HOOVER, Alabama – The Hoover Library Theatre tonight announced its lineup for the 2014-15 season, and it has a bit of a country twang to it in the beginning and the end.
The season kicks off with Nashville songwriter Phil Vassar and ends with country music legend and comedian Mel Tillis.
But there’s plenty of variety coming to the Library Theatre this year. Other acts include Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks, the Celtic Tenors, Grammy Award-winning jazz musician Diane Schuur, Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors, an international circus troupe and two national tours of famous plays ("In the Heat of the Night" and "Wuthering Heights.")
"It ended up coming together to be quite an eclectic season," said Matina Johnson, fine arts director at the library. "It’s got a little bit of everything … I’m really excited."
Booking Tillis was quite a coup, Johnson said. The Hoover Library Theatre has tried to land him before, but his promoters didn’t want to consider the library because it has just 250 seats, she said.
Having his daughter, Pam Tillis, perform at the Hoover Library Theatre in 2011 and Suzy Bogguss there earlier this month helped a lot in getting Mel Tillis to come, Johnson said.
But Johnson said what may be her biggest accomplishment yet at the Library Theatre is getting the Cirque Montage circus performers on the schedule. They’re a pretty elite group of circus performers, she said. "These are the actual performers from Cirque du Soleil," she said.
She had to book them for three nights to get them to come, she said. All the other acts at the Hoover Library Theatre have just two shows.
Here’s a closer look at each of the acts and their performance dates:
Phil Vassar, Sept. 20, 5:30 & 8 p.m.
Vassar has put out eight albums and received Songwriter of the Year awards from Billboard Country and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Perhaps his best known song is "Just Another Day in Paradise," which topped the Billboard Hot Country Singles Chart in 2000.
Vassar has hit the Top 5 seven times with his own recordings but also has had great success with his songs sung by other artists. Those taken to No. 1 by other singers include "My Next 30 Years," sung by Tim McGraw, "She’s Right on the Money," sung by Alan Jackson, and "Bye Bye" and "I’m Alright," sung by Jo Dee Messina.
Vassar was nominated for an Emmy Award in the "Outstanding Original Song" category for his composition "Live For Today," which was performed and produced for a recurring series on NBC’s Today Show.
Dan Hicks & The Hot Licks, Oct. 23-24, 8 p.m.
Since the early 1960s, Hicks has blended elements of swing, jazz, folk and country music to create what he sometimes calls "folk jazz."
Hicks started out with a group called the Charlatans but became much better known as the front man for his own band and went on to produce the critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums, "Where’s the Money," "Striking It Rich" and "Last Train To Hicksville."
Hicks broke up the Hot Licks in 1973 at the height of their popularity and began a low-key solo career of acoustic performances, but he brought the name back with new backup singers in 2000. He has appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine three times.
In the Heat of the Night, Nov. 13-14, 8 p.m.
This play is part of a national tour by the L.A. Theatre Works, based on a novel by John Ball. Set in the rural South, it tells the story of a white police chief, Bill Gillespie, whose personal prejudices are tested by working alongside African-American detective Virgil Tibbs.
In 1967, one year before the Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Sidney Portier played Virgil Tibbs in the motion picture. The film won five Academy Awards and spawned a hugely popular TV series by the same name. "In the Heat of the Night" remains an emblem of the 1960s and a classic, American thriller.
The Celtic Tenors, Dec. 11-12, 8 p.m.
The trio of Matthew Gilsenan, James Nelson and Daryl Simpson have established themselves as the most successful classical crossover artists ever to emerge from Ireland.
With more than 1 million worldwide album sales and a full international touring schedule, The Celtic Tenors have topped the charts in the United States, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and Ireland. President Bill Clinton once said they sang "the finest version of ‘Danny Boy’ I have ever heard."
They’ll be putting on a Celtic Christmas program at the Hoover Library Theatre.
Diane Schuur, Jan. 22-23, 8 p.m.
Schuur, a contemporary jazz vocalist and pianist, has a career that spans three decades, including two Grammy awards, five Grammy nominations and numerous No. 1 recordings.
Schuur was born blind and taught herself piano by ear.
She has appeared on PBS and many other TV specials. Her latest work is set to be released this summer.
Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors, Feb. 25-26, 8 p.m.
Since releasing their first album, "Washed in Blue" in 2005, Holcomb and his band have sold more than 75,000 records, played more than 1,500 live concerts, sold out headline shows and toured alongside acts such as The Avett Brothers, Ryan Adams, Los Lobos, Need to Breathe, Susan Tedeschi, North Mississippi Allstars and Marc Broussard.
Their songs have been used in numerous TV shows and commercials, most notably in TNT’s Emmy Award-winning 2011 Christmas Day NBA Forever spot, which paired the song "Live Forever" with a montage of past and present NBA video footage.
In January 2013, the band’s song, "What Would I Do Without You," gained notice when it was featured on an episode of "How I Met Your Mother." They recently released their sixth album and were a notable act at the prestigious Bonnaroo music and arts festival in 2013.
Wuthering Heights, March 19-20, 8 p.m.
The Aquila Theatre Co. re-imagines one of the most famous love stories ever told. The play is based on the only novel ever written by Emily Bronte, which was published in 1847 under a pseudonym.
It’s a deep story of all-consuming passion, revenge, family, class and the supernatural, set in northern England.
Heathcliff and Catherine meet as children when Catherine’s father brings the abandoned Heathcliff home to live with them. The two grow up together, but when Catherine’s parents die, her brother turns Heathcliff out, forcing him to live among the servants. Catherine marries and the crushed Heathcliff disappears. Years later, a wealthy Heathcliff returns.
Cirque Montage, April 9-11, 8 p.m.
For nearly a decade, WonderWorld Entertainment has provided Cirque-inspired theatrical productions of all types featuring former artists of Cirque du Soleil.
In 2008, WonderWorld premiered its own theatrical show, Montage, in Los Angeles.
This troupe of international, award-winning performers hails from eight different countries, including England, Russia, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Turkmenistan, Japan and the United States. The Los Angeles Times says the show "keeps the audience gasping."
Mel Tillis, May 2, 4 and 8 p.m.
Tillis, who has been in the music business for more than 50 years, has written well more than 1,000 songs, recorded more than 60 albums and charted more than 30 Top Ten singles. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters International Hall of Fame in 1976, and inducted as a member of both the Grand Old Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007.
For six years in the 1970s, Tillis was named the Country Music Association’s Comedian of the Year and in 1976 was named the CMA’s Entertainer of the Year. In 1999, BMI named him the Songwriter of the Decade for two decades.
He wrote songs not just for himself, but for others as well, including Kenny Rogers, George Strait, Ricky Skaggs, Bobby Bare and Brenda Lee. He and his band, the Statesiders, have worked concerts all over the United States, Canada, England and other countries.
Tillis also has made appearances in numerous feature films, including "Every Which Way But Loose" with Clint Eastwood, "W.W. & The Dixie Dancekings," "Cannonball Run I and II," "Smokey and the Bandit II with Burt Reynolds, and the lead role with Roy Clark in "Uphill All The Way."
He has starred in several TV movies as well, including "Murder in Music City" and "A Country Christmas Carol."
Tillis has been recovering from heart surgery but his doctor released him to go back to work after June 1, according to his website. His first performance is set to be at the Opry and the Midnite Jamboree during the CMA’s Fest Week.
Tickets for the 2014-15 Hoover Library Theatre season are scheduled to go on sale in August. Each show costs $25.
Check out the 2013-14 Hoover Library Theatre season, which just ended, here.
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