Classics of all kinds highlight MSU Riley Center's new performance season

Classics will rule the stage as the MSU Riley Center presents its 2018 Spring/Summer Performing Arts Series, starting Saturday [April 14] with a concert by the powerhouse rock band Jefferson Starship.

Classic rock and soul, classic American roots music, a renowned classical ballet and even a family-oriented musical version of a classic fairy tale make up the Spring/Summer Series. The nine-show season runs through August 18.

“Each of our performers and productions in the Spring/Summer Series has, in some exceptional way, stood the test of time,” said Dennis Sankovich, the Riley Center’s executive director. “What better fit could we have for our Victorian gem of a theater? It made its grand debut in 1890, regained its youthful vigor in 2006, thanks to a loving restoration, and has since inspired the ongoing revival of Meridian’s historic downtown.”

All shows start at 7:30 p.m. except for the Family Show, “Three Little Pigs,” which begins at 7 p.m. Season tickets go on sale to new buyers on Monday, March 5. “Build Your Own” mini season ticket packages of three or more shows become available starting the following Monday, March 12. The on-sale date for individual tickets is a week after that: Monday, March 19.

Seven of the nine Spring/Summer Series shows are musical concerts, starting with Jefferson Starship. The band, which grew out of the 1960s psychedelic rock group Jefferson Airplane, reached its apogee as a critical and commercial success from the mid-1970s until the mid-1980s.

The conclusion of the series, on August 18, also harks back to the 1970s. Disco superstars KC and the Sunshine Band will bring a full stage show, complete with a horn section and dancers. Pat Benatar, a rock icon of the ’80s, will sing on July 17 alongside her longtime guitarist, producer and husband, Neil Giraldo.

Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone will recreate the irresistibly catchy mid-1960s sound of pop music’s British Invasion in a June 1 concert. Like the songs, Noone seems hardly to have aged at all since he shot to stardom at age 16.

Two other concerts will draw on the distinctively Southern musical legacy of Memphis. Marc Cohn, the singer-songwriter famous for his 1991 hit “Walking in Memphis,” will perform on May 17 with special guests and down-home gospel legends The Blind Boys of Alabama. William Bell will present a Tribute to Memphis Soul Revue on June 14. Bell, a songwriter and singer for the legendary Stax Records label, will be joined by bluesman Bobby Rush and songwriter-singer Don Bryant.

Old Crow Medicine Show, performing in concert May 4, takes its inspiration from the traditional string bands and blues artists of the mid-20th century as well as another classic artist: Bob Dylan. The group fleshed out a Dylan song fragment to create its biggest hit, “Wagon Wheel.”

Direct from Moscow, Russia, comes Moscow Festival Ballet to perform one of the greatest classical ballets of all time, the Tchaikovsky masterpiece “Swan Lake.” This magnificent dance event will take place on April 19.

The MSU Riley Center always tries to include at least one affordably priced Family Show in each series. This time, it’s “Three Little Pigs,” a charming, funny musical version of the beloved fairy tale, reimagined with the Big Bad Wolf as not so bad after all.

“With each of our shows, we’ll be bringing back a lot of great memories,” Sankovich said. “And the timeless beauty of our theater always guarantees a memorable evening.”

The Riley Center offers a range of season-ticket options that include 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.

The MSU Riley Center thanks The Riley Foundation and Mississippi State University for their invaluable continuing support. The Riley Center is also grateful to the Jimmie Rodgers Music Festival for its support of the 2018 Spring/Summer Performing Arts Series.

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