Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Opera seeks talented kids

If you have a youngster ages 8 and up who loves to sing and act on stage, then don't pass this opportunity up. The Sarasota Opera House is seeking young talent for the stage this spring for its Youth Opera.

Touted to be one of the most comprehensive programs in the United States, the Sarasota Youth Opera plans to perform a full stage opera version of Judith Weir's "The Black Spider" in May. It is enrolling new members for the upcoming season, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Jan. 5. If you and your child are interested, know that the enrolling process includes a meeting with music director Lance Inouye who will determine your child's voice type and skill level. She will also show them some of the program's music. Parents will get an introduction to the program, too, and have the opportunity to ask questions.

Rehearsals will begin the same week.

Any child who applies will receive vocal and actor training. Cost of the program is $150 per term with a $25 non-refundable fee needed by Jan. 5. Scholarships, though limited, are available. Payment plans can be arranged.

For more information, call 366-8450, ext. 0.

-January Holmes

Renowned performers headline SO benefit concert

Slated for the Sarasota Orchestra's very first benefit concert, held 8 p.m. Jan. 16, will be two world-renowned performers: Bradenton resident and Grammy Award-winning vionlinist James Ehnes and Sarasota Music Festival artistic direct Robert Levin.

Ehnes will perform Mendelssohn's "Violin Concerto" and Levin, a Mozart scholar and Harvard University professor, will perform Mozart's "Piano Concerto." The orchestra, lead by artistic director Leif Bjaland, will feature Dvoark's "Carnival Overture" and Rimsky Korsakov's "Capriccio espagnol."

The festivities will be at the Sarasota Opera House. Tickets are $50-$100 with proceeds benefiting the musicians. Guests will also have the opporturnity meet and greet the musicans during a champagne and dessert reception. Tickets will be sold separately for the after-concert event for $50 each.

For more information or to order tickets, visit

-January Holmes

Friday, December 11, 2009

Family fun at GWIZ this weekend

GWIZ, the science museum, invites families for a day of music and science beginning at 1 p.m. Dec. 13. Featured will be members of the Sarasota Orchestra, including its harpist, percussionists and its resident ensembles.

There will also be a musical “petting zoo” for guests, demonstrations and talks. Tickets are $11 for children, $14 adults and $13 for seniors, military and students. Admission includes the cost of museum admission and performances. The museum is at 1001 Boulevard of the Arts, Sarasota.

- January Holmes

"Annie's" second cast

You may have seen and heard much about the first cast of the hit musical "Annie" at the Manatee Players. Here's a peek at the other cast involved in the production.

So many girls showed up for the casting call that director Dewayne Barrett and Players' artistic director Rick Kerby decided to double cast the show with the two casts performing on alternating nights.

Featured above is Reese Balliet with Sandy and orphan girls Caroline Howard, Gina Montoya, Julia King, Daniele Grutzner-Quinn, Chloe Hollands, Antoinette Gagliano, Eva Bayer, Mikaela Vitug, Tamara Solum as Miss Hannigan and Mark Netherly as Bundles McCloskey.

"Annie" continues at the Manatee Players through Dec. 23.

- January Holmes

Thursday, December 10, 2009

REVIEW: " A Country Christmas Carol"

Christmas definitely turns country with the Players Theatre’s charming holiday tale "A Country Christmas Carol," now playing through Dec. 20.

Set in fictional Marley County during 1954, this lighthearted musical follows the cheerful inhabitants of the county and its resident ne’re do well Eb Scrooge (Doug Nelson).

Holiday cheer and country accents abound until Eb, who owns the savings and loan and the local hotel, shows up and spoiling everyone’s fun time and again. The musical — directed by Jeffery Kin — follows the traditional Charles Dicken’s "A Christmas Carol," but puts its own entertaining country spin on things.

For instance, Eb lives in the hotel he owns. There’s no Bob Cratchit, but rather a young widower named Bobbie Jo Cratchit (Jennifer Baker) who works for the cruel-hearted Scrooge. Timmy isn’t crippled. And the Ghost of Christmas present wears a cowboy hat.

Oh, and there’s a festive singing contest.

Once the musical gets into the main story of Eb, it takes a few scenes before it really finds its fuel, and it’s worth the wait. The ensemble does a great job during the many songs and Christmas carols in the production with Baker especially showcasing her beautiful vocal talents in a variety of songs. Cast members, who play multiple roles, boasts several lively performances given by Chip Fisher as Eb’s nephew Dwight and the younger Eb; Channing Weir as Jane Cratchit, Brandon Reid as Tim Cratchit (both Weir and Reid have an amusing brother/sister chemistry during the show); Betty Comora as the spunky Ghost of Christmas Past; Peter Horstman as the Radio Man; Mike Phelan as Charley and the talents of Phyllis Banks who lights up the stage as Lavinia.

This production will make you fall in love with every character on the stage, even Eb. Nelson plays the hard-nosed Scrooge well, and makes the transition to the softer Scrooge nicely during the show as he starts to understand how generosity is the real gift of Christmas.

For those looking for something different, yet jolly on area stages this Christmas season, this show is for you.
-January Holmes

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Island Players received a special visit last week during the opening night performance of "The Education of Angels." The playwright, Matthew Carlin (sitting to the right on the couch with the cast) was in the audience for the show. The cast was glad to have him there.

"The Education of Angels" runs through Dec. 13. Tickets are $15. The venue is at 10009 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria Island. For more information, call 778-5755.

-January Holmes

Manatee Players Guild wins award

Last night, the Manatee Players Guild received the American Association of Community Theatre's "Spotlight Award" for outstanding contribution to community theater. The award was presented by Rick Kerby, artistic director, during the Manatee Players annual holiday party and was accepted by guild president Linda Thomas (pictured above with Kerby).

The guild was nominated for helping with scholarships and other costs involved with maintaining the theater troupe's youth program.

- January Holmes

Monday, December 7, 2009

We The Kings release new album Tuesday

Tuesday will be a big day for We The King fans. The Bradenton-based band releases its second record "Smile Kid," which features the hit single "Heaven Can Wait," which I'm sure you've heard playing often on the radio. The CD also has the single "We'll Be a Dream" featuring Demi Lovato.

Randy Clark, father of band leader Travis Clark, told the Herald "Heaven Can Wait" recently broke the top 40 on the pop/rock charts.

The band is currently on tour to support the new release but will be back in the area at the end of the month for its third annual 941 Holiday Show 6:30 p.m. Dec. 28 at The Hall, 1330 US Hwy 301 in Palmetto. Tickets are $15. Get your tickets by calling 729-0700. The band will also be performing at the upcoming 93.3 FLZ's Jingle Ball 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the St. Pete Times Forum. Look for details in this Thursday's Weekend section.

-January Holmes

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Two locals finalists in area talent search

Two Manatee County residents are finalists in the 2009 Everyone's Youth United Bay Area Idol Talent Search Expo.

See John Baker, 20, and Octavious Cummings, 31 as they perform in the the final level of the talent competition 6:30 p.m. Dec. 12 at the Palladium Theater, 253 Fifth Ave. N. in downtown St. Petersburg.

Baker called the Herald today excited about the chance to win cash and prizes of up to $10,000. Baker entered the adult miscellaneous category, performing stand-up comedy - a hobby he got into just a few weeks ago. He must have been a pretty talented novice to make it this far.

Cummings will be performing in the adult spoken word category. Cummings said gives motivational speeches in the area to encourage youth.

Other categories in the competition include vocals, rap and dance.

Winners can receive professional studio time, photo shoots and networking exposure.

We wish Baker and Cummings good luck.

-January Holmes

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gifts needed

The Manatee Players hope to bring joy to area children through its annual toy drive. It is asking for your help in collecting new, unwrapped toys. Gits for teenagers are greatly needed this year, as well as wrapping paper with all the trimmings - bows, ribbon, tape, etc.

The gifts will benefit Manatee Children's Services, an organization that helps abused and neglected children and teens.

Toys can be dropped off at the Manatee Players, 102 Old Main St., Bradenton.

- January Holmes

Friday, November 20, 2009

Three cheers for Patrick Broder!

From the Sarasota Orchestra:

Each year, up-and-coming young musicians from the region compete in the Edward and Ida Wilkof Young Artists Concerto Competition for the unique opportunity to perform as soloists in a concert with the Sarasota Orchestra.

The tradition continued last Saturday as finalists competed in Holley Hall before judges and the public.

The first place winner was Patrick Broder, bassoon, a junior at Southeast High School who performed Weber’s Andante and Rondo Ungarese, Op. 35. He was awarded $500 and the opportunity to perform as a soloist at the Sarasota Orchestra’s Thrill of a Lifetime concert on February 13 at the Neel Performing Arts Center.

The second place winner Natasha Snyder, an 8th grade violinist who attends Pine View School, performed de Beriot’s Scene de Ballet, Op. 100. She was awarded $350 and will also perform at the February 13 concert.

Broder and Snyder are both members the Sarasota Youth Orchestra, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this season.

