Firsts, seconds and a trilogy
20 shows, concerts and cultural experiences worth seeing this fall
by Page Leggett
The next five months offer a cultural bonanza — a social smorgasbord! — for Charlotteans. We’ll be treated to a couple of firsts — a world premiere by an award-winning South African choreographer at Charlotte Ballet, for one. Several shows and events — To Kill A Mockingbird with Richard Thomas and the Charlotte International Arts Festival — are back for a second time, by popular demand. And one exciting, three-act trilogy that was a recent Broadway darling is getting its Southeastern premiere in the Queen City — and you’ll need to get tickets early.
This fall, there are oh-so-many reasons to buy tickets in advance. Heck, with performers as exciting as Queen Bey herself, you may not even mind paying all those extra “convenience” fees from the cursed Ticketmaster.
To Kill A Mockingbird, Aug. 1-6
It’s back, and Richard Thomas is returning as everyone’s favorite fictional father: the gentle, wise Atticus Finch. Academy Award winner Aaron Sorkin adapted Harper Lee’s timeless, Pulitzer Prize-winning classic. With direction by Tony Award winner Bartlett Sher, this version of To Kill A Mockingbird — part of Blumenthal Performing Arts Center’s Broadway Lights Series — is already considered “a landmark production” (Rolling Stone). Belk Theater, 130 N. Tryon St. Tickets start at $25. carolinatix.org
American Aquarium, presented by MAXX Music. Photograph by Cal & Aly, americanaquarium.com
American Aquarium, presented by MAXX Music, Aug. 3
Frontman and songwriter B.J. Barham may remind you of Jason Isbell — and not just because they both got kicked out of their own bands (or had their bandmates up and leave) when their out-of-control drinking started impacting their performances. Both are now sober, and both talk openly about their self-destructive drinking days. And both Americana/alt-country/folk-rockers write poetically about the state of being human. The title song from the band’s most recent album, Chicamacomico, is a heartbreaking ode to the child Barham and his wife lost when she suffered a miscarriage. (“I’ll never pretend to know what you’re going through/But you ain’t the only one who lost something that day/Honey, I lost him, too.”) Barham says he hopes the album “serves as a salve to anyone who has experienced … loss.” The Raleigh resident and Reidsville native puts on a raucous live show, with plenty of laughs, even as he bares his soul. Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St. Tickets start at $20, plus fees. neighborhoodtheatre.com
A Doll’s House, Part 2, presented by Charlotte Conservatory Theatre, Aug. 3-13
Lucas Hnath’s 2017 play picks up where Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 original ends. The theme running through the original is a woman’s desire for liberation, or at least for a marriage of equals. Although main character Nora had limited choices in the 1800s, she does — with an emphatic slam of a door — flee her home, husband and children at the end of A Doll’s House. In Part 2, she returns home, but not to make amends. Frances Dell Bendert, an actor affiliated with Charlotte Conservatory, notes in a blog about the sequel that “the conversation about gender equality and marriage is still raw and urgent.” We can rejoice that the three-and-a-half-hour run time of Ibsen’s original has been edited to under two hours in the sequel. The Broadway production, starring Laurie Metcalf and Chris Cooper, was nominated for eight Tony Awards, including Best Play. This version features some of Charlotte’s best-known thespians, including director Matt Cosper and actors Kellee Stall (Nora) and Gina Stewart. Van Every Theatre at the Mint Museum, 2730 Randolph Rd. Tickets are $35. carolinatix.org
Beyoncé, Renaissance World Tour, Aug. 9
She’s performed at Coachella. She wowed at the 2013 Super Bowl Halftime Show. She serenaded Barack and Michelle Obama at his 2009 Inaugural Ball. And now, Beyonce Knowles brings her star power to Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium. The 200 million records she’s sold, the 32 Grammy Awards she’s won and the 30 top-10 singles all speak to her status as an international phenomenon. The singer/actor/entrepreneur is more than one of the top entertainers in the world. She’s a pop culture icon. All hail the queen! Bank of America Stadium, 800 S. Mint St. Ticket prices, starting at about $225, may fluctuate. ticketmaster.com
Queen City Comedy Experience, presented by Blumenthal Performing Arts, Sept. 6-10
The laughs are back! This year’s lineup is strong. Yuk it up at Hyprov: Improv Under Hypnosis Starring Colin Mochrie and Asad Mecci (Sept. 8 at Knight Theater), Shawn Wayans (Sept. 8-9 at The Comedy Zone), Chris Tucker (Sept. 9 at Belk Theater), a live version of the Small Town Murder podcast (Sept. 9 at Knight Theater) and many more local and national acts. We’re especially excited for Capitol Fools (Sept. 7 at Knight Theater). After Washington, D.C.’s premier political satire troupe, The Capitol Steps, called it quits after a 40-year run, some cast members and a co-writer picked up where the old group left off. The sketch comedy is fast-paced, smart, topical, over-the-top and skewers Dems and the GOP with equal fervor. (If you’re too young to know how the Capitol Steps got their name, Google John Jenrette, a U.S. representative from the Myrtle Beach area.) Various locations and pricing. carolinatix.org
Charlotte International Arts Festival, presented by Blumenthal Performing Arts, Sep. 15-Oct. 1
The second annual celebration of imaginative visual and performing arts from around the world and right here at home takes over uptown and extends to Ballantyne’s Backyard. With more than 200 attractions, this festival is filled with live performances, art installations and food from around the globe. CIAF is so big it even contains two other festivals, the Festival of India and The Latin American Festival, under its umbrella. Learn more about all the happenings, most free and some ticketed, at charlotteartsfest.com.
