The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall announced its season of Broadway and dance shows a few months ago. Now the hall’s executive director, Mary Bensel, has more to say about the rest of the season, billed as “A Whole New World” both for its presentation of Disney’s Aladdin, and for its return to a fuller, more “normal” year after Covid disruptions.
“Putting together a season is like doing a crossword puzzle,” Bensel says. “You want to have diversity, shows for people of all ages.” That means a mix of Broadway, country, comedy and rock ‘n’ roll, she says.
This year, too, “I felt comedy would be big,” as audiences look for laughter in the face of some troubled times. The comedy lineup includes a return visit by Jerry Seinfeld, doing two shows on Sept. 30 (“You can’t get any funnier than that,” she says), along with some newcomers to the Van Wezel stage, like Nikki Glaser, Leanne Morgan and Joe Gatto. Also on the comedy schedule: Jay Leno, Paul Reiser, Lewis Black, Daniel Tosh and a joint appearance by Rita Rudner and Robert Klein. Bensel says the hall may add another “one or two or three” comedians as the season progresses.
Those who know Bensel know her love of Broadway shows. While Aladdin may be the biggest show of the Broadway lineup (and Bensel promises that “you will get to see a flying carpet go across the stage”), she’s also excited about the tour of Tina Fey’s Mean Girls musical (“so funny, and a draw for younger audiences, by which I mean people in their 40s or so”). And that already announced Broadway lineup includes classics, too, like My Fair Lady and Chicago as well as musical versions of hit movies Tootsie and Legally Blonde.
Bensel, who says she’s been trying to bring performance art company Blue Man Group to the hall for years, finally gets her wish when the performers bring a whole new show to the stage; she advises ticket buyers to “sit in the front and get messy.” When it comes to music, she singles out Bonnie Raitt (but be advised, tickets are already almost sold out), Judy Collins (whose “Wildflowers” concert will feature a huge orchestra), Kat and Dave Show (that’s Katharine McPhee and hubby David Foster, whom Bensel has gotten to know a bit offstage), and the Irish sounds of Celtic Woman, Riverdance, Ireland with Michael (Londra) and The High Kings and Gaelic Storm.
The previously announced dance lineup includes Momix, with a production of Alice (in Wonderland) using projections and puppets; Pilobolus, celebrating its 50th anniversary; and Ailey II, the younger, feeder group of dancers from the acclaimed Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
And there are pop and rock performers from Foreigner to Michael Bolton to Three Dog Night to look forward to, along with such returning favorites as Dave Koz, Jim Brickman, and tribute shows to the Beatles (Rain) and ABBA that Bensel says always sell out.
One name not yet announced: the performer(s) for the annual gala show the Van Wezel Foundation hosts as a fund raiser. But Bensel says there is “an offer out,” and that show may be announced soon.
For the full schedule of 2022-23 shows, head to vanwezel.org. Public on-sale date is Sept. 10, and tickets can be purchased at the box office, by phone at (941) 263-6799, or at the website.