Four other finalists, Kiley Arbo, violin; Jennifer Bolmer, violin; Reema Khadre, violin; and Nicholas L’Heureux, saxophone, each received $100 prizes.

“Every year we are impressed by the ever-increasing talent of the young musicians involved in this competition,” said RoseAnne McCabe, the Orchestra’s Education director. “It is pleasure to watch them perform and to observe their progress over the years.”

The Edward and Ida Wilkof Young Artists Concerto Competition was established in 1966 through an endowment which was made in an effort to plant seeds in talented youth and to encouraged them to aspire to professional heights.

“We are appreciative of the history and funding of this competition and are honored by the legacy of the Wilkofs,” McCabe said. “I am so pleased that Mrs. Wilkof was able to attend this year’s competition and present the winners with their awards.”
pictured: Ida Wilkof (center) with Young Artists Concerto Competition winners Patrick Broder, bassoon, and Natasha Snyder, violin.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gearing up for 'Twilight'

If you're under the age of, let's say 40, and have an affection for vampires - particularly if they look like actor Robert Pattinson - then you probably are conspiring to see the next installment in the latest "Twilight" film series.

And you probably know the opening date of "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" by heart - Nov. 20 (I had to look it up) - and no doubt have tickets for the upcoming midnight show. I predict it will be a massive turnout. I discovered, when I was inquiring about the turnout for Michael Jackson's "This Is It" documentary, that a few theaters already had folks buying tickets for the midnight show of "New Moon" three weeks in advance. Now that's devotion.

While I love vampires, I haven't been completely sucked into the whole "Twilight" phenomenon. I've had friends who devoured the books in the series, saying it was pretty addictive. I thought about giving those a try, but decided to forgo that after a trip to the bookstore one day. I picked up one of the books and read a sentence that went something like this "My boyfriend sparkles." I put it back down. Seriously, sparkling vampires? But I have seen the first film. Liked it so much I watched it twice. Yes, "Twilight" vampires do "sparkle" and are quite enchanting to watch (especially Pattinson, who plays Bella's vampire love interest Edward), but it was the vampire baseball scene that got me hooked. It's a must-see.

I do plan to see the next film, but not right away. I'll wait until after the fanfare dies down. I'm interested in the plot between Edward and Bella's friend/admirer Jacob (who is part werewolf), played by Taylor Lautner. It's going to be a vicious love triangle. I will probably be seeking out "Twilight" fans at the movie on opening day for a feature in the Herald.

For those die hard fans out there, though, who just can't get enough of "Twilight," check out Borders "New Moon Live" Web cast 5 p.m. Nov. 15. The Web cast will be live from Los Angeles, featuring a panel of "Twilight" fanatics from fansites who will talk about the film, dish about behind-the-scenes details and other surprises. The event will be streamed live at

-January Holmes

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Happy Birthday Sesame Street

Boy, where has the time gone.

It almost seems like yesterday that I was sitting down on the floor of my parents living room watching "Sesame Street" after my daily dose of "Tom and Jerry."

Years later, after my taste in TV matured, I find that "Sesame Street" - one of my favorite childhood shows - has turned the big 4-0 today. It's funny how Big Bird and Elmo haven't aged a bit. But that's kid land for you.

"Sesame Street" has been huge on educating children and teaching strong moral lessons in the most entertaining ways, featuring energetic songs and amusing characters, which is probably why it has lasted so long. The show reemphasized all I learned from school and my mom about the ABCs and team words like "cooperation" without making it boring.

While learning is all well and good, kids watch the show because it's fun. "Sesame Street's" characters have a way of staying with you, even if you've aged out of the viewing demographic. People can easily tell you their most memorable characters. My favorites were Big Bird, Cookie Monster and the cuddly Mr. Snuffleupagus, but I have to say that I had an affection for the little green muppet with the stinky attitude known as Oscar the Grouch. I knew it was just TV, but I was amazed at how Oscar lives in a trash can. It has to be fairly spacious inside. Kind of like the telephone booth that Dr. Who lived in.

-January Holmes

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

REVIEW: Asolo Rep's "Contact"

There may not be many words exchanged on stage in the Asolo’s Repertory Theatre’s "Contact" but that doesn’t stop it from being a spectacular show.

This clever, ground-breaking Susan Stroman musical is playful, sensual and exciting good fun. The grand display of dance is directed and choreographed by Tome Cousin, who was involved in the creation of the 1999 musical, which is part of why the show is as entertaining as it is. The cast is a mix of talented actors and dancers from the Sarasota Ballet and the Asolo Rep. who, collectively, present a grand performance.

At its core, "Contact" is a romantic show about love connections — some are playful and others are imaginary with a little sadness in between, but all are equally thrilling.

The dance musical is divided into three sections, each filled with simple, yet vibrant stage settings, great acting and wonderful dance.

The first segment, called "Swinging" takes place in a forest clearing in the 18th century with a young energetic woman on a swing (Ariel Shepley). Shepley is a delight to watch as she swings high in the air, flirting with two men - an admirer and a servant (Matt Baker and Sean Ewing). When the "admirer" leaves the scene, the aerial action turns into a game of comical, yet sensual stunts on the swing — nothing too risque, though, but enough to keep it light and fun.

Next is "Did You Move?," which is set in 1954 at an Italian restaurant in New York. This highly amusing segment features the tough yet, verbally abusive husband (James Clarke) who takes his young, giggly wife (Nadine Isenegger) out to dinner. The wife is excited for an evening out, but her hopes of fun are dashed as her mafia-like husband is more focused on getting good service and food instead of connecting with her. Each time he leaves the table, he warns her not to move. Instead, she goes into daydream mode, getting up to dance, flirting with the head waiter (Octavio Martin) and playing tricks on the guests. It’s fun to watch Isenegger dance with a whimsical passion on the stage. What make the scene even more inviting is the humorous action in the background with the two other couples, the waiter and a nerdy cook.

The last segment, called "Contact," is set in New York during 1999. It features Michael Wiley (Fletcher McTaggart) award-winning advertising executive who at the peak of success finds himself in a deep state of depression — to the point that he wants to commit suicide. But a dose of "luck" has him wandering into a dance club where he finds the woman of his dreams – the Girl in the Yellow Dress (Shannon Lewis). From there, the musical goes into a spin of tantalizing swing dancing galore where the men in the club vie for the affection of the Girl in the Yellow Dress, taking her hand to dance. But Michael has a problem: he can’t dance. His two left feet and nerves hold him back from connecting to her. But there are a few surprises in store.

Lewis is dashing on stage, bringing a distinctive poise to the role, while McTaggart brings a nice balance of high-strung nerves and depression.

While different than a traditional musical, "Contact" is impressive. There’s never a dull moment.
-January Holmes

REVIEW: Manatee Player's Nunsense

The Manatee Players latest comic musical "Nunsense" is filled with quirkiness – quirky nuns that is. The show features five nuns who put on a benefit at a local school. The money they raise will pay for the burial of the last five nuns who died eating a meal made by Sister Julia "Child of Gold." Call it their "Last Supper," so to speak, the nuns said. The benefit happens to be set on the stage of school’s production of "Grease."

From this, audiences can gather that "Nunsense" will be a wild ride of crazy hysterics. But those hysterics become too corny during the first act. Yet it makes up for that with pleasant, well-balanced humor in the second act.

What works well in the first act are the nuns interacting with the audience and each other with slapstick humor that was more appealing than the musical numbers. Though the tap dance number is a sight to see. The antics of Sister Mary Amnesia — her name says it all (played by Ellie Pattison) — and the street-wise Sister Robert Anne (Stephanie Costello), help infused the show with spot on comedy that the audience thoroughly enjoyed during Friday night’s show, directed by Bob Trisolini.

In the show, the nuns get one-on-one time with the audience, sharing their special talent and funny tales on what attracted them to the nunhood. Libby Fleming, as the young newbie Sister Mary Leo, has a nice ballet number where she dance en pointe several times. And Jeanne Larranage as the stern Rev. Mother Sister Mary Regina and Cara Herman as Sister Mary Hubert make a great team playing two leaders who like to disagree with each other.

The actresses showcase their talents best in the second act, keeping humor balanced and singing their hearts out with catchy tunes performed by a hidden "nun" band.

One of the most interesting elements in this Dan Goggin’s musical is how the actresses stay in character, interacting with the audience right before the show and during the last minutes of intermission. Again, Pattison and Costello portrayed the essence of their characters to the fullest — Pattison as the soft-voiced, often forgetful nun and Costello as the nun who enjoys being in the spotlight and "flirting" with the audience.

Overall, "Nunsense, "will make you smile.
-January Holmes

Monday, November 2, 2009

Lots going on at American Stage

American Stage Theatre Company is quite the busy place this month.

