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Stellar season set for CAC

For 31 seasons the Covington Arts Council has been bringing the best the performing arts to Covington County. Be it Broadway-caliber productions of "Big River" or "Same Time Next Year", or amazing feats of acrobatic delights like the Peking Acrobats, to world-class performances of ballet like "Jekyll and Hyde" to Grammy-nominated jazz singers - the Covington Arts Council tries to find something for everyone.

As the council enters its 31st season, Paula Harr, executive director of the council, said that's the goal again this year.

"We think we've got a little something for everybody this year," Harr said. "We try every year to offer something for a good cross section of Covington County."

And this year's shows should appeal to that diverse citizenry.

The CAC kicks off its season Tuesday, Oct. 14 at 7 p.m. with a show sure to delight most fans of southern writing and humor.

A Tribute to Lewis Grizzard takes the stage at the LBW Dixon Center Theater when Bill Oberst Jr. brings his one-man show to Andalusia.

Oberst's show is not simply someone on stage trying to tell stories like Grizzard, but is in fact, a man on stage telling the stories of Lewis Grizzard, as Lewis Grizzard.

Oberst's show is authorized by Grizzard's widow, Dedra, and his former manager Steve Enoch. The show features the best of Grizzard's stand-up comedy and selections from his books and columns - including the famous, or infamous "Definition of a Redneck."

Dedra said of the show, "There will never be another Lewis, but this is as close as we will ever come to enjoying him on-stage again. I think Lewis would be proud."

"I know Lewis Grizzard had a huge following in Covington County," Harr said. "The man doing this has the blessing of his manager and last wife. It's a great show."

But, Harr warns that like Grizzard's humor, this show isn't necessarily for youngsters.

"This show's not really a 'family show'," she said. "Lewis could get a little racy in his comedy. It's probably more PG-13 than our other shows. Young adults and adults will like this show. Anyone who was a Lewis Grizzard fan will love this show.

"There's going to be laughter and tears, as some of the material deals with Lewis' fight with cancer, but it's mostly going to be laughing until you cry," she continued.

The fun continues with CAC's next offering, coming in November, when an American movie classic comes to the stage thanks to some help from a legendary Tony Award-winning choreographer.

"Singin' in the Rain," made famous by Gene Kelley, is one of the most beloved musicals of all time - and now Covington County has the opportunity to experience the show up close and personal.

"Covington County loves musicals," Harr said. "It was a great movie, and it's a great musical. It will rain on stage at the Dixon Center for that very famous scene from the movie."

Legendary choreographer and director Twyla Tharp developed the movie for the stage, retaining nearly all of the original choreography in tact.

"This is definitely a good show for the whole family," Harr added. "Seeing it live - there's nothing like it."

After a break through the holidays, the CAC resumes its season in

February when the Troy State University Chamber Choir sings its way into the hearts of Covington County residents on February 12.

"There is a local connection with the TSU performance," Harr said. "Jason Gunter, the music leader at the First Presbyterian Church is a member of the group, so we hope a lot of his friends and family, and the community will come out and show their support.

"This is a very high quality choir," she continued. "I'm extremely glad that we're able to offer them for everyone to enjoy."

The season concludes when the Alabama Ballet comes to town to present "An Evening of Dance."

"This is a more contemporary show for the Alabama Ballet," Harr said. "Alabama, as a state, needs to be very proud of this company. It's truly a star in our state. Under the direction of Artistic Director Wes Chapman, the Alabama Ballet has become a world-class ballet company."

But, there's more to the Alabama Ballet's visit than just the performance on March 18.

"The ballet will conduct a workshop for local students before their performance," Harr added. "This is much more than dance, it's a learning experience. Dance is loved in Covington County. We have so many great dance studios here, and that's not common in rural areas of Alabama."

Although the CAC is offering four performances this season, that could change in the future.

"With all the budget cuts, we won't be receiving as much money from the Alabama Council on the Arts, and next year, we don't even know if it will be there," she said. "But, we're hoping next year we will still be able to have four performances."

But, in case that doesn't happen, don't worry. Covington County will still be able to enjoy extremely high-quality shows.

"We might just have three shows instead of four, but we will never forsake quality over quantity," she said. "We might just have three really good shows instead of four."

The CAC wouldn't be able to put on the caliber of shows it does though without the help it receives from the community.

"I have to thank our community for the tremendous support they've always given us," Harr said. "Without LBW's support, we wouldn't be able to exist the way we do now. They have given so much support through the years.

"We also have to thank the Dixon Foundation and our numerous corporate sponsors who have made a commitment to the arts that is invaluable," she continued. "We provide the same shows that people would see in Pensacola, Mobile, Birmingham - even New York at a very affordable price and in a casual atmosphere."

Harr wants to remind everyone about season tickets to the CAC too.

"Season tickets are available at Ansley Place and area banks," she said. "They are $45 for adults and $25 for students. A 2 for 2 family pack is only $100 - those are some of the best deals in town. The family pack is two adult tickets and two student tickets and is a tremendous savings. We will also have some tickets at the door for Lewis Grizzard tribute, but I encourage everyone to go ahead and buy season tickets - there's not a bad seat in the house."