MERIDIAN — Special to The Star
Music lovers will not be disappointed by the MSU Riley Center’s Spring/Summer Series, which is filled with hit-makers from a variety of genres and decades.
The series kicks off March 22, when singing/songwriting veteran Roseanne Cash comes to town, fresh off the debut of her latest album, “The River & the Thread.”
Skillful songwriting weaves its way throughout this season of shows. The Southern Soul Assembly tour joins the instrumental and songwriting talents JJ Grey, Anders Osborne, Marc Broussard, and Luther Dickinson, four musicians steeped in Southern soul music. John Prine — lauded within the industry for his songwriting chops—brings four decades of well-crafted tunes to the stage. Opening for Prine is Holly Williams, granddaughter and daughter of Hank Williams Sr. and Jr.
The spotlight shines bright on songwriters for the “The Heart Behind the Music” tour, which features talented musicians performing, as well as talking about the meaning behind their hit songs. The tour’s Meridian stop includes Bryan White (“I’m Not Supposed to Love You Anymore”), Billy Dean (“Only Here for a Little While”), Collin Raye (“Love, Me,”), and Deana Carter (“Strawberry Wine”).
As a Grammy winner, Emmy winner, and music legend managing to capture the hearts of several generations, Tony Bennett may be the hottest summer ticket of the season. His July performance is sponsored by The Riley Foundation, a philanthropy which has served Meridian and Lauderdale County for 15 years.
Touring through Meridian after the 2013 release of her latest album is the much-loved Amy Grant. Country music favorite Clint Black also brings his talents and easy-going stage presence to the Riley Center this season. Versatile industry veteran, singer/songwriter, and producer Eric Benét will delight R&B fans with his June performance.
Ticketholders may also find themselves dancing and singing along during “SHADOWS OF THE '60’S” A TRIBUTE TO MOTOWN SUPER GROUPS created by entertainment veteran Dave Revel and featuring songs of The Four Tops, The Temptations and The Supremes.
Rounding out the series is a pair of excellent productions. Families will delight in “Fancy Nancy the Musical” which features the character from Jane O’Connor’s children’s book series as she auditions for a class show and is tragically cast as a very non-fancy tree. Also, The Moscow Festival Ballet, one of Russia’s most renowned ballet companies, brings “Cinderella” to life with fabulous costumes, fantastic music, and flawless dancing.
“Every musical taste will find something to enjoy in this season’s offering,” said Dennis Sankovich, executive director of the MSU Riley Center. “The artists we are featuring have all made such an impact in their areas of expertise, and many will give ticket holders a fresh perspective on their musical styles in these shows.”
“Our ticket packages this season are very flexible and great to give as gifts or keep for yourself,” Sankovich added.
Current season ticket holders must renew by Feb. 5 to hold the same seats. New season ticket buyers can purchase their packages starting Feb. 10. A “build your own package” option, which includes a discount and early seating, is available for those who wish to purchase tickets to three or more shows. Tickets for these packages can be purchased starting Feb. 17. Tickets for individual shows go on sale Feb. 24.
Performances start at either 7 p.m. or 7:30 p.m., with one show, John Prine with Holly Williams, starting at 8 p.m. Select shows will feature pre-show parties in the Grand Lobby, allowing patrons to socialize and enjoy refreshments as a prelude to the evening’s entertainment.
Tickets and information are available by phone or in person at the MSU Riley Center box office, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and one hour before showtime on the day of a show. The telephone number is 601-696-2200, and the address is 2200 Fifth St. in downtown Meridian. For more information about the MSU Riley Center for Education and Performing Arts visit us at www.MSURileyCenter.com.
March 22, 7:30 p.m. | Pre-Show 6 p.m. | $48, $42
With such a pedigree, Rosanne Cash could easily feel overwhelmed by expectations, but this eldest daughter of Johnny Cash has made her own mark in her more than 35 years of singing, writing, and guitar playing. One Grammy, 12 nominations, and 17 albums later, she’s still churning out original melodies and riveting storytelling to create her most recent album, “The River & the Thread,” released in January 2014. Her latest work focuses on her strong ties to the South, spinning tales both old and new through its songs.
Southern Soul Assembly
Featuring JJ Grey, Anders Osborne, Marc Broussard and Luther Dickinson
April 3, 2014, 7:30 p.m. | Pre-Show 6 p.m. | $39, $33
The name alone says a lot — an assembly of singer-songwriters who are steeped in Southern soul music. JJ Grey, Anders Osborne, Marc Broussard, and Luther Dickinson take their artist-in-the-round-style experience on the road for a spring U.S. tour, paying homage to the Southern musical spirit. Whether singing, composing songs, or playing the guitar (or all three), each one is uniquely inspired by his Southern roots, and together they carry a load of albums and awards.
John Prine with Holly Williams
April 12, 2014, 8 p.m. | Pre-Show 6:30 p.m. | $68, $62
John Prine has more than 40 years in the music industry under his belt. After composing songs during his mail route, Prine started playing clubs and unleashed his debut album in 1971. Notables such as Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash have all praised his songwriting skills, and many worldfamous singers have recorded a Prine-penned song. In 2011, “The Singing Mailman Delivers” became Prine’s most recent album, featuring his earliest studio and live recordings. Opening for Prine is Holly Williams, granddaughter and daughter of Hank Williams Sr. and Jr. A respected singer-songwriter in her own right, Williams released her third album, “The Highway,” in 2013.