This weekend, the theater will host JLA Visionary Productions, which will present the New York cabaret-styled "From Havana to Hell's Kitchen." Featured will be Latin standards, a variety of pop and show tunes and a Tango mixed in with funny tales performed in the theater's Hough Lobby. Performance times are 8 and 10 p.m. Nov. 6 and 7 and 9 p.m. Nov. 7-8. Tickets are "pay-what-you-can."

For those who like late night shows, check out the theater's "After Hours" Cabaret Series. Next up in the series is Tampa Bay artist Aleshea Harris' "Grit and Silk," from 7 and 9 p.m. Nov. 13-15. It's a showcase of Harris' musings on love, hope, war and other things about life through stories and song. The show is brought to you by a new performing arts company called Bag of Beans Productions. Tickets for the show are also "pay-what-you-can."

Lastly, with the holiday season just around the corner, American Stage is producing "This Wonderful Life," a one-man show spin on the Christmas classic "It's A Wonderful Life." It stars Christopher Swan. The show opens Nov. 20 and runs various times through Dec. 27. Tickets are $26-$45 with "pay-what-you-can" nights at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1 and 22.

For more information on any of these shows, call (727) 823-7529 or visit

American Stage's brand new theater is at 163 3rd St. N., St. Petersburg.

-January Holmes

Friday, October 30, 2009

REVIEW: In the Heights

It’s easy to see why "In the Heights" won the 2008 Tony Award for Best Musical. The show is absolutely spellbinding.

"In the Heights" kicked off its first national tour last week at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, wowing crowds to the rhythms of the Latino and hip-hop cultures.

This isn’t your ordinary musical, as it has a highly contemporary feel to it. There’s hip-hop, salsa and urban dance along with some light rap tunes. While rap in general may turn some people away, it doesn’t in this fun and energetic show. Part of the story is told through the vehicle of different music styles and dance, which makes for enjoyable theater.

"In the Heights" is a story about the people of Manhattan’s vibrant and tight-knit Washington Heights Latino community, and the ups and downs they face as life changes. The story centers on a young shop owner named Usnavi who would love nothing more than to move to the Dominican Republic, where his roots are. He would also like to win the affection of Vanessa, who is struggling with her own troubles. Subplots include Nina, who returns home from college to tell her parents — who expect much from her — that she’s dropped out because of financial difficulties. Her father, Kevin, who owns a car service, faces a huge financial decision. In the meantime, Kevin isn’t too fond of his daughter’s budding relationship with Benny, who works for him.

There are other entertaining subplots that work well in this story, though I would have liked to have seen a little more background on Nina’s mom, Camila. Regardless, whether you are young or old, there are characters and/or situations that you instantly connect to. This show is truly multi-generational. Speaking of which, for older audience members, there are a few traditional Broadway music ballads nestled into this Lin-Manuel Miranda show that they will especially enjoy.

Overall, some of the best musical numbers includes "96,000," which received a long ovation from the crowd, and "The Club/Fireworks." Besides the dancing, part of the intrigue of the musical lies in some of the special effects movements — particularly in the eye-catching slow-motion scenes.

While the cast and the band were incredible in "In The Heights," standout performances are given by Kyle Beltran as the lovable Usnavi; the smooth Rogelio Douglas Jr. as Benny; the charming Arielle Jacobs as Nina; the humorous Shaun Taylor-Corbett as Unsavi’s comic relief cousin Sonny; Elise Santora as the wistfully-aging Abuela Claudia, and Isabel Santiago as Daniela the sassy salon owner.

With drama, humor, festival music and dance, there’s plenty of delights for everyone who sees "In the Heights."

-January Holmes

Spooky radio theater

If haunted houses and spooky films aren't enough to scare the wits off of you this Halloween. Maybe a creepy ghost story or two will do, where you're left with just darkness and your own imagination.

The FSU/Asolo Conservatory presents a special Late Night Series event - "Terror On The Air," 11 p.m. Oct. 31. The free, hour-long event will be held in the Cook Theatre of the FSU Performing Arts Center. There, a darken stage will be set for two radio plays performed onstage as a behind-the-scenes rendition of a 1940s live radio show. Performed will be "Sorry Wrong Number and "Don't Tell Me About Halloween."

While the event is free, donations are welcomed. Guests can wear a costume or come as you are.

The theater is at 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. For more information, call 351-8000.
-January Holmes

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Former Manatee Player member on "Cold Case"

This just in:

Sarah Glendening, best remembered on the Manatee Players' stage for her role as Scout in "To Kill A Mockingbird," will appear on the CBS hit "Cold Case: WASP" at 10 p.m. Sunday. The team will re-open a 1944 case of a female pilot participating in a civilian program to aid the Air Force during World War II, according to Glendening stars as Vivian Lynn.

We heard Glendening also appeared on the CBS soap "As the World Turns" earlier this year.

- January Holmes

Tampa murder case on TV

If you like watching real-life intriguing court cases, tune into "On the Case With Paula Zahn" on the cable network Investigation Discovery at 10 p.m. Sunday.

The episode will feature the Tampa-based case of Tracy Humphrey, a man who married a teenager to manipulate her into killing his ex-girlfriend, Sandra Rozzo. Zahn interviews key witnesses and Rozzo's 19-year-old wife, Ashley Lane. Lane's testimony resulted in a life-sentence for Humphrey.

Check your local cable listings for the channel.

- January Holmes

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Free food, music and wifi Friday

From Anna Pohl of the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority:

Chipotle Mexican Grill will be handing out 75 free burritos during the next Bradenton Courthouse Square Concert, scheduled for 11-1 p.m. on the grounds of the historic courthouse.
Performing this Friday will be Ishmael Katz, a talent singer, songwriter and acoustic guitarist who performs original folk music, ragtime, blues and Americana with a genuine style of his own and a unique twist on political and social satire.

Every concert offers easy-listening music during lunch every Friday on the Courthouse Square, located on Manatee Avenue West between 10th and 12th streets. Bring your lunch or get something to go at one of downtown Bradenton’s area restaurants and stop by the Courthouse Square for some music.

Remember to bring your laptop, too. Bright House offers free wireless access throughout downtown to its Roadrunner subscribers; Non-customers can surf the Web for a small fee.

Pet's Life Naturally is sponsoring a “Doggie Happy Hour” at each concert, so bring your leashed dog to enjoy a doggie treat and a bowl of water. Volunteers with Southeastern Guide Dogs also plan to attend most of the concerts and will have information available about their cause.

Robin's sells concert sandwich deals for $5 for a sandwich, drink and chips at the noon hour.

For more information, please contact Anna Pohl, Downtown Development Authority Events Coordinator, at (941) 704-4366 or Visit for more information.

Courthouse Concert Schedule:
10-30-09 Ishmael Katz
11-6-09 Brian Langill
11-13-09 Al Fuller
11-20-09 Dave Mankes
12-4-09 Brian Langill
12-11-09 Dean Miller
12-18-09 Jazzology Duo

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Hot day at festival/What to see there

How is it October when it literally feels like 110 degrees outside?! I melted in the sun during Ringling International Arts Festival's Asian Family Funfest. Regardless of the heat, though, families had a great time watching Chinese acrobats entertain in the museum's courtyard. Plus, there were plenty of great activities for the kids, who received free admission into the museum for the event. You can read about in Sunday's paper.

I was able to escape the heat a little later to see the New York-based theater troupe Elevator Repair Service perform its workshop premiere of "The Sun Also Rises" (first part) that's based on Ernest Hemingway's novel. Since it is a workshop piece, still in the ironing-out stages, I'm not allowed to critique it - but I must say I loved 99.8 percent of what I saw. The acclaimed, cutting-edge theater troupe really does put the "clever" in theater. The play is my second favorite work at the festival. The first is Ella Hickson's "Eight," of course.

Wanna go, but not sure what to see?
Tomorrow is the last day of this wonderful festival. Part of me hates to see it end. The other part of me wants to have a normal life again (it's like I've lived at the Ringling all week). This will probably be my last post about the festival itself. I encourage everyone who hasn't been yet to go and if you have already gone, go again to see more.

Some of the performances ended today (I really wanted to see more dance stuff but I missed it). But out of what's left, here's what I recommend for Sunday (which is pretty much everything):
  • Chamber Music, featuring Mason Bates (I haven't seen it, but have heard good buzz on it)
  • Ella Hickson's "Eight" definitely
  • Elevator Repair Service
  • Meow Meow (a one-woman variety show with a little risque mixed in; she'll make you laugh)
  • Peter Brook's "Love is My Sin" (can't beat Shakespeare)
  • Cafe performances (I haven't been to a festival cafe, but have heard good buzz on all the events there - and it's free to the public at the Ringling Museum). Sunday's offering is local dance group Moving Ethos.
  • And Maria Pages' flamenco dancing (I haven't seen this either, but heard great things about it). It's sold out, though. But don't let that stop you. Sometimes people RSVP but don't show up. Ex: Elevator Repair Service shows have been sold out before the festival began, but there were a few empty seats at today's 2 p.m. performance. So you never know until you show.
- January Holmes

Day three at Ringling Festival

The crowds continued to pour into Ringling's International Arts Festival Friday. Many of them filled the Cook Theater to see Deganit Shemy & Company's intense and provocative "Arena" - which I tried to give my impressions on for a story in Saturday's paper. I say "tried" because I don't have a dance background. The piece is hard to put into words and quite different from anything I've ever seen. You have to experience it for yourself.