Renee Fleming. Photograph by Timothy White
Charlotte Symphony Annual Gala and Concert: An Evening with Renee Fleming, Sept. 20
She’s been nominated for 18 Grammy Awards and won five. She began as an opera singer, but her crossover appeal has led to performances with Paul Simon, Sting, John Prine and — improbably — Lou “Walk on the Wild Side” Reed. Renee Fleming is one of the most celebrated singers of our time, and she’ll be joined on stage by the full Charlotte Symphony Orchestra for what’s sure to be a glorious night of music. CSO Conductor Laureate Christopher Warren-Green returns from across the pond to lead. Belk Theater, 130 N. Tryon St. Single-ticket pricing not determined at press time. charlottesymphony.org
Leela James, presented by Blumenthal Performing Arts, Sept. 22
R&B singer-songwriter Leela James’ 2005 debut album, A Change Is Gonna Come, earned her a Soul Train Award nomination for Best R&B Soul Artist and a NAACP Award nomination for Outstanding New Artist. The album was a tribute to soul singers of the 1960s and ’70s, including Roberta Flack and Gladys Knight, who James cites as influences. Since then, she’s released seven LPs and had seven Top 20 R&B radio singles. Her ballad, “Fall For You,” is considered a modern classic of the genre and was certified gold in October. James has performed or recorded with James Brown, Maxwell, Moby and North Carolina’s own Fantasia. According to a music-obsessed friend of mine, “She’s one of those R&B veterans who has been around for years but never quite gotten mainstream recognition — not that it would even be a goal of hers. This will be a great show from a criminally underrated soul singer.” Knight Theater, 550 S. Tryon St. Tickets from $35. carolinatix.org
Teresa Hubbard/Alexander Birchler: Flora. Photograph courtesy Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
Teresa Hubbard/Alexander Birchler: Flora, The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Sept. 23, 2023 – Jan. 21, 2024
Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti is one of the most celebrated artists of the modern era, while virtually no one has heard of American sculptor Flora Mayo. But she studied — and had a romance — with Giacometti at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in the 1920s. Little was known about Mayo until Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler (husband/wife artists) found her son, now in his 80s, interviewed him and decided to bring her compelling biography to life. Their double-sided film installation seeks to elevate Mayo above the footnote status to which she had been consigned. Alongside the exhibition will be works from the museum’s permanent collection by artists (Alexander Calder, Joan Miró) associated with the academy where Giacometti and Mayo met. Organized by the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the exhibition was part of the Venice Biennale (a very big deal) in 2017. The Bechtler is the first museum in the Southeast to land it. Interesting aside: Hans Bechtler (Museum founder Andreas’ father) founded the Giacometti Foundation. Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, 420 S. Tryon St. Free with museum admission. bechtler.org
MJ The Musical, Sept. 27-Oct. 8
He first shot to fame as the youngest member of the Jackson Five. He’d go on to become a top-selling solo artist, a dancer extraordinaire and later, a reclusive figure who shared his home, called Neverland Ranch, with a chimp named Bubbles and three children, including one named “Blanket.” But between those two eras, Michael Jackson was one the greatest entertainers to ever moonwalk across a stage. MJ isn’t a retrospective of his life and career, but a new musical centered around the making of the Gloved Ones’ 1992 Dangerous World Tour — one filled with illusions and special effects that grossed more than $100 million. Part of Blumenthal’s Broadway Lights Series, the show features more than 25 of the biggest hits by “The Man in the Mirror,” including “I’ll Be There,” “Thriller” and “Billie Jean.” Created by Tony Award-winning Director/Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage, MJ offers a rare look at a creative genius at the height of his powers. Before things got weird. Belk Theater, 130 N. Tryon St. Tickets start at $25. carolinatix.org
The War and Treaty, The Lovers Game Tour, Visulite Theatre, Sept. 27
The War And Treaty (the husband-and-wife team of Michael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Trotter) has opened for Al Green, Brandi Carlile, Jason Isbell and John Legend. And the duo has collaborated with Dierks Bentley, Elvis Costello, Mumford & Sons, Sturgill Simpson and a host of others. It’s good to see them headlining. Their “voices … will stop you in your tracks,” according to Garden & Gun, and I think their fusion of soul, gospel, country and rock could, too. After their show, you may feel as if you’ve been to church — or an old-timey Southern tent revival, which is funny, considering the duo is from Albion, Mich. 1615 Elizabeth Ave. Tickets are $21 in advance, $26 day of show. visulite.com
