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2015 PBS Arts Fall Festival Celebrates Fifth Anniversary Season

BEVERLY HILLS, CA; August 1, 2015 -- PBS President Paula Kerger announced today at the Television Critics Association Press Tour the full lineup and airdates of PBS’ annual arts programming showcase. The 2015 PBS Arts Fall Festival returns October 9, 2015 at 9:00 p.m. ET, celebrating its fifth season, with eight new weekly programs. The Festival will launch with the inventive, high-energy UNITY– THE LATIN TRIBUTE TO MICHAEL JACKSON, hosted by the legendary and world-renowned percussionist Sheila E. and featuring Michael Jackson’s greatest hits interpreted by award-winning Latin artists.

Audiences will be put in the Halloween spirit on October 30 when the previously unannounced LIVE FROM LINCOLN CENTER presents “Danny Elfman’s Music from the Films of Tim Burton” (w.t.) airs featuring scores from blockbuster films such as Batman, Beetlejuice, Alice in Wonderland and more. Fresh off of her recent Tony-nominated Broadway run, GREAT PERFORMANCES brings “Chita Rivera: A Lot of Livin’ to Do” on November 6. This year’s PBS Arts Fall Festival welcomes many more of Broadway and Hollywood’s biggest names, including Vanessa Williams, Norm Lewis, Julian Ovendon from “Downton Abbey” on MASTERPIECE, Tony Shalhoub, Andrea Martin and Andrea Bocelli, among others.

The PBS Arts Fall Festival is an annual cornerstone of PBS’ Friday primetime lineup, reaching more than 15 million viewers last season and underscoring PBS’ ongoing commitment to give audiences the best of the arts on-air and online. This year, the Festival will be hosted by seven-time Grammy Award-winning international music superstar Gloria Estefan, whose own musical journey with her husband Emilio, is told in the new Broadway musical ON YOUR FEET!, premiering in October at the Marquis Theatre in New York City.

“The fifth annual PBS Arts Fall Festival is a celebration of performing arts and music from the stage and screen, from the pop charts, and more. Gloria Estefan serving as this year’s host and a Latin tribute to the music of Michael Jackson are among the many highlights of this year’s festival programming,” said PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger. “The festival is an enduring testament to PBS’ longstanding commitment to the arts, which is reinforced with this fall’s lineup of our signature quality programming and exciting performances that will captivate audiences.”

“The Festival spans generations and genres with contemporary hits, Broadway legends and tributes to groundbreaking artists, with an additional spotlight this year on Latin music stars,” said PBS Vice President of Programming and festival curator, Donald Thoms. “This season promises to be spectacular for the arts on PBS, and reinforces our commitment to arts and diversity programming.”

The full PBS Arts Fall Festival lineup follows:

UNITY – THE LATIN TRIBUTE TO MICHAEL JACKSON

World-class drummer and percussionist Sheila E. hosts a concert special that showcases award-winning Latin artists and a 37-piece orchestra performing Latin-infused arrangements of the songs on Tony Succar’s album Unity: The Latin Tribute to Michael Jackson. The album and concert feature 16 songs that inspired musicians from all over Latin America to come together to celebrate and reimagine hits such as “Smooth Criminal,” “I Want You Back” and “Billie Jean.” On its release in April 2015, the album topped the Amazon Latin World Music Charts, the iTunes World Music Charts and the Billboard Tropical Charts at #1. Produced by Unity Entertainment Corporation and Oregon Public Broadcasting in association with Universal Music Classics.

LIVE FROM LINCOLN CENTER – “Kern & Hammerstein’s Show Boat in Concert with the New York Philharmonic”

This groundbreaking musical redefined entertainment and changed the face of American theater. Spanning the years from 1880 to 1927, Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s lyrical masterpiece concerns the lives, loves and heartbreaks of three generations of show folk on the Mississippi River, in Chicago and on Broadway. The musical’s impact remains unparalleled, addressing racial prejudice, and introduced a bi-racial cast to Broadway at its premiere while also pointing the way toward a new synthesis between music and spectacle. This New York Philharmonic production features an all-star cast led by Vanessa Williams and Downton Abbey’s Julian Ovenden, as well as Norm Lewis, Jane Alexander, Fred Willard, and Lauren Worsham. The Philharmonic’s full sound highlights the lush musical score at the center of this epic show.

