing, the story, the staging. Who knew Hamilton was so interesting? (This college history major didn’t.) Now I want to read the Hamilton bio and of course, get the Hamilton CD. I also really appreciated the Hamilton folks doing this for us little people. What fun it would be to be the bullhorn guy.

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Filed under New York City, theater

More excitement for the real Madison County (Iowa) – book, film, now Broadway musical!

Outside the revamped Northside Cafe in Winterset, Iowa

Outside the revamped Northside Cafe in Winterset, Iowa

Madison County Iowa and it’s famous covered bridges may soon see a resurgence of tourists thanks to the soon to be Broadway Musical based on Robert James Waller’s “Bridges of Madison County” novel.  The musical is debuting this summer at the famous theater festival in beautiful Williamstown, Massachusetts.

After the novel and then the movie came out in 1995 – which was filmed on location in Iowa with Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep, no less – people flocked to the area to visit the bridges. I took at least one English friend besotted with the novel to tour the area back in the mid 1990’s. If and when visitors return, they’ll find some added attractions and improvements in the county seat of Winterset – including the Northside Cafe, the old small town cafe that was used as a film location for the movie and is under new ownership with the same charm but much better food! There’s also some nice shops around the square and an English-style maze in the local park. And there’s a big move afoot to revamp the John Wayne Birthplace/museum  – a humble little white house (see photo below)- into a mega-John Wayne Museum.NYTimes story on Bridges of Madison County on Broadway!


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Filed under DESTINATIONS - Iowa, DINING, Massachusetts, music, theater

“Once” “Alvin Ailey” coming to Des Moines in 2014!! And more good stuff!

The Civic Center of Greater Des Moines has done it again – it’s bringing some great shows to the city starting in fall 2013 and into 2014. This year, in February, we got  the national traveling tour of  the “Book of Mormon.” In 2014 we’re getting the one musical I REALLY wanted to see – “Once” – which comes April 22-27, 2014 (maybe I’ll go for my birthday on the 26th…I took my husband for his Feb. birthday to Book of Mormon). “Once” is the stage adaptation of the 2006 movie, which had such great songs by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová – Thank you thank you! Friends who saw it on Broadway raved!

Other great shows:

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater – March 18, 2014 (photo below)

– Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty – sept. 27-28, 2013

– Porgy and Bess – april 1-6, 2014

– American Idiot (the Green Day -inspired rock opera) Jan. 24-25, 2014

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Filed under dance, Des Moines, theater

Cheaper Book of Mormon tix available by lottery in Des Moines!

Des Moines Performing Arts/The Civic Center

The Book of Mormon is arriving soon in Des Moines – and I bought  tickets long ago for Feb. 2 (commonly know as Groundhog’s day but in this household as Dirck’s bday.) But according to the newly branded Des Moines Performing Arts/Civic Center (still commonly known as the Des Moines Civic Center),  some cheap tickets ($25 vs. the $60 or so I spent) will be available by lottery. Not sure what’s up with that but interesting…see the new website:

The Book of Mormon


Nine 2011 Tony Awards® say it’s the Best Musical of the Year. Vogue says, “It’s the funniest musical of all time.” And The New York Times says, “It’s the best musical of this century.” It’s THE BOOK OF MORMON, the Broadway phenomenon from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and Avenue Q co-creator Robert Lopez. The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart calls it “So good, it makes me angry.” Contains explicit language.

There will be a pre-show lottery at the ticket office, making a limited number of tickets available at $25 apiece. Entries will be accepted at the Civic Center Ticket Office beginning two and a half hours prior to each performance; each person will print their name and the number of tickets (1 or 2) they wish to purchase on a card that is provided. Two hours before curtain, names will be drawn at random for a limited number of tickets priced at $25 each, cash only. Only one entry is allowed per person. Winners must be present at the time of the drawing and show valid ID to purchase tickets. Limit one entry per person and two tickets per winner. Tickets are subject to availability.

More Info

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Take me back to Stratford (Ontario) in 2013! (The Who’s Tommy, Othello et. al.)

Looks like we need to make a return visit next year to Stratford Ontario, home of the famous Shakespeare Festival (and yes, Justin Bieber.) We used to go to Stratford a lot when I was growing up in suburban Detroit – which is a few hours drive away – but it’s been at least ten years since we’ve returned. The 2013 season includes a production of the “Merchant of Venice”  (starring veteran Stratford actor Brian Bedford as Shylock) AND “Tommy”, the rock musical based on The Who’s rock opera.   I saw a ballet set to “Tommy” when I was in high school in Detroit – and am pretty sure I can still sing most of the lyrics to the opera. Actor Brian Dennehy will star in Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” which I haven’t read since high school.  Also on tap: “Romeo and Juliet”  and “Othello.” The NYTimes travel section recently had a story about Stratford and it looks like there’s a lot more there than there was 40-some years ago when I started going to plays there with my parents.

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Filed under Canada, theater, Uncategorized