The worldwide party musical 'Rock of Ages' features a mix of classic 1980s music from the likes of Journey, Night Ranger, Styx and REO Speedwagon.
A week since the Weidner Center unveiled its 2013-14 season, several favorites are already emerging at the ticket office.
Not surprising, "Rock of Ages'' is one of them.
For anybody who grew up on the power ballads, guitar solos, rock and raunch of the hard partying '80s, the Broadway jukebox hit built on the music of that decade (think Twisted Sister, Quiet Riot, Europe, Bon Jovi, Poison, Journey) is about as much fun as you can have reliving the era without big hair, a mullet or a Bic lighter. When I caught the national tour of the show The New York Times branded "about as guilty as pleasures get'' a couple of years ago in Minneapolis, hands in the air, shaking your head at the fashions and singing along at the top of your lungs are all part of the experience.
Oddly enough, "Rock of Ages'' has been absent from recent Fox Cities Performing Arts Center seasons, so it's a bit of a coup that the Weidner landed it for a Feb. 23 stop.
The tour was available for only one night, said Weidner executive director Kate Green, who also noted the Weidner won't be changing its policy of no beverages inside Cofrin Family Hall for the show. At some venues, shots and beers are served in the aisles as part of the rock club vibe of the show.
In a season that has been smartly designed for variety - truly something for everyone, if you will - it's good to see that edgy made it into the mix.
But the other frontrunners in the first week of ticket sales represent a wide range of tastes. Mannheim Steamroller, Bob Newhart, Blue Man Group and Imagination Movers, from the Disney Junior children's series of the same name, have also been generating strong traffic, Green said.
Current ticket sales are open to people who select three or more shows from 2013-14 offerings and essentially become season subscribers. It's a chance for people to build their own multishow season and receive a discount of up to 10 percent by buying in advance through www.ticketstaronline.com or www.weidnercenter.com. Individual shows will go on sale at 11 a.m. Sept. 6.
The season, which also includes such recognizable names as Aaron Neville, The Oak Ridge Boys and Celtic Woman, is a year-long process, said Green, who made countless offers on interested acts and then had to wait to see if they were indeed going on tour. Also part of the equation is something she calls "calendar balance,'' the tricky art of making sure not all the shows are compressed into a month or two.
"I was most excited to secure Blue Man Group and Bob Newhart,'' said Green, who is already working on the 2014-15 season. "They were the two toughest titles to nail down, based on schedules and touring routes. It took a little more effort.''
It'll be the first visit to the Weidner for Newhart, the comedy and TV legend who, at age 83, received an Emmy nomination last week for his guest role as Professor Proton on CBS sitcom "The Big Bang Theory.'' His performance on Nov. 23 will be standup comedy and his reflections on on some of his iconic characters and routines of the last 50 years, like the driving instructor and submarine commander.
Green was thrilled to be able to get Blue Man Group for three nights Oct. 21-23. For anyone who has caught a BMG show in Las Vegas or elsewhere, you know things can get messy in the front rows. But Green said the Weidner is well-versed in shows requiring patrons and chairs to be draped in plastic, thanks to past visits from watermelon-smashing comedian Gallagher.
"We're OK with it,'' she said. "We're prepared.''
Green has also been encouraged to see "Bring It On: The Musical,'' a May 22 show with appeal to a younger demographic than the typical Broadway fan, doing well out of the gate as well as New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players: "H.M.S. Pinafore'' on March 14. It marks the return of opera to the Weidner, a genre that Green said people have been telling her they miss. She's hoping "Pinafore'' will appeal to longtime fans as well as first-timers looking for a lighter, more comedic introduction to opera.
"If you don't know opera, it's OK. You're still going to enjoy this show,'' Green said.
And because anybody who programs a venue will tell you there's always at least one touring act that got away, Green said hers is Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers. She had her eye on the comedian-turned-banjo player, but when he became a father for the first time in December at age 67, he opted not to take on any more offers.
» The Exclusive Co., 423 Dousman St., is taking advantage of another opportunity for outdoor music on Saturday. Beginning at noon with the Jay James Band, the following groups will play out behind the store: Girl Germs, Porch Honkees, Fox Face, The Olives, Static Eyes, Dirty Rotten So and So's and Hue Blanc's Joyless Ones.
» Tickets are on sale for $10 at Luna Coffee for the David Bixler Quintet's performance thereat 7:30 p.m. Aug. 1 It's the third time the jazz saxophonist and his band have played the De Pere coffeehouse.