Tonight I went to a late performance of Ella Hickson's "Eight." Plays are more my element. And from what I've seen at the festival so far, this has been my favorite. The work is about the faithlessness of contemporary British 20-somethings featuring eight monologues. For more about it, read here. But only four of the monologues are presented with each performance. Apparently the audience gets to vote on which four they would like to see. Somehow I missed that part.

Before the play begins, the actors step on stage one by one and stand there like a statue until the house lights dim. The cast includes Adam Carpenter, Devereau Chumrau, Tom Ferguson, Kerri Hall, Will Little, Solomon Mousley, Gwendolen Duckworth and Lizzie Watts. One-third of the cast are students from the FSU/Asolo Conservatory.

Cast members take their seats at the rear of the stage when the play begins. One at the time, they come up and tell their stories. Their tales have a heavy air of wonderful wit balanced with drama before they expose the root of their troubles. Hickson is to be commended on the play's gripping dialogue. The actors did a remarkable job bringing her script to life.

In Friday's 10:30 late show, we heard from the voice of a prostitute, a successful businessman whose life suddenly changes in an instant, a gay man with an unexpected secret and a woman wrapped up in infidelity. Each story has its own moral jewel, which makes "Eight" so appealing. I can see why this up-and-coming playwright has swept awards for it world-wide.

I just wish I could see the other four monologues.

- January Holmes

Thursday, October 8, 2009

People flock to festival

The first full day of the Ringling International Arts Festival drew droves to the FSU Center for the Performing Arts and the Ringling Museum of Art. The parking lot was a sea of cars. People flooded the theaters, eager to see some of the best performing artists the international world has to offer.

The last time I saw parking so full was probably when Syesha Mercado sung on the museum grounds last year during the American Idol finals.

Today, I saw Peter Brook's "Love Is My Sin" — based on Shakespeare's sonnets. Then I returned a little later in the day for a dose of "Meow Meow," cabaret diva extraordinaire. Read about both in this week's Herald.

In between shows, I met a nice woman from Winter Haven who came to Sarasota with a friend just to attend the festival. She told me about her brief encounter with Mikhail Baryshnikov right after watching one of the dance performances. After she knew he was in the theater, she marched over to where he was and said hello. I have yet to meet him in person. But I enjoyed our brief phone interview from last week, which was featured in Sunday's Herald.

There's still plenty of festival for folks to see. Though I'm told that all of Elevator Repair Service shows and Maria Pages shows are sold out.

- January Holmes

Friday, September 25, 2009

REVIEW: Hello Dolly!

When a quest for love and adventure is in the air, you can bet Dolly Gallagher Levi will work her magic on it.

She did during the Manatee Players’ latest production of “Hello Dolly!”

The Tony Award-winning musical, directed by Ty Yadzinski, features the jack-of-all-trades widowed matchmaker. But after countless match making, she’s ready to settle down again. She has her eyes on rich entrepreneur Horace Vandergelder.

While plotting an elaborate plan to win his heart, she works on the hearts of other characters in the show in hopes of making their dreams come true, too. The bulk of her match-making takes place with Horace’s employees, Cornelius Hackl (Steve Dawson) and Barnaby Tucker (Zachary Vance Hlavac). They decide to take an unauthorized night off from work, heading to Yonkers for an ultimate adventure. Cornelius, who, at 33, sees life passing him by, vows that he will finally have his first kiss with woman.

The ever-helpful Dolly sends Cornelius and Barnaby to the hat shop of Mrs. Irene Molloy, who happens to be the love interest of Horace. A tangled web of love and adventure ensue.
Dianne Dawson spins her charm and lightheartedness over the show as Dolly. But much of the show’s charisma comes from the other leads. Standout Cliff Cespedes plays an impressive Horace, full of ornery. The hat shop scene and Horace’s other exchanges with Dolly definitely tickle the funny bone.

Steve Dawson’s whimsicalness as Cornelius also breathes life into the show as well as the endearing Caitlin Longstreet, who plays Minnie Fay, Mrs. Molloy’s employee. Tina Gilbert displays an air of grace and good vocals as Mrs. Molly. Besides Cespedes, the other standout in this production is Hlavac, who grabs many laughs as the naive, wide-eyed Barnaby. He and Steve Dawson are a delightful pair of sidekics in this show.

Joy Lakin also received a few chuckles as the over-emotional Emengarde — Horace’s young niece, who wants nothing more than to be married to her sweetheart.

The parts of the lighting design also makes “Hello Dolly” alluring during moments of the show, illuminating through the backdrop like a Thomas Kinkade painting — particularly in the opening scene at the train station.

Audiences will also enjoy the waiters’ stunts during the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant scene.
The rest of the ensemble did a fairly nice job as well, though I would’ve liked to see more smiles and a little more energy in their steps for some of the musical numbers.

Overall, “Hello Dolly!” and its well-cast actors will leave you with a smile.

-January Holmes

Thursday, September 24, 2009

New Music New College

New College kicks off its New Music series this weekend with NOW Ensemble at 8 p.m. Saturday on the campus' Mildred Sainer Pavilion, 5313 Bay Shore Rd., Sarasota. Tickets are $12.

The group will also be at the pavilion 3:30 p.m. Friday for a free musical demonstration. For those not familiar with the group, here's your chance to hear samples of their work that may entice you to go to Saturday's performance. The group's music is a mix of rock, classical and experimental melodies. Bathtub not included, though.

For more info or to RSVP, call 487-4888 or email

- January Holmes

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Witch is back

If you're a big fan of the Broadway musical, then you'll be happy to know that "Wicked" is returning for the third time at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. The show is slated for Feb. 3-28, 2010 but tickets go on sale at noon Saturday.

Here's details on this box office blockbuster from TBPAC

The show:
Long before Dorothy drops in, two other girls meet in the Land of Oz. One – born with emerald-green skin – is smart, fiery and misunderstood. The other is beautiful, ambitious and very popular. "Wicked" tells the story of their remarkable odyssey, and how these two unlikely friends grow to become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch.

The tickets:
Regularly priced tickets start at $50 and go. Performances are Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets may be purchased by calling 813.229.STAR (7827) or 800.955.1045 outside Tampa Bay, in person at the TBPAC Ticket Office or online at For more information about the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center and its upcoming events, please visit

Be part of the crowd, get on TV

Here's your chance to be seen on "Good Day Tampa Bay," the local Fox News morning show. The show, with host Russell Rhodes will be filming live Sept. 24 at the Palmetto Historical Park. As a treat, local restaurants will be there showcasing specialty dishes for the crew to taste. Palmetto High School's Future Farmers of America will also be in attendance. The channel 13 crew has asked that the community show up too.

If you plan to attend, come just before 7 a.m. The park is at 515 10th Ave. W., Palmetto.

For more information, call 721-2034.

- January Holmes

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Man vs Food tonight: In Sarasota

Tune into the Travel Channel's "Man vs Food" show at 10 p.m. today to catch host Adam Richmond try his luck in Sarasota. He'll dig into deep-fried hot dogs and yummy pies for his first-ever mystery challenge.

The episode, filmed in the area a few months ago, features three Sarasota eateries: Munchies, Yoders and Old Salty Dog.

Richmond's show has him traveling the country to find who serving the best traditional foods.


- January Holmes

Friday, September 11, 2009

Audition notice

The Manatee Players will hold auditions for the hit musical "Nunsense" 7 p.m. Sept. 13-14. Auditions will be held at the Courtyard condos two blocks up from the theater on Old Main Street. Someone will be waiting to let auditioners through the gate.

Those auditioning should prepare a song in their key and be ready for the movement portion of the audition that the director may require. There are no children’s roles in this show. The show is being directed and choreographed by award-winning director/choreographer Bob Trisolini.

Those interested in volunteering backstage on the tech crew should call Kristin Ribble at 941-748-0111 or to help build the set, call Bill Booth at 941-748-0111.

Questions about all auditions should be directed to Rick Kerby at 941-748-0111.

Please note that by auditioning, you are obligating yourself to a considerable rehearsal and performance process. Please be certain that you are willing and able to make this commitment.

"Nunsense" opens Oct. 29 and runs through Nov. 15.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Release Party at Christian Family Bookstore

Looking for some family entertainment this Saturday? Local film maker Ryan Bodie has signed a distribution deal for his family film "Click Clack Jack." He's celebrating with a release party at Christian Family Bookstore from 10 a.m. to noon. Here's details on the film and the party from Bodie:

“Click Clack Jack: A Rail Legend," is a family film about an 1870's rail engineer, Click Clack Jack, who tries to save Potters Gap from the evil Baron Snodgrass who seeks to destroy the town to further his own ambition and look for Gold beneath it.

