‘Les Misérables,’ Kristin Chenoweth and ‘Letters from Iraq’: Hancher announces 2018-19 season

Soweto Gospel Choir. — photo by Lorenzo Di Nozzi

Hancher Auditorium has announced its 2018-19 season, and it’s jam-packed with the most prestigious music, theater and dance touring the region. Tickets go on sale to the general public Aug. 1, but donors who gave over $100 to Hancher in the last year should watch their mail for the season brochure with early ordering instructions. A full season schedule can be found on the Hancher website.

Things kick off on Sept. 12 with a rescheduled lecture from journalist Cokie Roberts. The talk, titled An Insider’s View of Washington, D.C., is presented in conjunction with the University of Iowa Lecture Committee and the UI College of Law’s Levitt Lecture Series.

The first performance of the season with be from North Carolina bluegrass favorites Steep Canyon Rangers. Their Sept. 14 show will be a free, outdoor event.

Highlights of October include Montreal’s circus troupe Cirque Éloize, performing their spectacle Hotel on the 5th, and jazz bassist and composer Rufus Reid with his Quiet Pride: A Celebration of Elizabeth Catlett (Oct. 13). Catlett, the namesake of the UI’s newest residence hall, was the first African American woman to earn an MFA from the university.

In November, L.A. Theatre Works presents their radio theater-style production of Steel Magnolias (Nov. 2), and sees performances from the Soweto Gospel Choir (Nov. 11), two Embracing Complexity artists (Kinan Amzeh’s CityBand, Nov. 7, and Alsarah and the Nubatones, Nov. 17) and the kickoff of the holiday season, including The Summit: Manhattan Transfer Meets Take 6 (Nov. 25).

The cast of “Les Misérables” performs “One Day More.” — photo by Matthew Murphy

The 25th anniversary production of Les Misérables, which began its tour this past September, rolls into Hancher on Dec. 4 for a string of eight performances. The touring cast includes Broadway notables Nick Cartell (Paramour, Scandalous) as Jean Valjean and Josh Davis (Beautiful) as Javert.

Powerhouse Kristin Chenoweth presents a New Year’s Eve Gala at Hancher this year. — photo courtesy of Hancher

The true can’t-miss event for theater afficianados is sure to be the New Year’s Eve gala featuring Kristin Chenoweth. The event will be “black tie optional.”

Chenoweth has a Tony Award for her role as Sally in 1999’s You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown and an Emmy Award for her work as Olive Snook on Pushing Daisies, as well as several other nominations and recognitions. She had a notable recurring guest spot on Glee and is perhaps most well known for originating the role of Glinda in Wicked.

Rahim AlHaj and a string ensemble will perform “Letters from Iraq,” part of the Embracing Complexity series. — photo by Michael G. Stewart

Letters from Iraq is the third and final Embracing Complexity offering on the season. The Embracing Complexity program is made possible by a grant from the Association of Performing Arts Professionals – Building Bridges: Arts, Culture, and Identity, a component of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. Iraqi-American oud player Rahim AlHaj and a string ensemble will perform AlHaj’s composition based on actual letters sent by Iraqis following the U.S. invasion. This performance will be in Feb. 16.

Kick off March at Hancher with Ireland’s Danú. — photo by John D. Kelly

Other exciting performances on the season include a four-show run of popular jukebox musical Jersey Boys (Feb. 8-10), We Shall Overcome: A Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. featuring Damien Sneed (Feb. 21), an early March concert by Hancher favorite Danú (Mar. 2) and a visit from the Havana Cuba All-Stars with Asere! A Fiesta Cubana (Mar. 14).

Batsheva Dance Company closes the season with ‘Venezuela.’ — photo courtesy of Hancher

The season wraps up with two exciting dance performances. First, American Ballet Theatre presents Richard Strauss’ Whipped Cream for two shows on April 6, short-lived after its 1924 premiere, but finding new life in this iteration. Then, Batsheva Dance Company returns on April 12 with Venezuela, a new work from Israeli dancer and choreographer Ohad Naharin.

Curious what's happening this weekend? Sign up here to stay in the know.

In addition to performances, Hancher will present four Culinary Arts Experiences this year, with meals from Saint Burch Tavern with Pullman Diner, Baroncini Ristorante, University Catering and Trumpet Blossom Cafe.


  1. The only bad thing about this next season is that Hancher is not offering a 20% discount when you buy tickets to five or more events (that did not include Broadway performances) anymore. That, along with the four dollar fee per ticket you pay to buy online, and the already high price of some performances, is making Hancher events less and less affordable, unfortunately. Programming is great, too bad it’s a luxury.

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