Arts Preview: Familiar names, new artists and big milestones mark 2017-18 season

Orange County’s coming arts season contains the usual tempting line-up of big names and popular shows, but there are signs of challenge and change in the air, too. One look at this year’s roster of high-profile events proves that the arts continue to become more inclusive and diverse, with something for everyone.

Former Segerstrom Center president Jerry Mandel, who was chosen to run the Irvine Barclay Theatre in 2015, is shaking up its well-worn line-up with new offerings in all disciplines. Pacific Symphony marks a milestone in any orchestra’s development: a Carnegie Hall debut.

In addition to beloved world-class favorites such as Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, Lang Lang and Joshua Bell, the classical music season includes controversial young pianist Igor Levit, who recently gained as much fame for his political statements as his electrifying keyboard style. Soka University continues its tradition of presenting young champions of prestigious contests with Yekwon Sunwoo, 28, gold medalist of the Fifteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. First, though, he’ll be making his West Coast debut performing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with Pacific Symphony at the Tchaikovsky Spectacular concert on Sept. 9.

The dance season presents two of the country’s most respected companies of color, Dance Theater of Harlem and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, during a busy five-day period next spring. Cloud Gate Dance Theater of Taiwan, the Asian nation’s only modern dance company, comes to the Segerstrom Center in March. In Los Angeles, inventive, playful British choreographer Matthew Bourne kicks off the dance season with a bang when “The Red Shoes” opens at the Music Center in September.

The theater season is distinguished by the haunting and offbeat Tony winner, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” at 3,000-seat Segerstrom Hall (a huge venue for a spoken-word play), and the local debut of an iconoclastic musical that is proving to be Broadway’s ultimate dark horse:  “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop-infused saga of the life and times of founding father Alexander Hamilton.

In the world of visual arts, the coming season promises a cornucopia of non-traditional exhibits and ambitious projects. Four O.C. galleries and museums are participating in this year’s “Pacific Standard Time,” which focuses on Latin American art. And the Bowers Museum will present treasures from the summer palace of Chinese Empress Dowager Cixi.


Classical music’s heavy hitters are on the way

Dance performances will push boundaries

Theaters aim for the popular and upbeat

In visual arts, Orange County steps out into the world

O.C. arts venues have something for every taste

Events for the whole family

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