Tuesday, March 24, 2009

TBPAC announces new season

Musical theater fans have much to look forward at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center next season. Hightlights include the 2008 Tony Award-winning Musical "In the Heights," the musical revival of "Little House on the Prairie" and the world premiere of "Wonderland: Alice's New Musical Adventure." "South Pacific" and the return of "Wicked" are scheduled for the season too.

Here's a glance at 2009-2010:

Oct. 27 – Nov. 1
In the Heights, winner of four 2008 Tony Awards including Best Musical, is a sensational new show about chasing your dreams and finding your true home. In the Heights is an exhilarating journey into a vibrant Manhattan community ─ a place where the coffee is light and sweet, the windows are always open, and the breeze carries the rhythm of three generations of music. Experience the next chapter of the classic American story with the most joyous, exciting and award-winning new musical on Broadway. Find out what it takes to make a living, what it costs to have a dream, and what it means to be home … In the Heights.

Nov. 24 – Jan. 3, 2010
Wonderland: Alice’s New Musical Adventure is set in present-day Manhattan and a timeless Wonderland. The new musical tells the story of author Alice Cornwinkle (a descendent of Lewis Carroll’s muse Alice Liddell), who is struggling with her career and her daughter, Chloe. With a chaotic Wonderland in danger of disappearing into nothingness, only Alice can restore balance and joy. Audiences will journey with her through the Looking-Glass from New York City to a strange-yet-familiar place where she must reclaim her daughter, defeat the Queen of Hearts and learn to follow her heart. From the creators of The Civil War and Jekyll & Hyde, music for Wonderland is by Frank Wildhorn with lyrics by Jack Murphy and a book by Phoebe Hwang. Wonderland is produced by the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.

Jan. 12 – 17, 2010
A stunning reinvention produced by Lincoln Center Theater, South Pacific swept the 2008 Tony Awards, winning seven honors including Best Musical Revival and Best Director for Bartlett Sher. Set on a tropical island during World War II, the musical tells the sweeping romantic story of two couples and how their happiness is threatened by the realities of war and by their own prejudices. The beloved score’s songs include “Some Enchanted Evening,” “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair,” “This Nearly Was Mine” and “There Is Nothin’ Like a Dame.” USA Today cheers, “êêêê! Gorgeous! South Pacific doesn’t just float; it soars!” Based on James Michener’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book Tales of the South Pacific, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific has music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, a book by Oscar Hammerstein II and Joshua Logan and is directed by 2008 Tony Award-winner Bartlett Sher.

Feb. 3 – 28, 2010
Back by “popular” demand. Long before that girl from Kansas arrives in Munchkinland, two 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. How these two grow to become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch makes for "the most complete and completely satisfying new musical in a long time" (USA Today).

Feb. 12 – May 6, 2010
Presented in the Jaeb Theater, this classic musical from Stephen Schwartz, the composer of Wicked, is based primarily on the Gospel According to St. Matthew. Godspell boasts a string of recognizable songs, led by the international hit, “Day By Day.” Godspell has spawned a feature film, a Broadway revival and thousands of other professional, educational and community productions.

March 2 – 7, 2010
Little House on the Prairie has remained one of the most popular and beloved celebrations of early Americana since the appearance of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s popular classic book series 70 years ago. Now the inspirational stories take on a brand new frontier in an uplifting new musical. Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura for 10 years in the much loved television series, continues her legacy by starring as Ma. Families will continue to fall in love with these life-affirming stories about the Ingalls’ struggles and triumphs through the celebration of the pioneering spirit and the core values on which this country was founded.

March 23 – 28, 2010
Cirque Dreams Illumination is a bustling city of incredible dreamers set in a landscape of towering buildings and infinite possibilities. Ablaze with lights and activities, objects and shapes transform into windows and stairways that lead beyond imagination. City dwellers collect objects that are balanced beyond belief, linemen delicately walk wires, daredevils leap tall buildings and flyers redefine the risks of flight. Everyday occurrences are transformed into astounding feats performed by an international cast of acrobatic urbanites, flexible fanatics, world-class athletes, musicians and more. This action-packed Cirque Dreams is enhanced with more than 100 inventive costumes and set in a fantastical cityscape of dimension and special effects.

