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