This season, The Washington Center for the Performing Arts has the blues — and the world music, and the dance, and the touring musicals, and the comedy, and so on.
“We’re continuing to provide something for everyone,” said Jill Barnes, the center’s executive director. “I say that every year, and I feel like we’re doing a great job of it. There’s a big variety of performances.”
The center’s 2019-2020 season began Oct. 6 with “The Simon & Garfunkel Story,” sponsored by OLY ARTS. The musical, a hit on London’s West End, detailed Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel’s rise to fame, ending with their celebrated 1981 concert in Central Park.
While Simon and Garfunkel were, of course, played by actors, the season includes several big-name artists — all, as it happens, playing rhythm and blues: There are the Taj Mahal Quartet (Nov. 20), Mavis Staples (Jan. 11) and The Temptations (June 4). “The Temptations have two original performers still, and they have the same great sound they’ve had for decades,” Barnes said.
Next up is Che Apalache, from Buenos Aires, Argentina. The band brings high energy and a unique style of Argentinian bluegrass dubbed “Latingrass.” The members of Che Apalache will bring with them songs from Rearrange My Heart, produced by legendary banjoist Béla Fleck.
The group’s founder, Joe Troop explained the name, saying, “Che is ubiquitous in Argentina. It’s a way of saying buddy or pal. It’s what you would use to grab someone’s attention, like, hey, che.” The second word is easy, “Apalache means Appalachian.”
Among the other genres the center will showcase are cabaret (Meow Meow, April 4), Cajun (Boogie From the Bayou, April 17) and Celtic rock (Derina Harvey Band, April 25).
The season’s Broadway touring show, the Tony-winning “An American in Paris” (Jan. 16), is based on the 1951 movie beloved for Gene Kelly’s dancing and George Gershwin’s music.
There’s classical music, too, as part of “Perk Up, Pianist” (April 23), a look at the life of a touring musician. Dance fans can check out two well-regarded troupes, the Connecticut-based and internationally known Pilobolus (Nov. 12) and Israel’s Koresh Dance Co. (March 28).
The season also has heaps of humor, including a semi-final round of The Seattle International Comedy Competition (Nov. 21), the return of Ladies of Laughter (March 6) and five Comedy in the Box shows (Jan. 9, Feb. 13, March 12, May 14 and June 11).
There’ll be clean comedy with The Good Humor Men (Feb. 21) and risqué laughs with “The Naked Magicians” (Feb. 8), an Australian duo whose show is as much about comedy as it is about magic. That show doesn’t include full frontal nudity, but it is naughty enough to be restricted to those 18 and older.
Literary types can check out the annual Center Salon (March 20), and science buffs might want to investigate the National Geographic Live shows (Nov. 2 and May 19).
The season even includes an animal act, “Stunt Dog Experience” (March 22), which stars a pack of well-trained rescue dogs who made a big splash in previous seasons. “They’ve sold out here a couple of times,” Barnes said.
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17
The Washington Center for the Performing Arts,
512 Washington St. S.E., Olympia
$25 – $57