May 21 – June 6, 2010
Produced by Disney and Cameron Mackintosh, the show includes such wonderful songs as “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” and, of course, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”

The 2009–2010 Bank of America Best of Broadway Tampa Bay series is presented by the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. Season ticket packages will be available beginning March 22. Those interested in purchasing season tickets should call the TBPAC Ticket Office at 813.229.STAR or outside the Tampa Bay area at 800.955.1045 or visit www.tbpac.org for more information on ticket packages and on-sale information. Prices begin at just $190.50 for the full eight-show Platinum season package. A five-show Silver season package is also available, starting at just $85. TBPAC members are given first priority for new season tickets. Group tickets and individual show tickets will go on sale at later dates to be announced.

Events, days, dates, times, performers and prices are subject to change without notice.

Ballet performance a treat

You missed a treat last weekend if you did not attend the Sarasota Ballet's performance of "Anna Karenina," starring principal ballerina Lauren Strongin. Strongin brought a combination of pose, heartfelt emotion and strength to Anna. The other dancers were a sight to behold as well. I was also amazed by the gorgeous set designs that filled the stage of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

But I have to admit, my favorite part was Act II with the Russian Dance scene. Bravo to the Sarasota Ballet! Its next performance will be the world premiere of Dominic Walsh's "The Trilogy: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart" April 24-26.

-January Holmes

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sarasota Concert Band slashes prices for weekend affair

The Sarasota Concert Band hopes to fill the house for this weekend's concert by slashing prices. Tickets are now buy-one-get-one-free. The goal is to make the arts affordable to everyone during tough economic times, organizers said.

Sunday's 3 p.m. concert at Neel Performing Arts Center will feature world-renown composer Walter Hartley. Hartley - whose pieces have been performed in high school bands and world-class symphony orchestras throughout the nation - will premiere his new work "Duo Concertante." His appearance is part of the Sarasota Concert Band's 55th anniversary celebration.

Tickets are two for $10. For more information or to reserve tickets, call 364-2263 or visit Keyboards and More in Bradenton (746-1414). The concert will be held on the campus of Manatee Community College, 5840 26th St. W., Bradenton.

-January Holmes

American Stage announces new season

It's a new season in a new building for American Stage Theatre Company in St. Petersburg. Here are highlights for 2009-2010:

The Third Installment in American Stage’s August Wilson’s Century Cycle
Sept. 27-Oct. 11
August Wilson's towering masterpiece, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award for “Best Play”. Set in 1957, FENCES explores what holds families together (and drive them apart) in a powerful story filled with humor, love, hope, failure, and triumph.

THIS WONDERFUL LIFE written by Steve Murray, conceived by Mark Setlock
Nov. 20-Dec. 27
It’s Christmas Eve and George Bailey stands on a snowy bridge ready to jump…when a guardian angel intervenes! Thus begins the most irresistible “what if” story of all time, a visually stunning stage adaptation of the classic holiday film that is sure to capture your heart and captivate your spirit.

Jan. 22-Feb. 7, 2010
A smash on Broadway and on London’s West End, this comic classic from the author of Private Lives and Hay Fever is the story of cantankerous novelist Charles Condomine, who is re-married but haunted (literally) by the ghost of his late first wife. When a “happy medium” conjures the late wife’s spirit, all the personalities – real or ghostly - clash with hilarious results.

The Most Requested Play American Stage’s Patrons
March 12-28, 2010
Winner of the 1988 Pulitzer Prize, DRIVING MISS DAISY tells the post-World War II story of a rich, sharp-tongued Jewish widow who meets her new black chauffeur. Over a series of absorbing scenes spanning 25 years, the two grow to have one of theatre’s great friendships.

25th Annual American Stage in the Park
HAIR by James Rado, Gerome Ragni, and Galt MacDermot
April 23-May 16, 2010
Overflowing with the timeless spirit of progress and hope for a better world, HAIR is the story of a group of young Americans searching for love and peace during the Vietnam era. With a groundbreaking rock score featuring such classics as Aquarius, Let the Sunshine In and Good Morning Starshine, HAIR depicts the birth of a cultural movement that changed America forever.

June 11-27, 2010
This new comedy by Pulitzer Prize winning satirist David Mamet proves once and for all that there is no lower place than the highest office in the land. Upon learning that he lacks the funds to campaign or construct a legacy-ensuring library, the incumbent President taps an unlikely income source on the eve of the next election: the turkey industry. Thanksgiving, Indian casinos and the prospect of officiating a live, televised lesbian wedding demand attention in this riotous, oval office romp. Very strong language.

