Walton Arts Center serves up a helping of new and old in 2018-19 Broadway series

“Cats” returns to the Walton Arts Center on May 28, 2019 / Photo: Matthew Murphy

The Walton Arts Center fills its halls every year with a multiplicity of programming, ranging from jazz concerts to educational shows for children. But nothing staged at the venue in Fayetteville draws the attention of its Broadway Series of touring musicals. On Monday (March 11), more than 500 people showed up to be the first to hear the upcoming slate of productions and purchase seasons subscriptions.

The WAC will offer eight Broadway shows in its 2018-19 season. Season subscription packages, which come with perks such as tickets exchange, dining discounts at partner restaurants and consistent seating, contain five set selections and at least one from a block of three limited engagement or special shows. In other words, tickets for the block of five shows are handed out with each subscription and another must be selected to make a full set.

Jennifer Ross, director of programming for the WAC, told the audience assembled on Monday that combined, the shows in the upcoming season comprise of five making their Arkansas debut, three returning to the venue and 22 Tony Awards between them.

The first show is one of those returning to the stage, but this time for a limited run. “Jersey Boys” tells the story of the formation and dissolution of the band the Four Seasons, a period of time marked with a quick ascent to stardom and hits such as “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Oh What a Night.” The musical last visited the arts center in 2013.

“School of Rock” is scheduled for Oct 23-38, 2018 / Photo: Matthew Murphy

Next is the show “School of Rock,” which is based off the 2003 movie starring Jack Black as a failed rock and roller who poses as a substitute teacher and quickly turns the classroom into a band. The musical version of “School of Rock” debuted on Broadway in late 2015 and continues it run there.

The third show in the season is another tale of rock stardom, this one inspired by a true story. “On Your Feet” tells the story of music makers Gloria and Emilio Estefan and their rise to fame. It features the hit songs “Get on Your Feet,” “1-2-3” and “The Rhythm is Gonna Get You,” among many others.

“Falsettos” premiered on Broadway in 1992 and enjoyed a year-long run. The 2016 revival was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. “Falsettos” takes a peak at a very modern family – one where the neurotic Marvin has left his wife Trina for a man named Whizzer. Also appearing in this extended family are Marvin’s psychiatrist and the lesbian couple next door. The show is only in Fayetteville for two nights.

The next show on the calendar is one described as a meeting of “Jersey Boys” and “West Side Story.” The musical “A Bronx Tale” visits Fayetteville for a run of shows that start Feb. 26. With songs from “Beauty and the Beast” songwriter Alan Menken and direction from Tony winner Jerry Zaks and film star Robert DeNiro, “A Bronx Tale” follows an Italian-American boy who must choose between the values instilled by his father and those of the local mob boss.

“Les Miserables” is scheduled for June 18-23, 2019 / Photo: Matthew Murphy

Another show still enjoying Broadway success will serve as the sixth musical in the series. “Waitress,” based on the 2007 film of the same name and updated for the stage with music by Sara Bareilles, comes courtesy of an all-female creative team, something nearly unprecedented on Broadway. “Waitress” tells the story of a small-town waitress who hopes for something more. Her expert pie-baking skills might be her ticket elsewhere.

The season closes with two of the biggest, most-familiar musicals in the Broadway canon.

“Cats” returns to the Walton Arts Center for the first time since 1992 when it opens May 28, 2019. This seven-time Tony winner with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber closed out a successful Broadway revival at the end of 2017. Based on a T.S. Eliot book, “Cats” contains some of the most recognizable show tunes ever written, such as “Memory.”

The last of the eight shows in the Broadway series is “Les Miserables,” the classic musical based on the trials and tribulations of prisoner turned factory owner Jean Valjean. Based on the beloved novel by Victor Hugo, the tour comes after a 2 ½ year return to Broadway.

Information about subscriptions can be found at waltonartscenter.org or by calling 571-2785. Individual tickets for these performances will go on sale in August after additional options for the art center’s create-your-own subscription package are announced in June.

2018/19 Walton Arts Center Broadway Series

Set selections
Oct. 23-28 – “School of Rock”
Dec. 4-9 – “On Your Feet”
Feb. 26-March 3 – “A Bronx Tale’
April 9-14 – “Waitress”
June 18-23 – “Les Miserables”

Buyer’s choice selections (choose at least one)
Oct. 5-7 – “Jersey Boys”
Feb. 8-9 – “Falsettos”
May 28-June 2 – “Cats”