Jennifer Archibald’s HdrM, captured by Taylor Jones, part of Charlotte Ballet’s 2023 Innovative Works
Breaking Boundaries, presented by Charlotte Ballet, Oct. 5-28
Breaking Boundaries features an “unconventional masterpiece” by Ohad Naharin, best known for his “Minus 16,” which wowed Charlotte audiences in 2019. Naharin’s “Kamuyot” is a piece more than 50 minutes in length that has “no clear boundaries,” according to Batsheva Dance Company, which commissioned the piece. Apparently, connections will be woven between the dancers and the audience. Sounds interesting. The second piece is a world premiere by Mthuthuzeli November, an award-winning South African choreographer whose work includes a tribute to North Carolina’s own Nina Simone. Patricia McBride and Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux Center for Dance, 701 N. Tryon St. Tickets start at $30. carolinatix.org
Nurse Blake: Shock Advised Tour, presented by Blumenthal Performing Arts, Oct. 11
Nurse Blake (Blake Lynch, RN) uses his experience as a nurse to create comedy events that celebrate the tireless work of modern-day Florence Nightingales and Greg Fockers. Blake tells candid stories from nursing school and his shifts at the bedside. His upbeat storytelling belies the often serious and scary incidents nurses encounter on the daily. After nursing school, Nurse Blake worked in a level 1 trauma center — the kind equipped to provide the highest level of care to critically ill or injured patients. While still in nursing school, he began creating Facebook videos about his work as a way to relieve stress. They went viral and led to his second career as a constantly touring comedian. (His current tour hits 100 cities.) Grab your favorite RN or LPN and join the fun. Belk Theater, 130 N. Tryon St. Tickets start at $36.50. carolinatix.org
VOCES8, Oct. 15
This a cappella octet from England recently recorded with Paul Simon on his new album, Seven Psalms, a 33-minute, acoustic composition. Founded in 2003, the Grammy-nominated vocal ensemble has an extensive — exhaustive, actually — repertoire that includes classical, jazz, their own arrangements, early English and European Renaissance music, traditional folk, and pop. Education is part of their mission — and how many singing groups have a mission? The VOCES8 Foundation, a vocal music education charity, reaches 40,000 young people every year. Sandra Levine Theatre at the Sarah Belk Gambrell Center for the Arts and Civic Engagement, Queens University of Charlotte, 2319 Wellesley Ave. Tickets are $20-$55 and will be available at arts.queens.edu.
The Lehman Trilogy, presented by Three Bone Theatre, Nov. 3-5, 9-12, 16-18
What a triumph to land this! The women of Three Bone are treating Charlotteans to the Southeastern premiere of the 2022 winner of five Tony Awards, including Best Play; six Outer Critics Circle Awards, including Outstanding New Broadway Play; and the Drama League Award for Outstanding Production of a Play. Written by Stefano Massini, adapted by Ben Power and directed on Broadway by Sam Mendes, The Lehman Trilogy is a three-act theatrical event that recounts the humble beginnings, outrageous successes (and excesses) and devastating collapse of a venerable financial institution — a collapse that would lead to, as you might recall, a global economic meltdown. Three Bone Theatre is only the second company in the country to produce The Lehman Trilogy since it closed on Broadway in 2022. Epic in scope (it spans 150 years) and length (three-and-a-half hours) but modest in cast size (three actors), the play follows the rise and stunning fall of three immigrant, investment-banking brothers while telling the story of American capitalism and its close companion — greed. The Arts Factory, 1545 W. Trade St. Ticket prices were not determined at press time. threebonetheatre.com
Sunset Boulevard, presented by QC Concerts, Nov. 4-5
In her L.A. mansion, washed-up silent-screen star Norma Desmond dwells in the past. Screenwriter Joe Gillis, trying to escape debt collectors, stumbles into her reclusive world. Persuaded to work on a script Desmond is convinced will relaunch her career, Gillis is seduced by her wealth. He becomes her virtual prisoner until his love for another woman, a script editor, leads him to try to escape an increasingly paranoid Desmond … with tragic consequences. The 1950 movie directed by Billy Wilder is the source of the famous quote, “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.” The musical adaptation features music by Andrew Lloyd Webber with a book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton. QC Concerts’ version, performed concert-style without a set or costumes, will feature a cast of 25 along with a 40-piece orchestra on stage. This production marks QC Concerts’ first time performing at Booth Playhouse. Saturday, Nov. 4 at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 5 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Booth Playhouse. Tickets from $18-$25. carolinatix.org