He said the film is specifically intended to try and help to fill a much needed hole in the market as there is just not a lot of quality, family friendly, and entertaining programs and films for kids.

Click Clack Jack recently received the Dove Award for Approved Family Entertainment. The film has won Film Festivals all around the country including: The New York International Independent Film Festival, Indie-Fest, Gone with the Film Festival, Sky Fest Film Festival, and the WYSIWYG Film Festival for Film of the Year.

Party features : Meet the Filmmakers; Train Rides-Face-Painting; Free Chick-Fil-A-DVD Giveaways of Click Clack Jack
Christian Family Bookstore is at 5203 Cortez Rd W

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Sarasota youth lands biggest role yet

I don't know if you had the opportunity to see last season's imagative "Willy Wonka" at the Manatee Players. For those who did, there's a certain Umpa Lumpa from the show who has recently been offered a role on the national tour of "Annie."

She's 10-year-old Sarasota resident Jordan Boezem. Jordan will play the role of July, a fellow orphan in Annie's crew. This will only be the second production she's been in, said mom, Joanne Boezem. Boezem attributes her daughter's sudden stage success to Spotlight Kids - a Sarasota-based musical theater group for ages 5 to 16. Cynthia Howe Ashford directs the group, helping them grow the necessary skills they need to shine during auditions and on stage. The group performs at area events, nursing homes and Disney World. Jordan has been with Spotlight Kids for two years.

When "Annie" kicks off another 30+ city tour in Dayton, OH in November, Jordan's father will be by her side. Mrs. Boezem, a pediatrician, will have to stay behind as she recently opened a new practice in town called Paradise Pediatrics. Regardless, Boezem is still beaming with joy at her daughter's good fortune. What mom wouldn't be proud? Unfortunately, the tour won't come this way next season since it made a stop in Tampa a few months ago. This season, it will only come as close as Panama City for a show in March 10, 2010.

We wish Jordan good luck!

- January Holmes

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Got A Minute?

I just need a minute of your time to tell you about a unique play festival coming up next week.

The Players Theatre will host the cleverly titled "Got A Minute?" 60-Second Play Festival 8 p.m. Sept. 4-5 and 2 p.m. Sept. 6. A gala, featuring a silent and live auction, hors d'oeuvres, drinks and a cast meet and greet, will take place on Saturday after the show.

And no, the festival itself doesn't last 60 seconds, but rather the plays. Sixty one-minute plays will be featured in this fast-pace event presented by the Eclectic Theatre Company. The submitted plays come from around the world and include a few from this area. For the fourth annual "Got A Minute?," the plays will be directed by Pamela Wiley, Jeffery Kin, Cliff Roles and Cinda Goeken with musical direction provided by Bob Trisolini.

It would be interesting to see how this process works - how a play rises to its climax and sudden end in 60 seconds. Hmmm. Maybe I should have submitted something. What a feat for the playwrights, actors and directors involved.

A few intriguing play titles caught my eye as I glanced through the list:
"Friday, April 13, 2036" by Asher Wyndham
"Confessions Of A Chicken Pox Survivor" by Bobbie Burrell
"Reality: What A Concept" by David Coyle
"The New Husband Store" by Lyn Wiley

Besides the plays, there's another reason you should go to this event - proceeds raised benefit cancer research. Ticket donations of $20 (and $25 on the night of the gala) will go to the Moffitt Cancer Center Foundation. In the past three years of festival, more than $50,000 has been raised.

The Players Theatre is at 838 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. For more information or tickets, call (941) 365-2494. To find out more about "Got A Minute" visit
- January Holmes

(pictured are actors Doug Nelson, Susan Underwood, Michael Altiero during a rehearsal)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Syesha watch

-photo by Joan Marcus featuring Adrienne Warren (Lorrell), Syesha Mercado
(Deena) and Moya Angela (Effie)
Former American Idol and local gal Syesha Mercado has been in the headlines again thanks to early promotions for the upcoming national tour of "Dreamgirls." She plays Deena Jones in the show.

Her photo has appeared in Entertainment Weekly recently. More buzz was generated yesterday from

Visit for the lastest promo photos of Syesha and the rest of the cast.

"Dreamgirls" kicks off in New York in November.

-January Holmes

Not fit for a princess

Jason Champion just couldn't tap into the inner princess hidden inside his last challenge on HGTV's Design Star Sunday night.

The Sarasota interior designer fumbled on the kids room challenge, turning a 17-year-old's wish for a princess-theme bedroom into a lackluster, unimaginative space that was barely fit for a peasant. Champion's charismatic personality and previous design skills weren't enough to cover up the fact that this wasn't up to par. The judges hated it, and it's easy to see why. It seems like Champion took a big step backwards. Placemats tacked on the walls for a headboard?! And did you notice the drawn-on window treatments?!

I would of hated to see the girl's reaction. Her room actually looked better before, don't you think?

What does work in this transformation is the chandelier and the mirror, but they seems lost in the surrounding tackiness. Though our local designer started out with carpenter troubles in this challenge, he still could of have pulled off something more eye-catching to say the least.

Champion, who made it halfway through the competition, told the cameras he was embarrassed after his show was cancelled. For those not in the know, the winner of Design Star gets a TV show. The lingo for those who get booted off Design Star is getting their show "cancelled."

But it looks like Champion isn't going to let this incident get him down. He told the cameras this wasn't going to be America's last time seeing him. Besides, he has three new lines coming out this fall of his own brand design label - Jason Champion Outdoor.

That has to count for something, right?

- January Holmes
(photos from HGTV's Design Star)

Friday, August 21, 2009

REVIEW: Manatee Players' "Crazy For You" show-stopper

If Thursday's opening night
performance of "Crazy For You" is any indication of how the Manatee Players’ new season will be, then there’s much to look forward to.

Directed and choreographed by Rick Kerby, "Crazy For You" displays everything the community theater does best: well-crafted song and dance numbers, engaging acting, creative sets and amazing costumes oozing with razzle dazzle.

It’s easy to see why this 1992 George and Ira Gershwin hit won three Tony Awards, including one for Best Musical. The comedy is an endearing fun-filled production that keeps you in each moment through colorful characters and memorable songs.

In the play, well-to-do Bobby Child (Michael DeMocko) has a dream of performing on a New York stage, particularly for Bela Zangler and his group of vaudeville dancers. But his stern banker mom, Mrs. Child (portrayed with an adorable performance by Georgette Thomas), sends him on a mission to Deadrock, Nev., to foreclose on an ailing theater. This is where Bobby falls head-over-heels with the town’s only gal — strong -willed Polly Baker, played by Andrea Wright. Polly just happens to be the daughter of the theater’s owner. As Bobby tries to woo Polly, he decides to help get the theater on its feet again by producing a show. But he runs into a few complications that include a saloon/hotel owner wanting to expand onto the theater’s property, a town full of rough-behind-the-collar men and the hilarious love triangles that develop when Bobby’s New York world sets up shop in Deadrock.

DeMocko and Wright are cast perfectly for the lead roles. They balance their character’s tension and romance with the sarcasm and comedy that permeates the play. Not only can they act well, but they steal the show with their vocal and dancing efforts — as a couple and solo. DeMocko, in particular, has several nice tap dance numbers, while Wright’s soothing vocal ballads melt the audience.

But DeMocko and Wright are not the only stars here. "Crazy For You" is a show where every cast member has the opportunity to shine, because as the show progresses, so do the townspeople.

The company numbers with the cast are exceptional, particularly "Slap That Bass" and, perhaps the crowd favorite, "I Got Rhythm." Collectively the scenes all have plenty of pizazz, great vocals and clever choreography.

Other stellar moments include Juan Martinez’s roof tap dancing number, Kali Westphalen as Irene in the "Naughty Baby" number and the closing scenes. Kudos must be given to the live band and costume designer David W. Walker.

The only thing off in this production were a couple of gun shots. Seeing a person fall in a saloon "brawl" and then hearing the gun shot after the fact was a little odd. But in a comedic story line where things aren’t always as they seem, the instance worked with the audience, who grabbed a few extra laughs out of it.

After watching this wonderful family friendly production, though, one wonders how the Manatee Players will top it. The season has just begun.

In other news:

Before the show started Thursday evening, Manatee Players' board president Nina Richardson presented a plaque to the troupe's marketing manager Denny Miller, honoring him for his 10 years of service. But that's just one of many hats Miller has worn. In 27 years, he's been in roughly 60 shows at the theater.
- January Holmes

Monday, August 17, 2009

Shakespeare LOL

I can't think of the line "To be or not to be" without a smile emerging on my face after seeing Florida Studio Theatre's "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)."

Even the word "abridged" makes me laugh.

The show features all of Shakespeare's plays, about 36 or so, performed in various comic sketches. Never have Shakespeare's tragedies been so funny. Three actors do it all - from "Romeo and Juliet"to "Hamlet."

