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