Wall Street Journal’s “Best New Play”
July 23-Aug. 8, 2010
A darkly funny new play about the sea, Ireland and the power of myth. It’s Christmas Eve in Dublin. In the rundown house where Sharky cares for his blind brother, old acquaintances gather for a card game joined by an ominous stranger. As the booze flows and the game intensifies, Sharky discovers that he may be playing for his very soul. In this eerie tale, celebrated Irish playwright Conor McPherson examines how we face the demons of our past, and struggle for redemption.

Tickets: $26-$45 depending on date and time of performance.
Subscriptions: $91 to $209
Information: 727-823-PLAY or americanstage.org

American Stage Theatre Company at the Raymond James Theater, 163 3rd St. N., St. Petersburg, Florida.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Damn Yankees winner announced!

Margaret Morris is the winner of the Manatee Players special Damn Yankees contest during the run of its baseball-inspired musical of the same name. The Bradenton resident wins two tickets to a Pittsburgh Pirates spring training game, two Pirates-themed visors, throws and two T-shirts.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bradenton's Jessica eliminated on ANTM

If you weren't watching or following along with our live tweets - Bradenton nursing student Jessica Santiago was eliminated tonight from America's Next Top Model.

This week's episode featured the much-loved - and hated - model makeovers. Jessica was up first and was given a wavier hairdo with red highlights. Overall, her look wasn't a drastic change. Certainly not enough to cause tears like fellow contestant Fo shed.

The photo shoot challenge for this episode required the models to light their own photos and pose with light sticks. Jessica was told that she looked ghoulish when she attempted to light her face from below. She continued to stumble through the shoot and her photo when presented to the judges was not great.

In the end, Jessica was sent home after Tyra told her she was pretty but that she needed to look prettier in photos then she did in real life. 

So, that closes this chapter of Bradenton residents on reality tv. We'll be watching for and reporting on the next star in our midst.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Syesha returns ... again!

Syesha Mercado fans will have the opportunity to see the former "American Idol" star again - in concert - April 4-5. The local singing sensation will perform two concerts at Sarasota's Players Theatre 8 p.m. April 4 and 2 p.m. April 5.

Tickets are $25 adults and $15 students. Those who purchase tickets in the first two rows for $35 each will be able to attend a meet and greet with Syesha after the concert.

Mercado, who has an album in the works, last performed for a benefit concert at the Manatee Convention Center in Palmetto last month. This will be her second local public appearance since her time on last season's "Idol."

For more information, call 365-2494 or visit, www.theplayers.org.

- January Holmes

Monday, March 9, 2009

Asolo Repertory announces 2009-2010 season

Asolo Repertory Theatre announced its season lineup today. Highlights include a new play festival and a collaboration with the Sarasota Ballet in a brand new musical Tony Award-winning musical.

Mainstage productions include:
CONTACT Created by Susan Stroman and John Weidman
A romantic and thrilling dance musical. OCT 24-NOV 22
This romantic, breathtakingly beautiful, and totally unique fusion of music, theatre, and dance won four Tony Awards including Best Musical. Created by renowned director/choreographer Susan Stroman, Contact’s three engaging stories depict the pursuit of life’s most elemental connection with another human being: love. The sheer ingenuity of the choreography creates an evening that is as exhilarating as it is delightful. In this major new production by Asolo Rep in partnership with the Sarasota Ballet, Contact is a scintillating thrill for the soul as well as the senses.

THE PERFUME SHOP adapted by E.P. Dowdall
A heartwarming comedy for the holidays. DEC 4 – APRIL 1
This bubbly and whimsical comedy is the perfect thing to warm your spirit. Taking place at Christmastime, the plot revolves around two bickering co-workers in a Budapest perfume shop, who unknowingly exchange love letters at night as anonymous pen pals. One of the world’s most beloved stories, it’s been adapted as The Shop Around the Corner, The Good Old Summertime, You’ve Got Mail, and the musical She Loves Me. Come see the American premiere of a new adaptation of Parfumerie by Miklos Laszlo, the brilliant original that inspired them all!


A delightfully comic look at relationships. DEC 18 – FEB 25
The time: The Beginning. The place: The Garden of Eden. The stage is set for the best known “battle of the sexes” in human history. In this captivating romantic romp, partly inspired by the comic writing of Mark Twain, the world's first lovers meet in paradise – and everything goes downhill from there. Join the humanity’s most famous couple as they learn about themselves, each other, and most importantly, what it means to be human. Witty and tender, Searching for Eden is a modern testament to enduring love.

