The 2018-19 Anchorage Concert Association season contains the usual suspects, such as traditional theater, holiday tunes, "The Nutcracker" and a musical or two. But there is also stand-up and sketch comedy, a controversial Broadway musical, genre-bending performers and some performances unlike anything you've ever seen.
"Inspiration, entertainment, fun" is how ACA spokesperson Laura Carpenter describes the season.
Hard-rockin' cellists. Anthropological collage. South African township music. Western swing. A humorous take on the Harry Potter books. Harmony-heavy indie rock. An all-female mariachi band.
Of course, the concert association isn't the only arts game in town. Organizations like Cyrano's, Anchorage Community Theatre, Whistling Swan Productions and Perseverance Theatre (among many others) strive to present concerts, plays and other arts events.
However, ACA is the lead dog, and its program provides a framework for the arts season.
The variety of shows helps ensure that traditionalists get what they want – say, the Celtic Woman holiday show or "The Sound of Music" – but also encourages people to think outside their comfort zones.
Speaking of which: "The Book of Mormon" comes to town next month and is likely to raise some eyebrows. This comedy-musical isn't for everyone due to explicit language and adult situations. (Hint: It's from the folks who gave us "South Park" and "Avenue Q.") But the show's sharply focused satire and, yes, its gross-out humor, led to nine Tony Awards.
"We do encourage people to research (a show) and see if it's right for them before they come," Carpenter notes.
This season, patrons 35 and younger can take advantage of something called "35 Below," a 50-percent-off deal for seven shows. The discounted tickets will be available through the box office beginning two hours before showtime (subject to availability). See the listings below for the performances included in this special deal.
There's something for just about everyone in the 2018-19 season. Read on and find events that appeal to you and yours.
Sept. 21-22: Puddles Pity Party
Puddles packed 'em in last year. That's why he's doing two shows this time around. The clown makeup isn't just a gimmick; the dude can really sing. The Boston Globe describes his voice as "beautiful … operatic." This is true even when he's singing "Pinball Wizard" to the tune of "Folsom Prison Blues." And best of all: It's an irony-free concert. Show time is 7:30 p.m. both nights in the Discovery Theatre.
Sept. 29: Ozomatli and Flor de Toloache
Two very different bands, both with genre-bending verve. Based in Southern California, Ozomatli mixes hip-hop, funk and other musical styles with a unique Latin flair. Flor de Toloache is an all-woman mariachi band whose music and vocals led Rolling Stone magazine to say, "You'll never think of mariachi as tame tableside entertainment again." Viva la fiesta! Show time is 7:30 p.m. in the Atwood Concert Hall. (This is a "35 Below" performance.)
Oct. 5: The Sweet Remains
This indie folk-rock trio produces harmonies that are as smooth as syrup and twice as sweet. While their expressive lyrics call to mind performers like David Gray and Ray LaMontagne, their vocal melding is compared to groups like Crosby, Stills and Nash. The Sweet Remains starred in a feature film called "The Independents."
Oct. 5-6: Alaxsxa/Alaska
Like nothing you've ever seen, this performance group mixes Yup'ik drum and dance, video, recorded interviews and puppetry to evoke contemporary and historical encounters between Alaska Native people with those who came to Alaska later. Time Out New York called it a "sumptuous anthropological collage."
Oct. 12: Vusi Mahlasela: Township Tour
Back home in South Africa, musician and cultural activist Mahlasela is referred to as "The Voice." His songs came of age during the anti-apartheid struggle, and he performed a song for political exiles called "When You Come Back" at the inauguration of President Nelson Mandela. Mahlasela has performed with the likes of Sting, Angelique Kidjo, Josh Groban and the Dave Matthews Band.
Oct. 13: Tig Notaro
The original performance for this comedian/actor/writer sold out almost immediately, so the ACA added a second show. Singled out by Rolling Stone as one of the top 50 stand-up comedians of all time, Notaro is currently famous for creating and starring in the TV series "One Mississippi." But she's also renowned for having done a shirtless HBO special after cancer required a double mastectomy.
Oct. 19-28: "The Book of Mormon"
Definitely not a religious musical. As noted above, this show isn't for everyone. But it has been packing them in across the country for years, so it must be doing something right. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday and Sunday, and 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with 2 p.m. weekend matinees, in the Atwood Concert Hall.
Nov. 9-10: Lucky Chops
Remember "Fame"? Some alumni from LaGuardia High founded a band whose New York City subway busking wound up on YouTube and rocketed them to fame. Now they're traveling around the world with their supercharged, brassy funk. Lucky Chops does original songs and unforgettable covers of songs as wide-ranging as Adele's "Hello" and the Beatles' "Helter Skelter." (This is a "35 Below" performance.)
Nov. 23-25: "The Nutcracker"
The annual opportunity to dress up your kiddos and introduce them to the world of the dance – or to reconnect with your own childhood memories of Clara's trip to a magic land. Eugene Ballet collaborates with young local dancers to turn the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts into an enduring memory.
Nov. 30-Dec. 1: The New Standards Holiday Show
Expect the unexpected with this mix of seasonal tunes, variety-show tactics and absolute spectacle. A trio of performers – Chan Poling (The Suburbs), John Munson (Semisonic) and Steve Roehm – are the masterminds, and they will be joined by a surprise mix of local and Outside performers. (This is a "35 Below" performance.)
