Many of us who live and work in Boise and seldom venture out to Canyon County still think of it as little more than farmland, Karcher Mall and the place to go for authentic Mexican food. It offers all of that, but like big sister city Boise, it also provides residents of the Treasure Valley a wealth of fine art, culture and entertainment options.
Bill Stephan, the outgoing director of the Nampa Civic Center, said he has seen the number of events held at the center increase by 100 percent under his direction, as well as the creation of a number of arts education programs. But it's the popular Performing Arts Series that has people returning to the intimate 640-seat auditorium time and time again.
As part of the 2008-2009 Performing Arts Series, Defending the Caveman hits the Civic Center stage. Running Nov. 20-22, this Broadway comedy has been described as hilarious, witty, sentimental and even perceptive, and deals with the primordial misunderstandings between men and women. The show has been performed in countries across the world and "holds the record as the longest running solo play in Broadway history" (defendingthecaveman.com). Tickets are $37.
Forget shopping for a day and get into the spirit of the season with the Canyon County Festival of Trees, which runs Nov. 29-Dec. 2. On Nov. 29, kids can construct their own cuddly creatures at the Create-A-Bear Workshop, and the grownups can gather at Festival Gala on Dec. 2 with a gourmet dinner and live and silent auctions. Proceeds benefit the Nampa and Caldwell Meals on Wheels programs.
Adults are $4, children are $2, and families of up to six are just $12. For more information, visit canyoncountyfestivaloftrees.org.
Continue a longstanding tradition or start a new one by taking the whole family to see the production of A Christmas Carol by the Music Theatre of Idaho. This Broadway-like version adds music and merriment to the classic holiday tale and runs Dec. 6-Dec. 13 with two matinees. Adults are $15, seniors and students are $14, tickets are $20 at the door. Visit mtionline.org or call 208-468-2385 for more information.
On Sunday, Dec. 14; Friday, Dec. 21; and Friday, Dec. 28, holiday spirits turn to the spiritual with gospel, country and folk music at the Gospel Jubilee. Tickets are only $5 at the door.
Question: What symbolizes Christmas better than an Elvis impersonator? If you answered, "Nothing," then make plans to see the center's annual Christmas Show on Saturday, Dec. 20. Local Elvis imitator Stacey Wayne dons the King's '50s and '60s persona and, for the first time, performs with a live band. Tickets prices have yet to be announced.
When the holidays are over doesn't mean the entertainment will be, too. On Friday, Jan. 30, the 2008-2009 Performing Arts Series continues with the incredible work of mask-maker and mime Michael Cooper and his Masked Marvels and Wonder Tales show. Cooper's masks have one foot in reality and one in fantasy, and his shows combine them both with dance and storytelling to provide an unforgettable experience. Tickets are $17.
Also as part of the 2008-2009 Performing Arts Series season, the Boise Baroque Orchestra performs on Friday, Feb. 6. The concert features classics from the likes of Bach and Mozart, but also offers audience members a special treat: a world premiere by Idaho composer Jim Cockey performed by Boise Baroque and the Langroise Trio. Tickets are $16.
The stories of American humorist Patrick McManus come to life in McManus in Love, the tale of a young man who bravely faces the mysteries of the wilderness but is terrified by the mysteries of dating. The one-night show plays Friday, Feb. 13, just in time for Valentine's Day. Tickets are $17.
Idahoans love fiddle music, be it a fiddle contest or part of a jamming bluegrass band. Stephan said the center's biggest event during his tenure was Barrage, a fiery fiddle show performed Broadway musical style and at $42, it holds the record for highest ticket price in the center's history. Well aware of folks' fiddle fanaticism, the Performing Arts Series brings Bearfoot to the Civic Center stage on Friday, March 6. This young quintet hails from Alaska, and takes their talent for lovely vocal harmonies, mandolin, guitar, bass and, of course, fiddle all around the country. Tickets are $18.
Bye Bye Birdie, the story of pop idol Conrad Bird, is a musical tour de force and makes a stop in Nampa as part of a professional, nationally touring show on Wed., April 1 (no fooling). The show is one more family friendly event in the Performing Arts Series. Tickets are $36.
On April 21, spring into spring with Ache Brasil, a performance group that incorporates Afro-Brazilian dance with Brazilian music and rhythms. Part of the Performing Arts Series. Tickets are $15.
On Sunday, May 3, step back 20-plus years and envision a younger, spunkier Kevin Bacon as Ren, the kid in Footloose who made us all wish for an abandoned warehouse where we could dance our frustrations away. Nearly three decades later, the story is still hugely popular and the Performing Arts Series brings it to life with Footloose: The Musical. Tickets are $38.
A little farther west in Caldwell sits the gorgeous College of Idaho campus, home to the Jewett Auditorium and the Caldwell Fine Arts series, now in its 47th season.
The season is in full swing and continues on with performances of Eugene Ballet's production of the holiday classic, the Nutcracker, Dec. 6-7. Tickets are $14-$18 for adults and $8-$12 for children.
On Friday, Jan. 23, An Dochas and the Haran Irish Dancers present high-energy rock-infused traditional Celtic folk music and dance. Tickets are $12-$16 adults, $8-$12 students.
The Missoula Children's Theatre presents Pinocchio on Feb. 20-21 using local children to fill the cast of 60 characters. Tickets are only $8 for adults and $3 for children.
Cleveland International Piano Competition winner Alexander Ghindin tickles the ivories on Tuesday, March 3, as part of the Caldwell Fine Arts series' collaboration with the CIP competition to present its winners. Tickets are $11-$15 for adults, $7-$11 for students and children.
Saturday, April 11, the Boise Baroque Orchestra makes another Canyon County stop with a performance of Bach's St. John Passion that includes both a chorus and soloists. Tickets are $14-$18 for adults, $10-$14 for students.
The award-winning, 47-member strong Brigham Young University Chamber Orchestra, which has performed across the world, brings its incredible talents to the Jewett Auditorium on Tuesday, May 19.