I walked in expecting funny, but what was performed was levity on an extraordinarily entertaining level. A hilarious trio of actors - Michael Daly, Brad DePlanche and Christopher Patrick Mullen - had the crowd, and me, in stitches.

They didn't just act Shakespeare, they made it their own with a very witty script and the direction of Jim Helsinger.

This isn't the Bard as you know it. Shakespeare's works take on various forms that include a cooking show and appearances by Darth Vader, stick puppets featuring George Bush and the Olson Twins, a toy robot dinosaur and a blow up whale. Plus, there's plenty of audience participation.

For a fast-pace show like this, Daly, DePlanche and Mullen have the stamina to entertain without getting lost in the dialogue, costume changes and Saturday Night Live-ish comic elements. Of course, already a couple of weeks into the show, they look and feel right at home on stage, as if they've been doing "The Complete Works" all their life.

They made the Bard fun while paying homage to the one of the greatest literary masters ever. Even those who are timid towards Shakespeare will thoroughly enjoy this show. In fact, audience members will walk away wanting to read all the Shakespeare they can get their hands on.

"The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)" continues various times at FST through Aug. 23.

-January Holmes

Friday, August 14, 2009

A promising youth art center in St. Pete

Every once in a while on the theater beat, I run into a few aspiring actors - young and old - who make the trek over the Skyway Bridge into Bradenton and Sarasota. It's a trip they take five to six days a week to rehearsal for a show here. They come as far as St. Petersburg and Tampa.

But I wonder how many local residents, youth in particular, will be drawn to St. Pete with the opening of its newest youth arts center - The PinkCricket for Arts Education. The non-profit will open its doors 9 a.m. Monday (Aug. 24) at 534 Central Ave. It is the first center of its kind in the Tampa Bay area, organizers say. The center will offer visual and literary arts, drama, music, film, fashion design and dance.

PinkCricket is named after co-founders Sara “PinkMeanie” Turner and Jennifer “Cricket” Brendel.

Parents or youth interested in learning more should attend the fundraiser Saturday (more on that below) or the grand opening Monday. Opening day will be filled with remarks, youth activities and performances by area artists.

Organizers said the center's first six months will focus on an Arts in the Afternoon after-school program (for K-8 grade) and monthly exhibition. And here's the best part: Free Friday "Studio Nights" for middle and high-schoolers will also be held for students to cultivate their talents alongside well-known local artists. That last item may attract plenty of Bradenton/Sarasota folk.

“With the financial cuts to the arts in Florida’s education system, we really felt that there was a need to offer area youth access to the arts in a very vibrant and motivational way,” Sara Turner, executive director of The PinkCricket, said in a press release. “We have the opportunity to help foster youth involvement in the arts, support their creativity and individuality, give them the freedom and support they need to develop their artistic skills and provide them with opportunities to learn from local artists and advance their work in very exciting ways.”

That fundraiser will be held 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday(Aug. 15) at the center - yes, it's an all-night affair. Tickets are $5 at the door. The family-friendly event includes a silent auction, live auction, drawings, art activities, performances, a "Balloon Pop" and more.

For more info: or (727) 320-2324.

- January Holmes

Thursday, August 13, 2009

There's something new going on at Olympia

I have some bad news. Palmetto's revamped Olympia Theatre at 512 10th Ave. W. I wrote about a couple of months ago has scratched its theater line-up for now. Even its upcoming Miss Palmetto and Miss Teen Palmetto pageant has been canceled.

Obtaining the rights to present quality theater show costs too much for the little theater, said owner Joel Jarvis when I talked to him last week. Especially one trying to make its mark in a valley full of community and professional theaters. As for the beauty contest, organizers pulled out.

But there's a silver lining in all this. The Olympia is heading back in a direction that it knows best - concerts.

It has a new and improved line up featuring area talent, including a few free comedy Improv shows. Here's a schedule:

7 p.m. August 13
Green Bridge Improv
No Charge

6 p.m. August 14 - Country Music Night
Holler Back W/ Special Guest Lindsay Taylor
$5.00 Cover Charge
18 and up

6 p.m. August 15 - All Ages Screamo/Pop Punk Music
All Ages Show
$10/pre $12 @ door

7 p.m. August 20
Green Bridge Improv
No Charge

6 p.m. August 21 - Country Music Night
Holler Back
$5.00 Cover Charge
18 and up

6 p.m. August 22 - Cover Band/Rock 'n' Roll Night
$5.00 Cover Charge

7 p.m. August 28
The Story Tellers Concert Series
$15.00 pre-sale available on website

7 p.m. August 29 - Cover Band/Rock 'n' Roll Night
$5.00 Cover Charge

7 p.m. September 3
Green Bridge Improv
$5.00 Cover Charge

September 4 7:00pm
$5.00 Cover Charge

September 5 7:00pm
Velvet Chains Trio
$5.00 Cover Charge

September 10 7:00pm
Green bridge Improv
$5.00 Cover Charge

7 p.m. September 11 - Patriot Day/ Sept. 11 Remembrance
Holler Back
$5:00 Cover Charge; Off Duty PD, EMT, Firefighters, Military No Charge with I.D.
18 and up

Information: 981-3802

- January Holmes

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cool concerts headed to the Van Wezel

I was truly amazed when a press release came through my inbox about Boyz II Men coming to Sarasota's Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in October.

"How did they pull that off?" I wondered about getting the Grammy Award-winning R&B group to come here.

Granted, the group hasn't had a major hit since the 1990s, but their songs are quite memorable: "Motownphilly," "End of the Road," "Water Runs Dry."

Their music was partly the soundtrack to my adolescent life.

The Ten Tenors are returning for a concert in November. A quick trip to the group's Web site,, reveals 10 sharped dressed men who sing everything from opera to Queen.

And the Bacon Brothers will be back, too. The famous Kevin Bacon and his bro Michael will present their brand of folk rock.

-January Holmes

Tickets for all three events go on sale this Thursday. Here's details on dates, times, etc.:

Boyz II Men
Fri. Oct. 30 @ 8 PM-This Grammy® Award-winning American boy band from Philadelphia, PA is the most successful R&B male vocal group of all time. Specializing in new jack swing-style music they recorded five #1 R&B hits and have sold more than sixty million albums. Three of their #1 hits, "End of the Road," "I'll Make Love to You," and "One Sweet Day," (with Mariah Carey) set and exceeded records for the longest period of time a single remained scored at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The Ten Tenors
Fri. Nov. 6 @ 8pm- Always a sellout at the Van Wezel! This group performs a diverse repertoire in concert; performing Queen standards, including "Bicycle Race," "Bohemian Rhapsody," and "Who Wants to Live Forever," a Bee Gees medley, and ABBA's "Dancing Queen." The powerful tenors then switch gears mid-set to perform opera and native Australian tunes (including “Men at Work”). Their most recent album Here's To The Heroes is heavily influenced by the music of John Barry. Join a lavish celebration of vocal power, witty onstage antics and pitch-perfect musicality with one of Australia’s hottest exports.

The Bacon Brothers
Fri. Nov. 20 @ 8pm-Long before iconic movie actor Kevin Bacon became a household name with such hit films as Footloose and A Few Good Men, he was writing songs and playing percussion in Philadelphia coffeehouses with his brother and other groups. Michael, nine years Kevin’s senior, had already established himself as a professional musician, performing with his popular Philly band “Good News.” Today the Bacon Brothers — Kevin on guitar and vocals and Michael on guitar, cello and vocals - are a dynamic force on the American music scene and one of the most popular live bands on the concert circuit. Their sound is a blend of folk, rock, soul and country.

Tickets may be purchased at the Van Wezel Box Office, by calling (941) 953-3368 or logging onto

Monday, August 10, 2009

Kaleidoscope wraps up another year

Kaleidoscope 2009 came and went at the blink of an eye this year. The annual theater workshop for developmentally disabled adults presented "Take A Bite (Oh Applesauce)" last weekend to a near full house at the FSU Center of Performing Arts.

Since being introduced to the program two years ago, I've always looked forward to Kaleidoscope's imaginative shows and equally imaginative actors.

This year, the crowd ate up every bit of the performance. On closing night, they clapped for every solo and every stage entrance. The 18-member company was all smiles as the applause rolled on. Actors in the show were from the Community Haven for Adults and Children with Disabilities. They speny five weeks learning the ins and out of acting by rehearsing an original musical.

Co-founder Annie Morrison directed the show, which was written by Linda Blom, a participant of the first Kaleidoscope workshop held 15 years ago. Blom was in attendance for both performances. Her love of the "Fantasticks," "Oklahoma" and "Snow White" filled "Take A Bite," an adorable show that stars Amy Cross as Luisa. Luisa tries to get the guys in the show to eat a poison apple that will make them fall in love with her. The object of her affection: Matt/Booth, the hip Broadway choreographer played by Chris Swinehart.