Dec. 7-9: Celtic Woman: The Best of Christmas Tour
Stunning sounds from Irish vocalists who've wowed us before: Back in 2014, this all-woman ensemble sold out three shows and added a fourth.
Jan. 18-19: International Guitar Night
Last year this "mobile guitar festival" sold out; this year the ACA scheduled a second show to keep up with demand. You'll hear solos, duets and quartets that demonstrate the range and beauty of acoustic guitar, including gypsy jazz prodigy Antoine Boyer, flamenco stylist Samuelito, Luca Stricagnoli (famous for his acoustic triple-neck guitar version of "Feel Good Inc.") and fretless guitar virtuoso Cenk Erdogan.
Jan. 19: Across the Great Divide: Dustbowl Revival and Hot Tub of Cowtown
These two bands join together to commemorate the 50th anniversary of The Band. Dustbowl Revival is an eight-person band with strings, brass and more for a musical melange that will have you dancing in your seat. Hot Club of Cowtown, an Austin-based band, pours forth jazz and Western swing in both European and vintage American styles. (This is a "35 Below" performance.)
Jan. 25: Kaumakaiwa Kanaka'ole
Chants, dance, songs and stories from one of the new voices of Hawaii, this show will take you from dark and cold Anchorage to the warmth and beauty of the islands. Kanaka'ole is from a culture-bearing family whose gifts to and dedication for Hawaii heritage go back eight (matrilineal) generations. (This is a "35 Below" performance.)
Feb. 2: The Second City: It's Not You, It's Me
This renowned comedy ensemble will showcase our need for connection despite missed connections, heartbreak and the complications of human relationships. On the off chance you haven't heard of The Second City, we'll name a few alumni: Tina Fey, Bill Murray, Joan Rivers, Steve Carell, Gilda Radner, Stephen Colbert, Bonnie Hunt, Dan Aykroyd, Catherine O'Hara…Well, you get the picture.
Feb. 13: The Moth Mainstage
Live storytelling, without cue cards: This is the kind of evening that draws a theater full of strangers into a single, cohesive clan. Storytelling is not a dying art. Bonus: Local voices and local stories will be showcased along with the national ones. Mature themes and language are part of this program.
Feb. 19-24: "The Sound of Music"
This classic musical is a great family outing and a way to introduce older children to a full-length theatrical production. The story of a novice who leaves the convent to care for a family of seven children, it contains songs that have stood the test of time, including "My Favorite Things," "Do Re Mi" and "Climb Ev'ry Mountain."
Feb. 22: Joan Osborne Sings the Songs of Bob Dylan
Folk-pop performer Osborne ("One of Us") turns her vocal talents to the music of American troubadour Bob Dylan. You'll hear a mix of political songs, folk tunes and rock, all delivered as an homage rather than a gimmick.
March 7-10: Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience – a Parody by Dan and Jeff
A big hit when performed here back in 2016, "Potted Potter" is a ridiculously comic presentation of wizards, bad guys, ghosts, a dragon and a real-time game of Quidditch. It's 70 minutes' worth of laughs, so bring the elementary-aged Potter fans along.
March 9: The Texas Tenors
Maybe you saw and loved them on "America's Got Talent." Or maybe you just love tenors. Either way, expect the Emmy-winning trio to deliver an eclectic mix of classics and country, pop and patriotism, Broadway and boot-scootin' boogie. (This is a "35 Below" performance.)
March 15: The Secret Sisters
Full disclosure: Lydia and Laura Rogers are sisters, and their history shows. From their beginning in the church of their Alabama childhood, the two women learned to "float, twist and trade harmonies," according to National Public Radio. They perform country-folk classics, both gospel and secular, and write their own haunting original music as well. They've toured with the likes of Willie Nelson and Paul Simon, and collaborated with rocker Jack White. (This is a "35 Below" performance.)
March 22: JigJam
Mix bluegrass and Irish folk music. The result is "Celtgrass," an evening of energetic music for guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin and double bass. It's all right if your toes keep tapping. You won't be the only one.
March 23: OK Go: The Live Video Tour
These Chicago indie-rockers mix high-energy tunes with video challenges like zero-gravity acrobatics and treadmill dance routines. The Smithsonian recognized the group with an American Ingenuity Award. This is a show for the whole family, or for a a date who has a sense of joy and fun.
March 29: Break of Reality
Cello rock – it's a thing. This quartet sold out during its last two trips to Anchorage, playing everything from Bach to Metallica. Break of Reality's "Game of Thrones" cover has more than 20 million views on YouTube. Classical techniques + rock habits = a new way of looking at stringed instruments.
April 12-13: Frogz
Imago Theatre presents fantastic creatures in a mix of illusion, humor and vaudeville, taking audiences to an undiscovered planet in a show The New York Times calls "a mastery of mime, dance and acrobatics." It's mayhem in a vaudevillian style, with touches of Cirque de Soleil and Mummenschanz. Recommended for ages 3 and up.
May 7-12: Monty Python's Spamalot
Fans of this British comedy troupe will likely adore the Tony-winning musical adaptation of the film, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." An homage to the story of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, it keeps the bizarre antics of the film intact and adds a lot more music. Expect a lot of silly, bent-kneed running about.
It's still possible to buy a subscription package, which saves showgoers 10 to 15 percent per ticket. Since subscribing also means saving on box office fees, the average patron saves $9 to $10 per ticket. See anchorageconcerts.org/seasons for more.