'Hamilton,' Aquaman and Maddie Poppe: Iowa's biggest entertainment stories of 2018
Elijah Malcomb plays John Laurens and Philip Hamilton in the touring production of Hamilton Rodney White/The Register, Des Moines Register
Iowans didn’t throw away a shot this year at embracing the biggest in theater, music and entertainment the state offered.
From hip-hop musicals to failed festivals to “American Idol,” here’s a look at some of the most memorable entertainment headlines to come from the Hawkeye state in 2018:
A ‘Hamilton’ debut
The hip-hop musical revolution penned by Lin-Manuel Miranda debuted on an Iowa stage in June, a tour stop two-and-a-half years in the making. The Tony, Grammy and Pulitzer Prize-winning story Founding Father featured on the $10 bill ran 24 shows in three weeks at the Des Moines Civic Center, bringing roughly 65,000 theatergoers from 48 states to downtown Des Moines.
And the Civic Center continues to reap the rewards of being the first stage in Iowa to host the pop culture phenomenon: Industry trade publication Pollstar ranked the performing arts venue No. 34 on a year-end list of the world’s top-selling theaters, reporting 185,331 tickets sold in 2018. That’s up two spots from No. 36 in 2017 and up from No. 61 in 2016.
Newbo Evolve crumbles
Leaders of the Cedar Rapids Convention and Visitors Bureau, Go Cedar Rapids, announced in January plans for an arts, entertainment and music festival a la SXSW to take place Aug. 3-5 in Iowa’s second largest city. The festival, Newbo Evolve, launched with Kelly Clarkson and Maroon 5 headlining at night and speakers such as Clint Harp, Adam Rippon and John Waters lecturing during each day.
Potential festivalgoers balked at a $400 asking price for a three-day pass. Just 601 of those passes were sold, with 8,340 stand-alone concert tickets sold on the side. Costing $3.8 million to launch, Newbo Evolve lost an estimated $2.3 million, causing Go Cedar Rapids to fold.
An Iowa ‘Idol’
Clarksville native Maddie Poppe captured the hearts of “American Idol” viewers in May, bringing home the top prize in ABC’s revitalized reality singing competition. The first Iowan to top “Idol,” Poppe spent the summer headlining a three-month tour alongside her “Idol” colleagues.
On the new album, Poppe tells the Register that "I want it to be fun. I want there to be a broad spectrum. I just wanna do it right."
A new State Fair look
The Iowa State Fair Grandstand unveiled a $7.5 million concourse renovation in 2018. A bigger stage, more concession stands, new bathrooms and additional seating greeted fairgoers who entered the Grandstand for one of the 11 concerts in August.
And the new look paid off with more visitors. Behind country stars Thomas Rhett and Reba McEntire pulling 15,775 and 14,102 concertgoers, respectively, the fair welcomed 85,075 to the Grandstand in 2018, up from 79,321 in 2017.
Booming local festivals
Led by a ripping performance from country favorite Sturgill Simpson, St. Charles' Hinterland Music Festival welcomed a single day record attendance of roughly 11,200 festivalgoers in 2018. The day featured an idyllic Americana playlist, with performances by Tyler Childers, Margo Price and Nathaniel Rateliff. Hinterland plans to expand to three days in 2019, running Aug. 2-4.
In Des Moines, the 80/35 Music Festival tapped Kesha, Phantogram and Courtney Barnett for the year’s marquee slots, bucking a national trend of women being underrepresented on music festival lineups. The festival returns July 12 and 13, 2019.
Iowa’s own Aquaman
Star of underwater superhero film “Aquaman,” Norwalk-raised Jason Momoa joins an elite group of Iowa entertainers to play a leading role in a major motion picture. Momoa plays Arthur Curry, a coming-to-power story as part of the DC Extended Universe.
And he’s the second actor from Norwalk to embrace a big screen DC character. Brandon Routh, Momoa’s high school classmate, played Clark Kent in 2006’s “Superman Returns.”