Friday, January 30, 2009

What's new pussycat? Tom Jones, that's who.

As I type this, the song "It's Not Unusual" is playing in my head. I don't normally hum Tom Jones tunes, but the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall announcement has inspired me. Jones - known for melodies such as "What's New Pussycat," "She's a Lady" and, yes, "It's Not Unusual" - will be performing at the Van Wezel 8 p.m. April 21.

Tickets go on sale 10 a.m. Monday. Get them by calling 953-3368 to visit www.vanwezel .org.

- January Holmes

Valentine's Day ideas

Since it's Super Bowl weekend, Valentine’s Day may be the last thing you're thinking about, if at all. But before you know it, Feb. 14 will sneak up. We want you to avoid that last minute rush, especially if you are on a budget. Help us compile a list of fun Valentine’s Day ideas for those on a tight budget this season. The list will be published for an upcoming story. E-mail your money-saving, creative ideas to me at or post it here on our blog at

-January Holmes

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Manatee Players announce new season

Here's what to look forward to at the Manatee Players for the 2009-2010 season:

The Main Stage Shows:

CRAZY FOR YOU – August 20-September 6, 2009
Billed as “The New Gershwin Musical Comedy”, it is largely based on the songwriting team’s 1930 production, Girl Crazy, but interpolates songs from several other productions as well.
In CRAZY FOR YOU, a stage-struck New York playboy, Bobby Child, is sent to a small, poor town in Nevada to close down the local theater. Soon Bobby falls in love with the theater owner’s daughter, Polly. In order to save the theatre, he dreams up the idea to put on a show to raise money for the theatre. In the end, the town is reinvigorated, the theatre is saved and Bobby finds love.

HELLO, DOLLY! – September 24-October 11, 2009
HELLO, DOLLY! is full of memorable songs including Put On Your Sunday Clothes, Ribbons Down My Back, Before the Parade Passes By, Elegance, Hello, Dolly!, It Only Takes a Moment and So Long, Dearie. And we are off on a whirlwind race around New York at the turn of the twentieth century, as we follow the adventures of America's most beloved matchmaker!

THE BOYS NEXT DOOR – October 29 – November 15, 2009
The place is a communal residence in a New England city, where four mentally handicapped men live under the supervision of an earnest, but increasingly "burned out" young social worker named Jack. Norman, who works in a doughnut shop and is unable to resist the lure of the sweet pastries, takes great pride in the huge bundle of keys that dangles from his waist; Lucien P. Smith has the mind of a five-year-old but imagines that he is able to read and comprehend the weighty books he lugs about; Arnold, the ringleader of the group, is a hyperactive, compulsive chatterer, who suffers from deep-seated insecurities and a persecution complex; while Barry, a brilliant schizophrenic who is devastated by the unfeeling rejection of his brutal father, fantasizes that he is a golf pro. Mingled with scenes from the daily lives of these four, where "little things" sometimes become momentous (and often very funny), are moments of great poignancy when, with touching effectiveness, we are reminded that the handicapped, like the rest of us, want only to love and laugh and find some meaning and purpose in the brief time that they, like their more fortunate brothers, are allotted on this earth.

ANNIE - December 3-20, 2009
Leapin' Lizards! The popular comic strip heroine takes center stage in one of the world's best-loved musicals.ANNIE is a spunky Depression-era orphan determined to find her parents, who abandoned her years ago on the doorstep of a New York City Orphanage run by the cruel, embittered Miss Hannigan. In adventure after fun-filled adventure, Annie foils Miss Hannigan's evil machinations, befriends President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and finds a new family and home in billionaire Oliver Warbucks, his personal secretary Grace Farrell and a lovable mutt named Sandy.A must for any theatre with a large family audience, ANNIE has proven a sure-fire crowd-pleaser, as its record-breaking Broadway run, star-studded motion picture version, hit 20th anniversary Broadway revival and national tour, and countless productions around the globe each year attest. With its upbeat ending, a bright tuneful score which has become a part of the nation's musical heritage, a cast of characters which includes many scene-stealing roles for children (including the coveted title role) and a classic villainess audiences love to hate, it's no wonder this heartwarming show has become an international sensation.