Fancy Nancy the Musical (Family Show)
April 25, 7 p.m. | $18, $10
Fans of Fancy Nancy will easily recognize the lead character and her friend Bree in this made-for-stage version of Jane O’Connor’s children’s book series, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser. This sweet story follows Nancy and Bree as they audition for mermaids in the class show, “Deep Sea Dances.” The plot thickens as Nancy is cast as an extremely non-fancy tree. The fanciful production by New York’s Vital Theatre Company continues the group’s mission to produce entertaining and educational theater for young audiences.
May 2, 7:30 p.m. | $59, $53
Since her 1977 debut album, Amy Grant has traveled from contemporary Christian to pop and back again, releasing her latest studio album, “How Mercy Looks From Here,” in 2013. While she’s enjoyed phenomenal success in the Christian music industry as well as mainstream pop music, Grant’s latest work returns to songwriting focused on life, faith and God. On several of the tracks, she’s joined by well-known collaborators – James Taylor, Sheryl Crow, and husband Vince Gill, to name a few – but never overshadowed.
Cinderella Moscow Ballet
May 6, 7:30 p.m. | $34, $28
As if the timeless fairy tale and its trappings weren’t enough to enchant all ages, the Moscow Festival Ballet brings to the stage its flawless skills, an exuberant score, exquisite costumes, and gorgeous scenery. The comical stepsisters, the romantic ball, the wonder of a fairy godmother all combine for a delightful performance by one of Russia’s most esteemed ballet companies. The Moscow Festival Ballet was founded in 1989 by legendary Bolshoi Ballet dancer Sergei Radchenko.
May 31, 7:30 p.m. | Pre-Show 6 p.m. | $54, $48
He took country music by storm in 1989 with his debut album, “Killin’ Time.” With it, Clint Black racked up five number one singles and a slew of awards. The album eventually went triple platinum, and the title track was named by CMT as one of the 100 greatest songs in country music history. Since then, the skillful guitarist and songwriter (as well as drummer and harmonica player) has written, recorded, and released more than 100 songs. Fans turn out in droves for Black’s live shows, which showcase his clever lyrics, masterful guitar playing, and witty commentary.
June 26, 7:30 p.m. | Pre-Show 6 p.m. | $48, $42
In music, R&B is his niche and Eric Benét does it well. He has a gold-certified album (“A Day in the Life”) and plenty of hits (“Spend My Life With You” is just one), but the four-time Grammy nominee’s versatility and talent mean you’ll see him – or hear him – in places you might not expect. In addition to collaborating with many other musicians, he made his acting debut alongside Mariah Carey in “Glitter” and has also appeared in several television shows. Benét is currently slated as host and co-executive producer of an up and-coming reality show highlighting singers discovered in subways.
The Heart Behind the Music
Featuring Deana Carter, Billy Dean, Collin Raye, and Bryan White
July 15, 7:30 p.m. | $39, $33
Showcasing some of the world’s best singers and songwriters, “The Heart Behind the Music” tour offers a chance to hear talented musicians talk about the meaning behind their hit songs while also treating ticket holders to outstanding performances. The tour’s Meridian stop includes Deana Carter, fresh off the release of her sixth studio album (“Southern Way of Life”), almost 20 years after her Grammy nominated and first big hit, “Strawberry Wine.” She is joined by Billy Dean, whose first three albums were certified gold and who may be best known for his songs “Only Here for a Little While” and “If There Hadn’t Been You.” Also along for the ride is country veteran Collin Raye, known for his traditional country hits from the 1990s – “Love, Me,” “Not That Different,” and “In This Life” among them – and his recent successful foray into inspirational music. Taking the stage as well is Bryan White, who counts “I’m Not Supposed to Love You Anymore” and “So Much for Pretending” among his collection of No. 1 country singles.
July 26, 7:30 p.m. | Pre-Show 6 p.m. | $88, $82
He’s done what possibly no other artist has accomplished during a lifetime – he’s captured the attention of one generation, then staged a comeback by winning over the grandkids of his original fans. And he’s done it without changing a thing. Tony Bennett is synonymous with jazz standards and classic show tunes. He sang the songs loved by America in the 1950s, then did it again in the 1990s. Bennett has won 17 Grammy Awards, snagged two Emmy Awards, and sold more than 50 million records, and, even though he’s 87, his live shows are still a hot ticket.
“SHADOWS OF THE 60’S℠” A TRIBUTE TO MOTOWN SUPER GROUPS
Aug. 1, 7:30 p.m. | $39, $33
Motown memories storm the stage in this exciting tribute show featuring songs of The Four Tops, The Temptations and The Supremes. The extensive catalog of hits from these three super groups provides the talented singers plenty of ways to entertain Motown fans with the songs they remember hearing on the radio. Everywhere this tour goes, audience members end up spending much of the show on their feet and dancing to old favorites. The traveling show was created by producer and entertainment veteran Dave Revels.