Friday, April 24, 2015

2Cellos cancel U.S. tour, including Tampa date

   If you you were planning on spending the evening of May 9 watching two young Croatian cellists rock out, well ... sorry.
Stjepan Hauser (left) in happier times
   2Cellos were supposed to perform at Ferguson Hall at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa that night, but on Friday the show was canceled. Apparently Stjepan Hauser -- one of the 2Cellos -- has injured his neck. It's not a serious injury, 2Cellos' p.r. people say, but still the duo has canceled its US tour. The people at the Straz say a new date will be announced soon.
   Meanwhile, if you already have tickets, you got some money coming back to you. If you bought them with credit card you'll get an automatic refund. If you paid with cash or a check, you'll get a check in the mail in a week or two.
   For more information, call 813-229-7827 or go to

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Kevin Nealon to perform in St. Petersburg

   If you missed Kevin Nealon's appearance at McCurdy's Comedy Theatre in Sarasota in November -- or if you caught that show and you're dying to see him again -- fret not. He has just scheduled another show in the area.
   Nealon, one of the funniest people who's been on "Saturday Night Live" over the past several decades, will be at the Palladium in St. Petersburg on Oct. 17.
Kevin Nealon
   He's best known for his sketch work on "SNL" and for his role on the Showtime series "Weeds," but he started as a stand-up comedian and he said that's still his first love.
   "Stand-up is what I started doing," Nealon said in an interview with the Herald. "It's all I ever wanted to do."
   The Palladium is at 253 Fifth Ave. N., on the outskirts of downtown St. Petersburg, Tickets go on sale at noon Friday, May 1, and they cost $37.50, $45.50 and $52.50. Call 727-893-7832 or go to for tickets. If you want more information about the show or the venue, go

Friday, April 17, 2015

"Pippin" scores in Tampa despite off-key Pippin

   It was opening night for the national tour of “Pippin’ at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa. The house lights came on for intermission during the opening. In the audience, two friends compared their observations.
   “The guy who plays Pippin cannot sing at all.”
   “SO bad!”
   “But he’s really hot.”
   “SO hot!”

Sasha Allen and "Pippin" castmates
   How good is this new production of the classic musical?
   Despite an actor in the title role who regularly hits notes as sour as month-old milk, it turns out to be one of the best Broadway shows that has come our way in years.

   Sam Lips is the guy who plays Pippin in this very fictionalized story about Charlemagne’s son, and it's only fair to note that his acting is adequate and his dancing and acrobatic work are quite good.
   And, fortunately, he’s surrounded by an amazing cast without any other weak links.
   Sasha Allen, who lists “The Voice” first among her credits in the program, is ferocious as the Leading Player, a role most often associated with male actors. Allen has the vocal chops, the confidence and the charisma the role demands. She sometimes makes you think of Tina Turner in “Beyond Thunderdome.”

   John Rubinstein, the original Pippin on Broadway, is a lot of fun here as Charles, and Adrienne Barbeau is a revelation as Pippin’s grandmother Berthe.

   The 70-ish Barbeau swings from a trapeze, performing stunts, singing well while she’s hanging upside-down and looking quite good in her somewhat revealing form-fitting costume.
    Director Diane Paulus’ circus motif for the production, created by Gypsy Snider with a luscious big-top set by Scott Pask, is wondrous, packed with impressive illusions and Cirque du Solieil-style aerial stunts. Dominique Lemieux’ costumes, Kenneth Posner’s lights and Chet Walker’s choreography are all lovely and flavorful. And there’s killer a four-piece pit orchestra that sounds much larger than it is.

