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The Salzburg Marionette Theatre's “The Sound of Music”

PROVO — The BYU concert series is advancing to “the next level” by increasing the caliber of talent and number of performers with its newly christened Bravo! Professional Performing Arts.

An eclectic array of four nationally prominent performers, six performing arts groups and three international theater companies will appear in concert at the university’s Harris Fine Arts Center during the 2013-14 season.

“There’s been a lot of audience support for this type of entertainment, so we are going to the next level by bringing in these guest artists who are acclaimed in their disciplines and also providing learning opportunities for our students,” said Jeff Martin, who directs the Bravo! series.

“I feel strongly committed to the idea that we should bring guest artists of this caliber to Provo, for both the local community and the students,” he added.

The series will open with a concert performance by the legendary soloist Audra McDonald, winner of a nearly unprecedented five Tony Awards for her Broadway performances, including her most recent win for “Porgy and Bess.” Local audiences may recall her 2004 Christmas concert performance with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

“I’m very excited about our headliner, Audra McDonald,” Martin said. “She is wonderful, extremely talented and respected by all. It’s been a challenge because I’ve had to wait several years for her other projects to end, and she finally had a window open up in which I was able to bring her here.”

“For devastating theatrical impact, it’s hard to imagine any hurricane matching the tempest that is the extraordinary Audra McDonald,” raved a New York Times reviewer. McDonald will perform Sept. 5 and 6 in the de Jong Concert Hall.

Hailed as “the greatest American violinist active today,” Joshua Bell is equally acclaimed as a soloist, chamber musician, recording artist and orchestra leader. Making his Carnegie Hall debut at age 17, the Grammy-winner has performed the works of Mendelssohn, Gershwin, Ravel, Bernstein, Prokofiev and Vivaldi and recorded with soloists Josh Groban, Kristin Chenoweth, Sting and Nathan Gunn. Bell will perform at BYU on Nov. 14.

In “Stories by Heart,” the Tony, Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning actor John Lithgow will celebrate the power of storytelling by enacting stories written by P.G. Wodehouse and Ring Lardner.

“John Lithgow sure has a marvelous way of transforming himself into characters of every shape and size,” wrote the Los Angeles Times of his show. “A cast of one becomes a multitudinous ensemble.” Lithgow’s BYU performance will be Feb. 28, 2014.

Broadway composer and popular songwriter Frank Wildhorn will bring his “Frank Wildhorn and Friends” production to campus Oct. 3. Wildhorn and a trio of musicians with two soloists will perform selections from his catalog of music that may include songs from his Tony-nominated “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” “The Civil War” and “Bonnie & Clyde,” and songs made popular by recording artists such as Whitney Houston, Amy Grant and Trisha Yearwood.

Headlining the performing arts groups will be the Salzburg Marionette Theatre, which rarely tours outside of Europe. “I’ve been working for a few years to bring members of this magical and wonderful Austrian group here,” Martin said. “And they are starting their 100th anniversary tour with their first stop at BYU.”

Called “a delightful surprise from start to finish” by the New York Times, the puppeteers will stage Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music,” with the voice talents of Jonathan Groff, Christiane Noll and Martin Vidnovic, on Nov. 1-2 and “Hansel and Gretel” on Nov. 2.

The remaining groups will be the Diavolo Dance Theatre on March 19, 2014; China’s Golden Dragon Acrobats on Feb. 6-8; Croatia’s Zagreb Saxophone Quartet on Oct. 20; the Hexnut ensemble on Sept. 25; and the Utah Symphony on Jan. 9, 2014.

During the Off the Map International Theatre Festival Jan. 22-25, Iran’s Leev Theater Group will perform an adaptation of “Hamlet,” Theatre Ad Infinitum from England will stage “Translunar Paradise,” and Australia’s Perth Theatre Company will produce "Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer.”