Riley Center celebrates 10th year with new series

The MSU Riley Center celebrates its 10th anniversary by announcing a Fall/Winter Performing Arts Series full of the kind of wide-ranging, top-quality entertainment that has made it a cultural icon and a powerful tool for economic development.

In September 2006, the MSU Riley Center for Education & Performing Arts opened after a three-year, $25-million renovation. The project transformed a pair of frayed but beautiful old buildings into a state-of-the-art performance, education and conference center. Historic downtown Meridian has been buzzing ever since.

At the heart of the Riley Center lies the intimate Grand Opera House, with its elegantly curved balconies and lavish decor featuring over 30 different styles of wallpaper. The 950-seat, acoustically superb theater retains the high Victorian style that charmed audiences when it first opened in 1890.

On its stage, superstars of country, rock, jazz and soul music will help the MSU Riley Center launch its second decade. Vince Gill and the Oak Ridge Boys, Melissa Etheridge and Rick Springfield, Wynton Marsalis (with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra) and the magnificent Patti LaBelle have all proven themselves as both giants of their musical genres and consummate entertainers.

Two concerts will showcase the blues, born in the Delta region of Mississippi and still dear to the state’s heart. Big Head Todd and the Monsters will turn the Riley Center into the Big Head Blues Club with special guests Mud Morganfield, Billy Branch and Ronnie Baker Brooks. Then Keb’ Mo’ will display his wry, charming stage presence, masterful guitar playing and rich, resonant voice.

Dance aficionados will love the visually stunning work of America’s hottest choreographer, Jessica Lang, and her hand-selected company, Jessica Lang Dance.

Dancing also fills “Fame - The Musical,” which follows a group of talented youngsters at New York’s High School of the Performing Arts through tribulations and triumphs.

The British-American Aquila Theatre will bring its restlessly inventive spark to a 1940s British whodunit, presenting Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Nile.”

The Fall/Winter Series features three of the Family Shows that have been a Riley Center trademark. “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Live!” gives children a musical version of an award-winning animated TV series. “The Lightning Thief” is a fast-paced musical adaptation of a popular young-adult fantasy-adventure novel.

And the series concludes with a show starring one of the most mischievous and beloved figures in literature, “Dr. Seuss’ the Cat in the Hat.”

“Over these 10 wonderful years, I think the people of Meridian have come to trust us,” said Dennis Sankovich, executive director of the MSU Riley Center. “They know that we love great entertainment as much as they do, and that we work hard to bring only the best to our stage. We’re so appreciative of the continuing support of The Riley Foundation, Mississippi State University and the whole community. And we still get excited every time as we wait for that curtain to go up.”

The Riley Center offers a range of season-ticket options. Patrons can customize their own packages of shows and receive discounted prices and other perks. If subscribers lose or forget their tickets, the Box Office will issue duplicates on the spot. With a simple phone call, subscribers can also arrange to leave their tickets at the Box Office for friends, family members or clients.

Current season-ticket holders must renew by July 27 to retain the same seats. New season-ticket buyers can purchase full-season packages starting Aug. 1. A smaller “build your own package” option, which includes a discount and early seating, is available starting Aug. 8 for those who wish to purchase tickets to three or more shows. Tickets for individual shows go on sale Aug. 15.

Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. except for Family Shows, which start at 7 p.m. Select shows will feature pre-show parties in the Grand Lobby, allowing patrons to socialize and enjoy refreshments as they await the evening’s entertainment.

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