P!nk: The TRUSTFALL Tour. Photograph by Kurt Iswarienko, pinkspage.com
P!nk: The TRUSTFALL Tour, Nov. 12
With three Grammy Awards and 135 million records sold worldwide, the artist formerly known as Alecia Beth Moore has left her stamp on pop culture. She’s a gifted songwriter and singer, but what really has us excited about her Charlotte show are the thrilling acrobatics — P!nk was a competitive gymnast as a child — and theatrics her live performances are known for. She’s touring in support of her ninth studio album, TRUSTFALL, which has been lauded for its honest and vulnerable lyrics. Grouplove and Kidcutup will “Get the Party Started.” Spectrum Center, 333 E. Trade St. Ticket prices fluctuate. ticketmaster.com
Sarah Brightman. Photograph by Zach Levi-Rodgers, sarahbrightman.com
Sarah Brightman: A Christmas Symphony, presented by Blumenthal Performing Arts, Dec. 3, 2023
Sarah Brightman, the first Christine Daaé in The Phantom of the Opera on both West End and Broadway stages, brings her angelic voice and acclaimed holiday show to the Blumenthal. She’ll be joined by a choir and orchestra. If last year’s international tour is any indication, we can expect to hear “Coventry Carol,” “Ave Maria,” “Nessun dorma,” holiday standards and a couple of selections from Phantom. The world’s best-selling soprano has performed at such prestigious events as the Concert for Diana, The Kennedy Center Honors and the Barcelona and Beijing Olympics. This show won’t be quite that big, but it should be a spectacle. Belk Theater at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, 130 N. Tryon St. Tickets start at $45. carolinatix.org
Rosanne Cash, Dec. 8
Johnny’s eldest hasn’t performed in Charlotte, as far as we can recall, for a dozen years. The Grammy-winning Americana-country singer — who began her career in the 1980s singing pop songs such as “Seven Year Ache” — is a fantastic writer of songs and prose. Her memoir, Composed, from which she read the last time she played Charlotte, is a treasure. (The Chicago Tribune called it “one of the best accounts of an American life you’ll likely ever read.”) Queens University’s Laura Kratt says, “She’s doing a seven-show run [for] the vinyl re-release of The Wheel, so it was a bit of a coup to get her.” I’ll say! She’ll be here with her band, which includes her husband, John Leventhal. Sandra Levine Theatre at the Sarah Belk Gambrell Center for the Arts and Civic Engagement, Queens University of Charlotte, 2319 Wellesley Ave. Tickets are $55-$75 and will be available at arts.queens.edu.
Need A Little Christmas: A Holiday Musical Celebration, produced by Laura Little Theatricals, Dec. 8 – 21
We have high hopes for this one. Producer Laura Little comes to Charlotte with a theater pedigree. She co-produced Come From Away on Broadway, then in Toronto, London and Australia, plus the national tour. Her company’s Need A Little Christmas is a Radio City Music Hall-style show. “We’ve already cast the kick line,” she says. “And we’re using all local talent.” The holiday extravaganza includes professionally choreographed tap numbers, Santa’s workshop, a military tribute, international holiday customs and a live nativity conclusion. Featuring a cast of more than 45 performers and 450 costumes, Need A Little Christmas might become your new holiday tradition. Central Piedmont’s impressive Parr Center is worth a visit, and this is a great reason to go. Central Piedmont’s New Theater at The Parr Center, 1201 Elizabeth Ave. Tickets are $47 for adults, $40 for seniors and military and $31 for children under 13, and can be purchased online at needalittlechristmas.com or by calling the box office (704-330-6534) Mon. – Fri. between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Cirque du Soleil: BAZZAR, Dec. 16 – Jan. 14
The famous human circus is back, this time with BAZZAR, an eclectic lab of creativity where a troupe of acrobats, contortionists, dancers and musicians create a whimsical, one-of-a-kind universe. And we’re all invited. (It’s good, family fun.) It’s equal parts artistry and acrobatics and promises to be dazzling, quirky and leave you wondering, “How’d they do that?” Under the Big Top at Charlotte Motor Speedway, 5555 Concord Pkwy. S., Concord. Tickets start at $46. cirquedusoleil.com/bazzar. SP
For more things to do around town, visit our Happenings online calendar of events.