HEARTS by Willy Holtzman
A poignant journey of forgiveness and friendship. JAN 22 – APRIL 11
Hearts is playwright Willy Holtzman’s frank and often bittersweet exploration of his father’s experiences as a Jewish-American soldier in World War II. As adults, and supposedly “hardened” war veterans, Donald Waldman and his friends get together to play cards and reminisce. But what happens to the memories that can’t be shared? And what about the haunting ones that won’t go away? As Donald struggles with issues of long-buried guilt and loss, he discovers that sometimes the only true way to move on is to fully embrace your past. A stirring tribute to the poignant legacy World War II left for the “Greatest Generation” and their children.

MANAGING MAXINE by Janece Shaffer
A hilarious look at love in the Golden years. MARCH 12 – APRIL 17
All great love feels like young love. Whatever your age, the giddy discovery, the unexpected rush, the surprising insecurity, and the soaring euphoria leave you breathless and exhilarated. It's wonderful, it's terrible - and it's the last thing Maxine Levine expects to interrupt her well-ordered, happy life at 70. But in this honest and hilarious romantic comedy, Maxine discovers that the power of love can change everything, including the very way you embrace your future. Funny and touching in equal measure, Maxine will leave you eager to grow old with the richness that wisdom and experience lend to love.

Conceived & Developed by Lynnette Barkley & Christopher McGovern
Book/Original Songs/Arrangements by Christopher McGovern
A new musical about an all-time American favorite. MAY 7 – MAY 30
Backwards in High Heels is a celebration of the remarkable life and times of the multi-talented entertainment dynamo Ginger Rogers. The show takes an in-depth look at the public and private life of this timeless beauty, combining cherished standards from Berlin, Gershwin and Kern with new original songs, a compelling play, and stunning dance sequences. Funny, moving, and a visual feast, Backwards in High Heels is a complete and wonderfully satisfying night of theatre that will have both audiences and critics cheering.

Off stage:

The Asolo will also continue it's New Stages program, which launched last year with "The Giver." Look for an annoucement of a new show for the program in the spring. Show dates will be Oct. 21-Nov. 8.

THE LAST FIVE YEARS by Jason Robert Brown
An intimate and uplifting musical in the Historic Asolo Theater. JAN 21 – FEB 28
The thrill of first love is universal. But most of us have also known heartbreak. The Last Five Years, an emotionally powerful and intimate musical from Tony Award winner Jason Robert Brown, lets us feel both at once. Two New Yorkers in their twenties meet, marry, and grow apart over the course of five years. It’s a familiar fable, but told in a new and exciting way: her story starts at the end of the relationship, his begins the day they first met. The score is rich with fresh, beautiful gems from one of today’s hottest composers. Funny, uplifting, and full of poignant yearning, The Last Five Years proves that even when a love affair is over, its glow lingers on.

An exciting journey from page to stage. MARCH 24 – APRIL 18
Join Asolo Rep for an exciting new festival celebrating the best in new American plays. Two scripts will be produced during the festival, and the audience will be invited into every step of the process – from attending open rehearsals, to special events with the playwrights, talkback sessions, and finally the performances themselves. Featuring Asolo Rep company members in both shows, and offering an unparalleled chance to engage with plays and playwrights at the very beginning of their journey, the first annual Asolo Rep New Play Festival is not an event to be missed. (In the Cook Theatre).

The FSU/Asolo Conservatory also announced its new season today:
THE MYSTERY PLAYS by Roberto Aquirre Sacasa
preview October 27, runs October 28 – Nov. 15
Two tales of psychological terror and the unknown by the most intriguing young writer in America today. A young filmmaker barely escapes a deadly train accident and discovers how close we all reside to the afterlife. A brother and sister try to assemble the details of a horrible murder fifteen years after it took place. The boundaries of reality and illusion are constantly shifting in this exciting play opening just in time for Halloween.

BLUE/ORANGE by Joe Penhall
preview Jan 5, runs Jan 6 – 24
This edgy new play explores the politics of mental illness with enormous power and scathing comedy. At a National Health Service Hospital in London, two psychiatrists lock horns over the diagnosis of a young black patient, and a dangerous game of power, ego and racial prejudice unfold. As brilliantly comic as it is provocative, this Olivier award-winning play for 2000 raises questions for which there are no answers and leads the audience on a complex and emotional journey.