The actors were a thrill to watch, especially during the musical numbers and dance scenes. One could tell they really liked the experience of putting on a show for the crowd. The group included Antonia Mercado, Teresa Troyer, Erik Esclangon, Bobby Jablonski, Jamie Roberts, Timmy Rogers, Charles Young, Bradley Morrall, Jon Brew, Kyle Gohl, Trevor Sturman, Holly Wooster, Rachel Wild, Sheryl Disher, Scarlett Whaley and Noah Grunes.

Kudos to the volunteers and others who helped.

My only compliant was the show wasn't long enough. I wanted to see more, and it seemed the audience did too as they lingered in the Mertz theater for a few extra minutes before leaving. I also missed looking at the art displays the participants use to have (there was only one this year). And I especially missed the comment section that was showcased with the artwork. It allowed audiences members write an encouraging note about the program to participants. I hope that returns for next year's show.

Otherwise, it's been another fun year watching the participants in this show bloom.

- January Holmes

REVIEW: Banyan’s “Fat Pig” hearty entertainment

I’ve been looking forward to the Banyan Theater Company’s season closer "Fat Pig," ever since I heard about it a few months ago. In true Banyan style, this show has the ability to quickly draw audiences in, take them on an entertaining, albeit emotional journey and then conclude with a dramatic end.

"Fat Pig," written by Neil LaBute, is a story you would likely see on those popular teen TV shows nowadays, but LaBute makes it more sophisticated by centering it on a corporate lifestyle. It caters well to a mature crowd.

The play centers on Helen (Margot Moreland) and Tom (Sam Osheroff), who meet in a cafeteria and hit it off after a few awkward exchanges. When they meet, Helen automatically thinks Tom — a handsome, fit and successful businessman — is making snide remarks about her weight, but she couldn’t be farther from the truth. Herein lies the heart of the story. Helen is a plus-sized gal who’s used to being treated badly and even makes fun of herself for it. But Tom seems accept her for who she is.

That is until his corporate buddies, which include a very jealous female friend, find out.
Helen, a librarian, hopes she’s found a lasting relationship, but Tom struggles to maintain his new relationship while keeping up appearances at work.

Don’t let the show’s odd title fool you, the fat pig isn’t who you think it is.

The play, directed by Greg Leaming, is presented on a simple, clean contemporary set. As for the actors, they all shined in their own ways.

Moreland gives an impressive and lifelike performance (this is her second time performing this show), veiling her insecurities through LaBute’s witty sarcasm. But she also has her serious moments. Osheroff was in good form on stage for most of the show, too. Yet, there were a couple of times his performance seemed just a tad stiff when it called for him to be purely emotional or vulnerable. He and Moreland had good chemistry on stage, though. He carried a different kind of chemistry that was just as powerful with the catty Jeannie (Bethany Weise), a co-worker and ex-lover. Weise does a wonderful job being the woman to hate in this show as her spiteful and domineering character lashes out at Tom. You know the saying about a woman scorned — she definitely fits the bill.

Lastly, there’s Carter (Dane Dandridge Clark), Tom’s friend and obnoxious co-worker. Carter is a window of truth at times, but other times he likes to create and be entertained by controversy. He believes handsome men should stick to dating equally attractive counterparts. As Carter, Clark brings a heaping amount of comic relief to "Fat Pig," though his performance was slightly over the top at times. While enjoyable in the role, Clark isn’t believable as a womanizer. Yet, he brings out Carter’s other attributes effortlessly.

"Fat Pig" deals with a touchy subject for many women, but the Banyan production does a great job presenting the issue with this entertaining show. In between the laughs, it really makes you think about the shallow social standards we often view other people through.

-January Holmes

Thursday, August 6, 2009

No Paula, Twitter or John Hughes. What is the world coming to?

Peanut Butter without jelly.

Cookies without milk.

Sonny without Cher.

Hall without Oates.

"American Idol" without Paula?

I can't say that I'm looking forward to the next season of "Idol" now that Paula is gone. I was watching the "Today Show" this morning and the guest celebrity journalists on the show equated Paula to "the crazy aunt" that everyone thinks is weird, yet cherishes all the same.

Like everyone else, I can only assume that she left because she didn't get the pay raise she was looking for, especially after "Idol" host Ryan Seacrest landed a new $45 million contract. News in the blogshere said Paula wanted $20 million but was only offered $1o.

How is Seacrest making more than her? With that much, producers should just make him a judge and find a new host. And maybe Paula would reappear as a judge on "So You Think You Can Dance," the up-and-coming hit show on FOX. That's my Solution B. Solution A, of course, is giving her $20 million to bring her back, but I don't make that kind of money. Maybe we can all chip in - 20 million people can just give a $1 and it would fix this mess.

I haven't had the heart to find out if they are bringing America's not-so-much-of-a-favorite-and-often-wordy Kara Dioguardi back.

Can't they find some fun, upbeat yet quirky celeb star? Jessica Simpson maybe. She seems like she would be forgiving towards the contestants and rub Simon the wrong way.

Wait, I just had to do a spell check via Google on Dioguardi's last name. Boo! She's coming back! Now people have two reasons to cease and deist from "Idol."

And to make matters worse, Twitter has been down all day.

As I write this, TMZ reports today that film director John Hughes, 59, died of a heart attack. Hughes is known for a host of cult brat pack hits such as "The Breakfast Club," "Sixteen Candles" "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and the "Home Alone" series.


Let's hope Friday is a better day, folks.
- January Holmes

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

There's no doubt - American Stage class act

American Stage Theatre Company did it again.

It broke yet another attendance record. The second one in its 30th anniversary season.

The record-breaking show was its recent production of "Tuesdays With Morrie," which sold 4,601 tickets. While area theaters south of the Skyway Bridge are battling to get patrons in the doors during a rough economy, American Stage makes it look all too easy.

One could attribute the feat to the opening of its new theater in downtown St. Petersburg. But its holiday show, "A Tuna Christmas," which was produced in the old theater, brought crowds in too, selling just 148 seats less than "Tuesdays."
Artist director Todd Olson couldn't be happier.
"It is so exciting to have two of the highest attended plays in our history happen in the same season,” he said in a press release. “Since the recession has been declared it seems like every week, somewhere in the country, another professional theatre has closed its doors. Somehow we are having the most successful season we have had in our three decades of existence. What a great way to celebrate our 30th anniversary season.”

But why? Maybe it's that American Stage is truly the premiere professional theater of St. Petersburg, offering many quality, thought-provoking shows that interest residents. Or the fact that it doesn't have to duel for as much attention with area theaters, unlike here. In the Bradenton/Sarasota area, there are many highly talented professional and community theaters competing for patrons.

Plus, offering several Pay-What-You-Can nights surely attract those on tight budgets. But even regular ticket prices are affordable.
Whatever the reason, people continue to flood the doors. The theater's current production of John Patrick Shanley's award-winning "Doubt" is fairing well, too. The show has been extended through Aug. 23.

In other American Stage news, the theater is looking for musical directors and accompanists for events in the new Susan R. Hough Cabaret at the Raymond James Theatre for next season. Highlighted will be the music of Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mercer, George Gershwin, Stephen Sondheim and more. Those interested should email Olson at No phone calls.

-January Holmes

picture above is of "Doubt," now playing at American Stage

Monday, July 27, 2009

Summer theater draws crowds in

Seats at two area communities theaters were nearly filled to the brim Sunday, proving that summer theater has been a hit in the area.

In a town that loves musicals, Manatee Players hosted its "High School Musical 2," presented by youth from its annual summer Broadway Boot Camp. Proud parents, friends and neighbors showed up in droves. A few hours later, it presented classic comedy sprinkled with music for An "Evening With Mark Twain," which nearly sold out the house.

Over in Sarasota, a large crowd showed up to watch a new work - the final run of "Hay Day," written by up-and-coming Sarasota playwright Jenny Beres. The show won last year's The Plays the Thing playwright contest at the Players.

For an original show about a stripper who is accidentally called to entertain/babysit an Alzheimer's patient, the performance was full of laughs, especially from Pam Wiley as Sally (the Alzheimer's patient) and Sage Hall as Trixie (the stripper). But the plot itself could use a bit more development, especially in the conclusion when the mood abruptly goes from sarcastic to contemplatively to heartfelt. Still, it was an entertaining piece of work filled with great dark comedy and, of course, a little song and dance.

Though it can be a gamble presenting new works by unknown playwrights in the middle of summer - and in a tough economy - it seems the Players has a formula that's working with the best of them.

- January Holmes

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Manatee Players presents 'High School Musical 2'

Friday night will be a big night for 70 Manatee County youth as they present "High School Musical 2" at the Manatee Players.

They've acted, sung and danced their hearts out during three weeks of rehearsals at the theater's Broadway Boot Camp.

The show takes a nod from the highly popular "High School Musical" series, where the students of East High have a knack for suddenly breaking into song in places such as the cafeteria and the basketball court. There's the cool kids, the jocks, the drama club gang and everyone in between.

