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Music and more at the Collins Center

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A look ahead at the CCA's 2016-2017 season

ORONO The Collins Center for the Arts is getting ready to launch its 31st season of quality entertainment on the campus of the University of Maine.

The Bangor Symphony Orchestra broke the stage in back in 1986, and in the three decades since then, the CCA (named the Maine Center for the Arts until it was renamed until 2009) has hosted hundreds upon hundreds of top-quality acts. The CCA stage has seen performances by acts of local, regional and national significance over the years.

The Collins Center is a cornerstone of the region's creative and cultural landscape. Their long history of booking exceptional acts continues with the 2016-2017 season, one that features bands, comedians, chamber music, dance troupes, plays and perhaps most notably a number of national tours of Broadway musicals.

'I want to say that this season features the most Broadway shows we've ever had,' said CCA Associate Director Karen Cole. 'I've looked back through past brochures and I've never seen anything like this.'

'We're obviously excited,' added Executive Director Danny Williams. 'It thrills us to no end to have such a slate of excellent [Broadway] shows.'

'Rent,' 'Once,' 'Annie,' 'Pippin' great shows from Broadway's past and present are on the docket over the course of the 2016-2017 season at the CCA.

'Like any season, we have things that become anchor points for the season,' Williams said. 'These Broadway shows have become those anchor points, largely because they're nicely spread out over the course of the season. They're not clustered.

'Sometimes, we have very little say in when we get these,' he continued. 'They're either routed into our area or they aren't. Sometimes, they cluster together, but this year they're spread out from October to May. Last year, the two we had were basically two weeks apart very close together; this time around, it's much easier.'

The types of shows that serve as those anchor points tend to change from year to year depending on what productions are available. However, there's more to the season than just anchor points.

'We do have a lot of meaty shows this season,' Cole said.

Meaty indeed. From the opening gala in September featuring political satirists The Capitol Steps all the way through May, the CCA season is rife with vast and varied excellence. Comedian Bob Marley will be performing. Musical acts from such wide-ranging genres as folk, Irish and contemporary Christian will take the stage over the course of the year not to mention the CCA's fantastic Chamber Music Series. Plays by Agatha Christie and Neil Simon will join the Broadway musicals on the theatre side of things. Dance performances by Ailey II Dance and Los Angeles's BodyTraffic will wow audiences, as will the bicycle-powered excitement of Pedal Punk from Cirque Mechanics.

Oh, and just by the way one of the best selections of theatrical broadcasts you'll find. Offerings from The Met: Live in HD and National Theatre Live will give audiences a chance to see some of the most daring, challenging work from some of the most accomplished companies in the world. As an added bonus, that slate is expanding all the time; if you don't see something you like, check back in later you never know what might be added.

That's worth noting across the board, actually while the CCA has an impressive season already, the truth is that they've been known to add acts as the year progresses.

Here's a closer look at a few things coming to the Collins Center over the course of the 2016-2017 season.

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National Broadway Tours

Rent Friday, November 4

This is the 20th Anniversary Tour of the show that took Broadway by storm back in the late 1990s. 'Rent' wasn't just a Tony award winner; it also received the Pulitzer Prize. A vivid reimagining of Puccini's 'La Boheme,' the show follows a year in the lives of seven friends living in New York City's East Village and trying desperately to find the path that allows them to follow their dreams without selling out. It's a dynamic new cast directed by a Broadway vet; get ready to rediscover the phenomenon that is 'Rent.'

Once Tuesday, February 7

This show is a more recent phenomenon, having won eight Tony Awards in 2012 including Best Musical. Based on the 2007 John Carney film of the same name, 'Once' is a unique love story, featuring an ensemble of actor/musicians playing their own instruments as they sing their songs of passion and regret. It's a musical unlike any other, striking its own emotionally charged and theatrical notes. Join the Guy and the Girl as they wander into one another's orbits and experience the vast power that music holds over us all.

