Culturally curious? You might not realize it, but Columbia is awash in opportunities to experience both traditional and adventurous programs in the visual arts, film, dance, music and drama.
Remarkably, during the school year, when University of South Carolina performing arts students are in town, you can take in some kind of live performance in the city nearly any night of the week, often without a ticket or a reservation.
Sometimes, though, it pays to plan ahead. Monday, July 16, is one of those days: the first day subscription tickets for the 2018-2019 season of Broadway in Columbia will be offered for sale.
Each show features live orchestration, beautifully designed sets and talented cast members, some of whom have appeared on Broadway in New York.
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Although some individual tickets may be available, subscription holders receive priority access and special discounts.
The fun begins in November with "Jersey Boys," the Tony-Award-winning musical that brings to life the backstory of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, which was not nearly as harmonious as their music.
Next up, in January 2019, is "Kinky Boots," another Tony Award winner, making its Columbia premier. Featuring songs by Cyndi Lauper, "Kinky Boots" swaggers onto the stage with red sequins, loyal friends and a heart of gold.
In February, "The Wizard of Oz" makes a one-day stop at the Koger Center for the Arts on his way to the Emerald City, and "Rock of Ages" blazes straight from the 1980s for a high-powered one-day gig featuring the music of Journey, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and other rockers as a backdrop for — what else? — a love story.
March kicks off with "Something Rotten," a hilarious 16th -century take on the world’s first musical (think "Spamalot" with scripts instead of swords) and wraps with Roxy Hart and Velma Kelly back on the stage in the multiple Tony Award-winning "Chicago."
The season ends on a high note in April with the Columbia premier of "Beautiful," the lovely, soul-stirring and inspirational story of Carole King, who, besides writing hits such as "So Far Away," "You’ve Got a Friend" and "It’s Too Late," was a wife and mother at 17.
“Can you imagine — pregnant at 16 and she finds the energy and resolve to work toward her dream of being a songwriter?” says Sarah Bockel, who plays King in the traveling production. “Her journey is so incredible. I still can’t believe that at such a young age she was able to capture so many mature emotions in her songs.”
Bockel first played King in her hometown of Chicago, where she worked as an understudy for the Carole King role in 2015.
“When I got the call that I would perform that night, I called my friends and family and told them to buy tickets,” she laughs. “It really was so exciting.”
Bockel did so well in Chicago that when a temporary understudy was needed on Broadway, she was asked to step in. Although she never performed on Broadway as Carole King, Bockel was on stage each night as part of the ensemble.
“Working on Broadway felt a lot more normal than I thought it would, although getting off the subway every day at 42nd Street and walking into the Sondheim Theatre was surreal,” she says. “I’m grateful for the perspective the experience gave me.”
Bockel says that although she plays the same role each night for about 20 weeks, visiting different cities keeps it fresh.
“Every audience is different, and every house is different,” she says. “There’s nothing like looking out into the audience and hearing that collective sharp intake of breath when something surprising happens on stage. It’s so rewarding.”
If you go
Broadway in Columbia 2018-2019 season
"JERSEY BOYS," Tuesday, Nov. 20, and Wednesday, Nov. 21
"KINKY BOOTS," Sunday, Jan. 13, and Monday, Jan. 14.
"THE WIZARD OF OZ," Monday, Feb. 18.
"ROCK OF AGES," Sunday, Feb. 24.
"SOMETHING ROTTEN!" Monday, March 4, and Tuesday, March 5.
"CHICAGO," Saturday, March 23.
"BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL," Tuesday, April 2, through Sunday, April 7.