Charlie Daniels kicks off Clayton Center season
By Steve Wildsmith (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The devil’s going down to the Clayton Center for the Arts in September, when country music titan Charlie Daniels kicks off the 2011-2012 season of entertainment.
The season, which begins Sept. 30 with a performance by the Charlie Daniels Band, is bookended with vanguards of traditional country — Ronnie Milsap is slated to perform on March 24, 2012, to close out the year. Sandwiched in between are a number of programs meant to appeal to a broad cross-section of the general public, said Cheri Compton, director of marketing for the center.
“We’re trying to do what we did last year and have a broad appeal in what we present with the different performances and performers,” she said. “Charlie was one of the first people in place because he’s so well known and has played so often in this year. And Ronnie is a great country artist who will also appeal to the demographic that likes gospel music. When we found out he was available, we knew he was a perfect fit for what we want to do.”
One of the big changes for the upcoming season is the number of big productions taking place on the main stage in the Ronald and Lynda Nutt Theatre. In addition to Daniels (famous for “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” “Long Haired Country Boy” and “The South’s Gonna Do It”) and Milsap (who charted 35 Billboard No. 1 singles and has sold more than 35 million albums), there are only four other main stage acts on the schedule:
• Imago Theatre Zoo/Zoo on Oct. 13, a family production of mimes, dancers and acrobats;
• “In the Heights” on Nov. 19, a Broadway musical that’s won four Tony Awards;
• The American Spiritual Ensemble on Jan. 14, 2012, a group of singers dedicated to the preservation of the Negro spiritual that was a hit during this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. celebration; and
• Southern Fried Chicks on Jan. 28, a group of female comediennes drawing on Southern life for their clean material.
“It is scaled back,” Compton said. “The first season was sort of a trial run to see what sort of audience we were going to reach; this year, we decided that with being such a new venue, one of our goals was to reach out to all of East Tennessee and to really work toward filling up the auditorium with every show we’ve got.”
The smaller number of big shows doesn’t mean the theater will sit empty, however. Given its use by local schools, Maryville College and groups who rent it for public and private affairs, the Clayton Center will be a hub of campus activity. In addition, a number of smaller events will take place in the Haslam Family Flex Theatre and the Harold and Jean Lambert Recital Hall.
“We’ll have the Evelyn Miller Young Pianist Series, and of course we’re having the Friday Nights Live program this summer (premiering Friday night with a performance by the Bill Swann Trio), and we’ll probably do that again this fall,” she said.
Season subscriptions go on sale July 8, according to Compton; the cost is $165 for an adult premium ticket to all of the season’s events. In addition, tickets to the Sept. 30 Charlie Daniels Band concert go on sale that day as well; they’ll cost $35 for adults and as low as $25 for students and seniors.
“That was our other goal — to really keep this season affordable so that anyone who wanted to come could really afford it,” Compton said. “And we think it’s diverse enough that it’s going to appeal to everyone.”