MACHINAL by Sophie Treadwell.
preview March 2, runs March 3 – 21
A classic play from early 20th century America. An ordinary young woman is foolish enough to believe she can have it all: career, home, marriage, children, pleasure, and love. Her inevitable downfall and the play's shattering conclusion still has the power to fascinate and shock. . .

preview April 14, runs April 15 – May 3
One of France’s great classic playwrights, and the man who brought subtle psychological insight to classic comedy. Two headstrong children are betrothed to each other by their parents, in spite of the fact that they have never been introduced. Trying to exert their independence, the two children trade places with their servants in order to get a good look at their fiancés. In doing so, however, they only manage to confuse their families, their friends, and their own hearts. . A romantic comedy presented on the Historic Asolo stage.

For more information, season subscriptions or tickets,c all 351-8000 or visit www.asolo.org.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Senior talent show this weekend

Don't forget about the "Bright Stars Senior Talent Show" 7 p.m. Sunday at the Manatee Players. You'll be entertained by the area's brightest amature stars. Tickets are $6.

For tickets, call the box office at 748-5875.

- January Holmes

Brand new musical premieres in Tampa

So the last couple of days I've been getting several strange red packages in the mail. One contained a pretty mirror with a note about going through the looking glass. The next day, I received a note that was written backwards (I had to put it up to the mirror to find out what it said). The message revealed that an adventure in a wonderland awaits.

I was pretty sure all this was leading to something Alice-in-Wonderlandish. And I was right. The next package was a press kit for the new Frank Wildhorn musical "Wonderland." The show will have its world premiere at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center in December. It is a part of the art center's new Broadway Genesis Project, which will provide a creative workshop for new theater productions, said Judith Lisi, art center president.

"Wonderland" will be an updated version of the classic "Alice In Wonderland" tale. Part of the musical is set in present-day Manhattan. It tells the story of author Alice Cornwinkle, who is struggling with her career and her daughter.

The other half of the tale is set in Wonderland, which is in danger of disappearing forever. Alice holds the keys to restore harmony there, find her daughter and conquer the Queen of Hearts while learning to follow her heart.

Gregory Boyd will direct "Wonderland." The show will open Dec. 5 and continue through Jan. 3, with previews Nov. 24-Dec. 4. Tickets go on sale at noon Aug. 16

For more information, visit wonderlandthemusical.org.

- January Holmes

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Bradenton's Jessica makes it through ANTM season premiere

If you haven't been following the Twitter feed below - Bradenton's Jessica Santiago made it through the first week of "America's Next Top Model." But at the bottom three. 

The judges said she looked too broken in her photos and that she had to bring more than just beauty to the competition. The models had to tap into their inner child for a photo shoot that had them posing as "kids" playing various games on a playground. Jessica was suppose to pose playing jax, but she stands there with her body looking twisted. She's not even engaging in the game. 

She's really pretty on TV, but I agree with the judges - pretty isn't enough to make it on this show. 

Tonight's show started in Las Vegas where a group of about 30 models hopefuls got widdled down to 13. The show took the finalists to New York, housing them in a nice loft. The models had to walk the runway too. 

Drama is already stirring in the household, especially with the ambitious Sandra around.  It will be an interesting season. 

Jessica will have to find a way to stand out though. 

- January Holmes

Monday, March 2, 2009

Follow Bradenton features on Twitter

Follow us on Twitter at AccentBradenton!

I'll be twittering there (and blogging here) about "America's Next Top Model" and Jessica Santiago, the local Manatee Technical Institute student in this season's competition.

- January Holmes

Van Wezel hits the airwaves

The City of Sarasota is hosting a new program on the Access Sarasota station called "At the Van Wezel . . . " The program will feature highlights of shows - along with show trailers - that are coming the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. It will be hosted by Mary Bensel, the hall's executive director, and Julia Mays, marketing director.

If you read about an upcoming Van Wezel show in the Bradenton Herald and would like to know more about it, then you may want to tune in.

“At the Van Wezel…” will air 7:30 p.m. Sundays; 11 p.m. Mondays; 8:30 a.m. Thursdays and 9:30 a.m. Saturdays. Access Sarasota can be found on channel 19 (Comcast Cable) and channel 32 (Verizon). The program will also be posted on the City of Sarasota’s Web site, http://www.sarasotagov.com/.

- January Holmes