GREAT PERFORMANCES “Billy Elliot the Musical”

“Billy Elliot the Musical” comes to GREAT PERFORMANCES in a special celebration performance from London’s West End. Based on the popular 2000 film, “Billy Elliot the Musical” took the West End and Broadway by storm and won the 2009 Tony Award for Best Musical. Featuring a rousing score by Elton John, “Billy Elliot” takes place during North East England’s contentious mining strike of 1984 and tells the inspirational story of a young boy’s journey from the boxing ring to the ballet barre, transforming his family along with his entire community.

LIVE FROM LINCOLN CENTER – “Danny Elfman’s Music from the Films of Tim Burton” (w.t.)

Composer and performer Danny Elfman descends on Lincoln Center with a symphony orchestra and choir, led by conductor John Mauceri, as well as a colorful assortment of Tim Burton fans. This unique episode arrives just in time for Halloween and captures all the excitement of this cultural invasion, climaxing in wildly entertaining performances of Elfman’s most beloved scores from films in collaboration with Tim Burton such as Batman, Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas, which features Danny Elfman singing his iconic songs. Accompanying the music are film clips from select movies as well as original sketches and storyboards created by Tim Burton.

GREAT PERFORMANCES “Chita Rivera: A Lot of Livin’ to Do”

Legendary Broadway performer Chita Rivera has been lighting up international stages for over seventy years. With starring roles in such iconic Broadway shows as West Side Story, Bye Bye Birdie, and Chicago, Rivera returned to Broadway in 2015 to star in the final John Kander/Fred Ebb/Terrence McNally musical The Visit. In addition to archival clips from Rivera’s many shows and TV appearances, this career retrospective also features interviews with Dick Van Dyke, Ben Vereen, Carol Lawrence and many more to tell the story of Rivera’s peerless show biz virtuosity.

LIVE FROM LINCOLN CENTER – “Act One”

Few have captured the magic of the theatre better than Moss Hart, a poor kid from the Bronx who went on to become a lion of Broadway. The writer of classic comedies with George S. Kaufman including “You Can’t Take it With You” and “The Man Who Came To Dinner,” and the director of the original production of “My Fair Lady,” Moss’s memoir (“Act One”) has captivated theater lovers for over 50 years. In this Tony Award-nominated Best Play from Lincoln Center Theater, James Lapine has fittingly re-imagined this memoir for the stage, creating a world as vivid and transformative as the stage itself. “Act One” features a first-rate cast led by Tony Shalhoub, Andrea Martin and Santino Fontana.

FIRST YOU DREAM—THE MUSIC OF KANDER & EBB

FIRST YOU DREAM is a landmark television event: a tribute to John Kander and Fred Ebb, the legendary Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy-award winning songwriting team whose Broadway shows include Cabaret, Chicago, Kiss of the Spider Woman, The Act, Curtains and The Scottsboro Boys and timeless songs including “New York, New York,” “All That Jazz,” “Money Makes the World Go Around” and “Maybe This Time.” Directed for stage by Eric Schaeffer and produced by HMS Media, FIRST YOU DREAM features sparkling new arrangements of some of the greatest songs to ever grace a Broadway stage, performed by a stellar Broadway cast that includes Kate Baldwin (Finian’s Rainbow, Big Fish, Thoroughly Modern Millie), Heidi Blickenstaff (Something Rotten, The Addams Family, The Little Mermaid), James Clow (Peter Pan, Wonderful Town, Company, She Loves Me), Norm Lewis (Phantom of the Opera, Porgy & Bess, Les Miserables), Julia Murney (Crimes of the Heart, First Lady Suite, Evita) and Matthew Scott (Jersey Boys, Sondheim on Sondheim, A Catered Affair).

GREAT PERFORMANCES “Andrea Bocelli: Cinema” (w.t.)

From the internationally famous Dolby Theater in the heart of Hollywood, Andrea Bocelli pays musical tribute to the silver screen in a lush concert of beloved songs from the movies. Joined by Grammy-winning producer David Foster, the renowned tenor performs memorable favorites from blockbuster classics including The Godfather, Scent of a Woman, Dr. Zhivago, Once Upon a Time in America, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and many more.

Funding for the 2015 PBS Arts Fall Festival is made possible by generous support from the Anne Ray Charitable Trust.

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