Anyone under the age of 18 can probably tell you the starring characters of the show: Troy, Gabriella, Chad, Taylor, Sharpay and Ryan. They sing and lament over falling in love, winning the game, getting the starring role in the drama club and finding their place in the hierarchy of highschool - things any high schooler can relate to.

Which is why this show has done so well in theaters, and may very well be a hit on stage in Bradenton. The first "High School Musical," presented during last year's camp, was a success.

In "High School Musical 2" the East High students are out for summer. Troy, Gabriella, Chad and Taylor had landed jobs at the Lava Springs Country Club. Summer love, dancing and singing ensue.

The Manatee Players show is directed by Kelly Woodland and choreographed by Rick Kerby. It stars Adam King as 'Troy', Rebekah Johns as 'Gabriella, Alex Zickafoose as 'Chad', Dani Maxwell as 'Taylor', Connor McCullen as 'Zeke', Katie Clark as 'Martha', Liz Henschel as 'Kelsi', Tyler Johnson as Jack Scott, Maddie Wilson as 'Ripper', Chris Beckwith as 'Chris', Grace Jean-Pierre as 'Sharpay', Max Staebler as 'Ryan,' Nick Drivas as 'Fulton' and Isabella Orsini-Brophy as 'Ms. Darbus.'

Show times are 7 p.m. July 24-25 and 2 p.m. July 25-26. Tickets are $25 adults; $11 students. The venue is at 102 Old Main Street, downtown Bradenton. For more information call: 748-5875.

-January Holmes

Pictured: Rebekah Johns and Adam King

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Harry Potter mania

The midnight showing "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" is drawing tons of area residents. Sarasota's Hollywood 20 has almost filled five theaters and is planning to open three additional ones when the fifth fills.

Here in Bradenton, the Royal Palm 20 on SR 70 is having a Harry Potter marathon that has drawn about 100 fans. So far, it has sold nearly 3 theaters for the midnight screening. About 1,000 are expected to attend.

Oakmont 8 on Cortez Road has sold out nearly two theaters.

Check tomorrow's paper for more information.

- January Holmes

Friday, July 10, 2009

Chick-fil-A offers free food and more next week

Next week is Customer Appreciation Week at the Chick-fil-A in Creekwood (SR 70 & I-75). In honor of its customers, the fast food restaurant will host a week filled with free food and family fun.

Mark your calendar for these fun events July 13-18:

2 – 5 p.m.: Customers will receive free Chick-fil-A Chick-n-Strips® (three-count).

2 – 5 p.m.: Customers will receive a free 14 oz. Hand-Spun Milkshake; 5 – 8 p.m.: Family Night Luau – Customers will receive a free Chick-fil-A® Nuggets Kid’s Meal (four-count) with the purchase of a Value Size Chick-fil-A Meal.

2 – 5 p.m.: Customers will receive free medium order of Waffle Potato Fries®.

2 – 5 p.m.: Customers will receive a free Fudge Nut Brownie.

2 – 5 p.m.: Customers will receive free Chick-fil-A® Nuggets (eight-count); 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.: Pool Party – Join the Chick-fil-A at Creekwood team for a pool party at the YMCA Lakewood Ranch!

July 18, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.: Chick-fil-A Family Day – Join the “Eat Mor Chikin” Cow for a day of family fun, including carnival games, giveaways and a chance to win free Chick-fil-A food for a year (52 Chick-fil-A Meal coupons)! 2 – 5 p.m.: Customers will receive a free Icedream® cone.

- January Holmes

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tickets to "Rent" $20

Several lucky folks will have the opportunity to get $20 orchestra seats to the Broadway tour "Rent," which opens at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center 7:30 p.m. today. The offer - 38 seats in the front two rows of the orchestra - is available through July 12. The tickets will be sold two hours before each show for cash only. Limit two tickets per person.

The $20 tickets is a tradition set by the original run of the hit Tony Award-winning musical in New York. Producers of the tour will continue offering the special discount in each city the show is held.

Performance times: 7:30 today through Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 813.229.STAR or visit

- January Holmes

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Music event at Starbucks Saturday

Starbucks hosts another music event with The Big Green Show 5 p.m. Saturday. Performances include local bands Mystery at 5 p.m.; Little Boy Creep at 6 p.m.; Now Is Not Forever at 7 p.m.; Crash Fist Fight at 8 p.m. and Siren at 9 p.m.
The free event will be held outside of Starbucks, 5733 Manatee Ave. West.

- January Holmes

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Want to be a millionaire?

The hit show, "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire," which inspired the blockbuster film "Slumdog Millionaire" and has attracted millions of viewers around the country, will be visiting Tampa Friday to recruit a fresh batch of contestants. Auditions will be held from 7-11 a.m. at the St. Pete Times Forum, 401 Channelside Drive.

Those who are chosen will appear on the syndicated show, hosted by Meredith Vieira, or the special 1oth anniversary show of "Millionaire" hosted by Regis Philbin in August.

Tampa is one of six cities chosen for next season's "Millionaire," which kicks off Sept. 7.

For more information or to brush up on your "Millionaire" skills, visit

Good luck! Let us know if you make the show.

- January Holmes

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sarasota Ballet announces new season

The Sarasota Ballet recently unveiled program highlights for the upcoming season, which will feature the return of several area favorites along with new pieces.

Opening the season Oct. 23, will be the Tony Award-winning musical "Contact." This will be presented as a co-production with Asolo Repertory Theatre.

Next is one of the most beloved ballets of them all, "Giselle," which opens Nov. 27 at the Sarasota Opera House.

For the holiday season, Robert de Warren's "The Nutcracker" will return to the stage for a limited two-day run beginning Dec. 4 at the Sarasota Opera House.

A triple bill program, including a to-be-announced Sir Frederick Ashton ballet will open Jan. 29., 2010. The program also features the U.S. premiere of Matthew Bourne's "Boutique."

Peter Darrell's "Othello" makes its area debut during the troupe's next triple bill program, which opens Feb. 19, 2010. The program includes Matthew Bourne's "Infernal Galop" and a new piece by Dominic Walsh.

April's triple bill, opening April 2 at the Sarasota Opera House, will pay tribute to some of America's best choreographers. John Cranko's "Pineapple Poll" will also be performed.

The season will close, April 23, with another triple bill that includes a new world premiere and the return of last season's successful "The Rake's Progress."

Programming is subject to change. Unless otherwise noted, shows will be presented at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. For more information or to purchase season subscription, call 359-0099 or visit

-January Holmes

Thursday, June 11, 2009

"Annie" photo opt Friday

The sun will come out tomorrow for fans of the popular musical "Annie."

The national tour will roll into the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center 8 p.m. Friday in the Carol Morsani Hall. As a special treat, 11-year-old star Madison Kerth will meet and greet fans from 1:30 to 2 p.m. Friday at WestShore Plaza (250 Westshore Plaza in Tampa), center court. She'll be there with her pooch "Sandy" from the show. Bet your bottom dollar they'll be there.

Youth are encouraged to dress in red dresses and wigs so they can be just like Annie. Parents, be sure to bring the video cameras to capture the special moment.

When I was a kid, I used to read the Little Orphan Annie comics for a time. If I remember right, she was always running away a lot, trying to solve some sort of mystery from her past. And she would run into these weird-looking and often scary characters. The comic was rather strange to me. I enjoyed the more uplifting film version of "Annie" better.

This new Broadway production follows the film's hopeful storyline and has all the great songs such as "It’s the Hard-Knock Life" and the ever-popular "Tomorrow."

TBPAC will offer a special family deal for the opening night show. Purchase a full-price adult ticket and receive a free children's ticket (ages 12 and under). There will also be pre-show family-friendly fun activties. "Annie" will run various times through June 14.

The theater is at 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa. For more information, visit
- January Holmes

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Upcoming Oprah comic illustrated by Bradenton resident

Heroes are enshrined in some way, shape or form.

Monuments. TV specials. Museums dedicated in their name. Comic books.

Oprah Winfrey, queen of the daytime talk show circuit - and an inspiration to millions of women - will be featured in a new comic book in Bluewater Productions' "Female Force" biography series. The series recently featured First Lady Michelle Obama, 2008 vice president nominee Sarah Palin and Hilary Clinton.

The bigger news is that Bradenton resident Joshua LaBello will be illustrating the book. We did a feature story on LaBello a couple of months ago when he illustrated the Obama book, which went on to outsell both the Palin and Clinton comics.

Unlike most comic book heroes, Winfrey won't have any super powers. She won't be able to absorb cosmic energy, disintegrate harmful fat cells in unsuspecting audience members or stop people from jumping on couches. The "Female Force" series is known for highlighting the real lives of "super" women - women who have helped shape our history and culture.
The comic will depict Oprah's rise to fame and the challenges she faced along the way.

“She might not wear a cape, but she is some kind of super hero to a great many people,” Labello said. “Despite a childhood riddled with abuse and adversities, she turned her wounds into wisdom, grabbed hold of every opportunity and reached a level of success that practically redefines the term.”

Look for the comic at a comic book store near you in September.
-January Holmes