See nine world-class productions now through May at Danville’s Norton Center

Fifty years ago in 1973, Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts opened its doors to bring world-class entertainment to Danville — everything from Dolly Parton to the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and lots of Broadway musicals in between.

“The Norton Center has presented the most recognizable artists and shows from the United States and around the world while also bringing fresh new performances and exhibits to ensure central Kentucky has world-class cultural experiences,” said Addie Osborne, Norton Center’s marketing and media coordinator.

This year is no different. In the first several months of 2023 alone, the Norton will host marquee musicians, including the high energy a cappella sensation, Voctave, performing Broadway show tunes and Disney medleys; inspired keyboardist Dominic Cheli presenting “The Sound of Paintings;” country music chart-makers, Kathy Mattea and Suzy Bogguss, in “Together at Last;” classic rockers, The Guess Who; Grammy-winning musical maestros Bela Fleck, Zakir Hussain and Edgar Meyer; and the innovative ensemble Galvin Cello Quartet.

Broadway shows include Andrew Lloyd Webber’s record-breaking musical spectacular “Cats,” which tells the story of one magical night and an extraordinary tribe of cats, and exuberant musical theater masterpiece, “The Pirates of Penzance,” performed in its original format. Even the circus is coming to town — Circus DuBois, that is, featuring feats of juggling, unicycle, aerial, circus stunts, contortion and magic and comedy. See the schedule for exact dates and times.

(Primary school students leave the Norton Center after a student matinee of “Potted Potter.”)

The Norton Center’s lineup is even more impressive considering the process for getting productions to its two theatres — the acoustically outstanding 1,476-seat Newlin Hall and intimate 367-seat Weisiger Theatre.

“It typically takes 12 to 18 months just to plan a season: conducting research and working with managers to select an exciting blend of Broadway musicals, classical, jazz and world music, dance, and popular attractions,” Norton Center Executive Director Steve Hoffman said. “This season, the programs range from traditional and contemporary Broadway hits, popular country and bluegrass artists, and programs from Sweden, Africa and New Zealand.”

A night at the Norton is as memorable as the building itself, a model of organic architecture that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright’s first apprentice, William Wesley Peters. Peters brought his experience working with Wright on the Guggenheim Museum and one of Wright’s most widely acclaimed works, Fallingwater, to the project. As a result, the Norton is an homage to such Wright-inspired architectural elements as “repeated hexagonal shapes, playful use of natural light, and bold colors.”

(Step Afrika! performs to a sold-out student matinee crowd.)

The evening begins as soon as guests arrive, with special pre-show lobby entertainment and fun. But that’s not all.

“Curated beverages and treats at our Grand Foyer Cafe, convenient parking, friendly service from Centre College student-workers and an overall escape from the day into high-quality culture—without having to travel too far—are all part of the Norton Center experience,” said Osborne.

In addition to the shows, the Norton Center presents rotating exhibits, including the current “We Were Here” exhibit, which combines archival photographs, oral history listening stations and physical artifacts to highlights the individual and collective experience of African Americans living in Danville and Boyle County in the middle part of the 20th century. Year-round visitors can also see art and sculpture from the Center’s permanent collection, including the 14-foot Ex Astris and the Haven Gillespie Fountain and Plaza at its entrances.

Ticket prices are listed with individual shows. To order tickets contact the Norton Center’s Box Office at 877-HIT-SHOW or 859-236-469

(Blog post by writer Kathy Witt)