And, of course, “Pippin” is packed with great Stephen Schwartz songs and a clever book by Roger O. Hirson.
   It’s a show that’s almost flawless.
   Unfortunately, its one flaw is huge. 
   It runs through April 19 at the Straz Center, 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa. The remaining shows are at 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets will run you $61.50-$85.50 plus service charge. call 813-229-7827 or go to

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Monday, April 13, 2015

Comedian Chris Tucker comes to Straz in Tampa June 12

Chris Tucker
   Chris Tucker is one of those rare entertainers who equally adept at both acting and stand-up comedy.
   It's easy to find him on screen, because every movie he does seems to turn into a huge ht, from the "Rush Hour" series with Jackie Chan to "Silver Linings Playbook" with Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro.
   Soon it'll be easy to catch his stand-up act, too. He'll be at the Straz Center for Performing Arts in Tampa on June 12.

   If you know Tucker from his movies, you might not know that he was a favorite on Russell Simmons' "Def Comedy Jam" in the '90s. He also has a stand-up special coming out on Netflix in July.
   Tickets for the Tampa performance are $45.75-$65.75 plus service charge. They'll go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, April 17. Call 813-229-7827 or go to

Chaka Khan to perform in St. Petersburg

   If you like any kind of popular music, chances are you like Chaka Khan.
   Since her teenage years back in the 1970s fronting the funk-pop outfit Rufus, who hit it big with  Stevie Wonder's "Tell Me Something Good," through solo career that included such hits as “I Feel For You” and “I’m Every Woman,” Chaka Khan has proven she can handle
Chaka Khan
R&B, jazz, pop, rock, gospel, funk and even country music. She has 10 Grammy Awards and 22 Grammy nominations, 10 No. 1 singles and 11 gold or platinum albums to prove it.
   She has a new CD coming out later this year, and you'll no doubt be able to hear some of the new material when she comes to the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg on Nov. 13.
   Tickets for the just-announced show go on sale at noon Friday, April 24. Prices are $42.50, $52.50, $65.50 and $75.50. Call 727-893-7832 or go to,

Monday, March 16, 2015

Abba musical 'Mamma Mia!' returns to Tampa

   It was a pretty lousy movie, but on stage "Mamma Mia!" can be a massive amount of fun.
   We'll all get another chance to see when the jukebox musical based on songs by Abba when it returns Tampa. The just-announced non-Equity run at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts is set for June 23-28.
The real Abba
   Only eight shows in Broadway history have run longer than "Mamma Mia!" It's been running since 2001 and as of Monday had notched 5,550 performances.
   The plot, retro-fitted to the songs, is pretty silly, but the songs are so great you
won't mind too much.
   One tip, if you go: Don't rush out of the theater when the actors take their bows, as a lot of people do. There's a bit afterward in which the cast performs a few songs that didn't fit into the plot and it's one of the most enjoyable parts of the whole show.
   Tickets go on sale online at 10 a.m. Friday, March 20. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Tuesday – Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday,  at 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday. They'll set you back  tickets are $25-$65.50 plus service charge. Call 813-229-7827  or go to 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Asolo Rep's 'Unplugged' festival opens in Sarasota

   Asolo Repertory Theatre's sixth annual Unplugged festival gets going this weekend. The festival features brand-new plays -- so new the playwrights are still tweaking them -- performed by Asolo Rep actors.
   This year's festival will include three plays, but only two have been announced so far. And the third one isn't going to happen until April 19 so there's no rush.
   First up is Bill Bowers' "Stories From the Road." Bowers is a New York writer and actor -- he was in "The Lion King" and "The Scarlet Pimpernel" on Broadway-- and he performed in
the recent SaraSolo Festival. (He won an award at SaraSolo that from now on is going to called the Bill Bowers Award.) He's performed all over the world, in fact, in such diverse venues as the White House, an Amish colony and a nudist resort, and his new one-man show offers some stories from his travels.
   Next is "The Cannibals of McGower County," by Drew Larimore, a playwright with some solid credentials. The intriguing plot synopsis has three women celebrating a birthday when the ex of one of them shows up. He ends up getting shot and killed, and the title tells you how they dispose of his body.
   "Stories From the Road" is set for this Sunday, March 15, and "Cannibals" for Sunday, March 22. Curtain is at 7 p.m for both, and they'll both be in the Asolo Rep rehearsal hall at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Tickets are just $7. Call 941-351-8000 or go