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