By Justin Mitchell
The Grand Opera House in downtown Oshkosh recently unveiled their upcoming season, which includes an impressive array of diverse and engaging artists and performers that will continue the Grand’s role as the region’s leading cultural entertainment venue.
We asked Grand Director Joe Ferlo a few questions about the upcoming season.
Oshkosh Scene: The local theatre scene has come alive in the last 2-3 years, and the Grand’s season shows it. You’re hosting a sinful thriller, a dark and deadly tale, and a clever and witty comedy, among others.
Joe Ferlo: The theatre scene and how it’s evolved, it a transformative thing. In 2004 when I arrived, area theatre was struggling. Now, in our 2014-15 season, there are two local-based partner theatres, presenting six productions, ranging from fun musicals to deep and dramatic classics. We (The Grand) have invested a lot of time and effort into helping the Oshkosh Community Players and Hysterical Productions secure a spot in the Valley theatre scene.
And it’s been a great investment.
OS: The Madison Ballet will be coming to town on March 13, 2015 for what looks to be an excellent show. When’s the last time the Grand saw a professional ballet company perform, and what can we expect?JF: I’ve presented a couple of dance events in my ten-year tenure at The Grand, but this is the first professional ballet company. I chose Madison Ballet for a reason. I found them to be exceptionally talented, of course, but there was a hip, contemporary flair to their work that I think makes ballet more accessible to a wider audience. I particularly love “Groovy”, set to music from the Sixties. But there’s also classic ballet, and a great jazzy Balanchine number set to Gershwin. It will be a fun night for the casual and the experienced ballet lover.
OS: Bill Blagg the magician is set for April 25, 20145 What does the Scene editorial team need to do to have Magician Blagg help us become magical, and can he help us fly?
JF: Bill’s become a friend over the years, so I’ll see what I can do about that flying thing. There is a lot of audience participation in his shows, it’s family-friendly, but he has a fun, sassy attitude that makes the show great fun for adults as well. Plus, he’s a craftsman, constantly working on new illusions, so even if you saw his show several years ago, you’re likely to see a lot of new things as well this time around. I’m working on having Bill spend several days in our community next spring, so who knows WHERE he might “appear”?
OS: Tell us about what the Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra has in store for the season.
JF: In addition to their annual holiday concert, the OSO is cooking up a big event for spring, featuring jazz electric violinist (you heard that right) Mark Wood of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. With the Orchestra, Youth Symphony, and two high school choirs, this concert is so big it had to be moved to the Alberta Kimball Auditorium, even though it’s part of the Grand season package.OS: What programming should families look forward to?
Bill Blagg is of course the family-friendly highlight. But events like FOREVER PLAID, GODSPELL, the Madison Ballet, and even the Diamonds and “Bandstand Boogie” are great ways to introduce someone to live performance. If there’s ever a question, I’d encourage anyone to contact us and ask.
OS: Does the Grand have any other fun community events happening?
JF: We are making a big push this year to utilize the Grand Lounge as a venue. There are seven Gallery Walks in the season where we have live music and local artists in the Lounge in our AFTERWALK series. Plus, so much is evolving. There’s a few contemporary indie-folk-hip concerts I’m working on, such as the successful Gregory Alan Isakov show that we hosted on September 25. There’s more to come. I’m guessing I have 2-5 more performances “up my sleeve” for the season ahead.
OS: If you’re only able to see one show this next season, what is a must see?
JF: If I did this right, there is no right answer. The program’s supposed to be eclectic. New artists like Isakov are there for the millennials and gen-Y crowd. The Diamonds are there for the traditional crowds. THE CRUCIBLE, YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU, DRACULA and THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST are great theatre classics.
THEODORE ROOSEVELT- MAN IN THE ARENA will be recorded live, for the artists’ portfolio. BOOGIE AND THE YoYoZ was our first sellout last season. Even the SPIRITS OF THE GRAND gets a makeover, highlighting the underground tunnels and the Prohibition Era. We’ve even got independent promoters bringing in George Winston and John Berry. For me, it’s the three Broadway tenors of THE PHAT PACK, knocking those show-tunes out of the park.
And I promise you, there are still several shows yet-to-come that will have you wanting to know more. It’s going to be a great season.
All photos courtesy of the Grand Opera House