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Arts council announces new season

New director of Springfield arts group books Debby Boone, Henson puppets.

In what will be his first season as executive director of the Springfield Arts Council, David A. White III wants to start seeking the next generation of subscribers — while still playing to the council’s core audience.

“We’ve got a great season ahead of us,” White said, “and some new ideas.”

The council’s 2013-14 season of shows at Kuss Auditorium — White’s first crack at booking shows without the input of Chris Moore, who’s now the organization’s director emeritus — contains such traditional fare as Michael Feinstein, Debby Boone and the national tour of “West Side Story.”

But the season’s closing show, an adults-only, improvisational puppet show from the beloved Jim Henson Co., also serves notice that the Springfield Arts Council is under new management.

“What is wonderful about the arts council is that it’s been able to sustain a core group of subscribers,” White said of the organization’s 530 season-ticket holders. “We wanted to find a way to maintain that core group, but also find some programming that would challenge them.”

The season will open on Sept. 28 with a return engagement by Feinstein, who’s become known as “The Ambassador of the Great American Songbook.” A five-time Grammy nominee, the Ira Gershwin protege also happens to hail originally from Columbus.

The Oct. 19 show by Boone, “Swing This,” presents the Best New Artist of 1977 in a whole new light. For this show, she’ll front a big band sound.

Boone is best known for her 1977 smash “You Light Up My Life,” but “Swing This” channels the Las Vegas she remembers from growing up in the 1960s as the daughter of Pat Boone, who, believe it or not, frequently crossed paths with the Rat Pack. Boone also was the daughter-in-law of the late crooner Rosemary Clooney.

For something completely different, “Stuffed and Unstrung” will come to town on March 13. The Jim Henson Co. debuted an early version of the show at the 2006 HBO Comedy Festival in Aspen, Colo.

Led by Brian Henson, chairman of his late father’s company, the multimedia improv show is, at once, a raunchy comedy show and a close-up look at how the famous Henson puppeteers work.

As late-night TV host Craig Ferguson quipped of the show, “Does anyone really want to see X-rated puppets? Yes we do!”

The council also is looking for an open date for “Sing-a-Long Sound of Music,” which encourages the audience to let loose during the 1965 movie classic a la “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

In addition, from April 24-26, 2014, the council will undertake the first of what White hopes will be an annual event — the Real 2 Reel Documentary Film Festival.

Season tickets for the council’s 2013-14 season go on sale June 4 at the Clark State Performing Arts Center, with single tickets for all shows on sale July 30.

The complete schedule:

Sept. 28 — An Evening With Michael Feinstein, 8 p.m.

Oct. 19 — Debby Boone, “Swing This,” 8 p.m.

Nov. 20 — “West Side Story,” 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 7 — The 10-time Grammy-winning a cappella group Take 6, 8 p.m.

Feb. 14 — Cirque Ziva (the Golden Dragon Acrobats), 8 p.m.

March 13 — “Stuffed and Unstrung” by Henson Alternative, 7:30 p.m.

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