Annie Wednesday, April 26

Ah, 'Annie.' Who doesn't love 'Annie'? Considered by many to be the most beloved musical of all time, this touring version of the show is directed by original lyricist and director Martin Charnin. Everybody's favorite orphan will grace the CCA stage for the first time in many years. It will be charming and familiar to those who have seen the show and a delightful introduction for those who haven't. Yes, this will be a new incarnation of a classic, but the reality of the situation is simple it was, is and always shall bea hard-knock life.

Pippin Tuesday, May 9

'Pippin' is a Broadway classic with music and lyrics by musical theatre legend Stephen Schwartz. It's a wild, high-flying adventure that has been a favorite of audiences since it hit the Great White Way back in 1972. It won a bunch of Tonys, then won a bunch more with its 2013 revival. It's a show of surprising depth, one whose poppy score and gradually sanded-away edges have left an impression of vaguely naughty cutesiness. It's a chance to see a classic from one of musical theatre's Golden Ages a fun, magical and unforgettable experience.

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Chamber Music

Stillwater Brass September 11

A quintet of brass musicians with Maine ties offer up a concert featuring music spanning some six centuries renaissance and baroque to contemporary jazz, Latin and folk.

Christopher O'Riley October 23

Best known as the host of NPR's 'From the Top,' O'Riley is an accomplished and extremely talented performer in his own right, with a wide-ranging and varied repertoire.

Danish String Quartet January 29

One of the most technically proficient quartets out there, the Danish String Quartet will bring their phenomenal stage presence and fresh approach to the CCA stage.

Olga Vocal Ensemble February 19

Do you want music that blends classical and contemporary presented with enthusiasm, theatricality, humor and truly incredible vocal talent and clarity? Then see this show.

Telegraph String Quartet April 2

Not your average chamber music group, this fivesome is known for a passionate approach to their musicality. They'll offer classical and contemporary pieces along with a few surprises.

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Additional Highlights

Obviously, the Broadway shows warrant specific mention here. And the chamber music series, while aimed at a fairly niche audience, features an astonishing degree of talent. While we don't have the space to make mention of every CCA event the number of happenings hosted there borders on the shocking here are a handful of other shows that will appeal to audiences of all sorts.

Capitol Steps September 17

This group devoted to political satire is probably going to have a whole lot to say this year; luckily for local audiences, they're the act that's officially kicking off the CCA season at the annual Gala. They've recorded more than 35 albums and made countless television appearances. It's been a heck of a weird political season sometimes, all you can do is laugh about it all.

The Pirates of Penzance October 20

The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players one of the premiere touring G&S groups in this country returns to the CCA with this classic comic operetta. Prepare to have your buckles swashed and to be blown away by everybody's favorite modern Major-General. Expect a show that infuses a loyalty to the material with an updated sensibility.

Mike Daisey November 12

Mike Daisey is one of the greatest American monologists of his generation, weaving fascinating and compelling performances out of a variety of subjects and influences. This one 'Khan and the Whale: The Wrath of Moby Dick' takes on Herman Melville's classic novel. Daisey does it as only he can by way of 'Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.' Embrace this opportunity to see a master at work.

Last of the Red Hot Lovers February 9

This Neil Simon comedy classic comes to the Collins Center stage thanks to the efforts of the Walnut Street Theatre out of Philadelphia. America's oldest theatre, Walnut Street is bringing their own clever take on Simon's tale of stumbling seduction. With Valentine's Day right around the corner, the timing couldn't be better to have a few romantically-inspired laughs.

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The Collins Center for the Arts has been bringing first-rate artistic endeavors to the region for three decades. It has been a cultural centerpiece since its inception a vibrant piece of the region's artistic landscape - and there's no reason to think that it won't continue serving that role for years to come. Ultimately, no matter your tastes or inclinations, the 2016-2017 CCA season will likely find a way to appeal to them.

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