SUGAR BABIES - January 7-24, 2010
SUGAR BABIES is a riotously funny, nostalgic trip for those who remember burlesque and a happy discovery for those too young to recall this irreverent form of American entertainment. All of the classic vaudeville comedy sketches are here, along with such wonderful songs as "Exactly Like You", "I Can't Give You Anything But Love Baby" and "Don't Blame Me."

CURTAINS - February 18-March 7, 2010
A delightful return to old-fashioned musical comedy, CURTAINS unfolds backstage at Boston's Colonial Theatre in 1959 at a pre-Broadway tryout of a new musical. When the talent-free leading lady dies on opening night during her curtain call, Lieutenant Frank Cioffi arrives on the scene to conduct an investigation. But the lure of the theatre proves irresistible and after an unexpected romance blooms for the stage-struck detective, he finds himself just as drawn toward making the show a hit, as he is in solving the murder.As the bodies pile up, the ensemble dwindles and everyone is a suspect. Can Cioffi solve the murders and save the show before it reaches Broadway? Complete with rousing production numbers and a cast of colorful backstage characters, CURTAINS has audiences cheering long before the curtain comes down.

The Biblical saga of Joseph and his coat of many colors comes to vibrant life in this delightful musical parable. Joseph, his father's favorite son, is a boy blessed with prophetic dreams. When he is sold into slavery by his jealous brothers and taken to Egypt, Joseph endures a series of adventures in which his spirit and humanity are continually challenged. He is purchased by Potiphar where thwarting advances from Potiphar's wife lands him in jail. When news of Joseph's gift to interpret dreams reaches the Pharaoh (wryly and riotously depicted as Elvis), Joseph is well on his way to becoming second in command. Eventually his brothers, having suffered greatly, unknowingly find themselves groveling at the feet of the brother they betrayed but no longer recognize. After testing their integrity, Joseph reveals himself leading to a heartfelt reconciliation of the sons of Israel. Set to an engaging cornucopia of musical styles, from country-western and calypso to bubble-gum pop and rock 'n' roll, this Old Testament tale emerges both timely and timeless.

GYPSY – May 6-23, 2010
GYPSY, the musical fable suggested by the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee, is written by three legendary theatrical giants. The book is by two-time Tony Award winning legend Arthur Laurents, with music by two-time Tony Award winner Jule Styne and lyrics by multiple Tony Award winner Stephen Sondheim. The 1959 blockbuster, originally directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins, boasts a legendary score with such classic songs as "Everything's Coming Up Roses," "Rose's Turn" and "Some People."

This schedule is subject to change should the new theater opening date be determined!

Season subscriptions are now on sale for the upcoming season. For a limited time, Full season subscriptions are priced $10 lower than last season. Eight show Full Season subscriptions are $169 and five show Flex Season subscriptions are $109. Those subscriptions purchased by March 15 are guaranteed not to increase should we move to the new theater during the 2009-10 season. Current season subscribers will be receiving a letter in the mail detailing renewal instructions.

To be added to the mailing list or to order season subscriptions, call the box office at 941-748-5875 or e-mail your name, address and phone number to

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Classical alternative to Super Bowl concert weekend

For those of you who will not be attending one of several Super Bowl-themed concerts this weekend in the Tampa Bay area, consider the Sarasota Orchestra's next installment of its Masterworks series: "From America to Scotland."

The event, held at Neel Performing Arts Center on the campus of Manatee Community College, features guest conductor David Lockington of the United Kingdom and Manatee County resident Bharat Chandra on clarinet. Chandra is a principal clarinet with the Sarasota Orchestra and has performed as a featured soloist internationally.

Selected tunes are Benny Goodman-inspired Clarinet Concerto, The Suite from Billy the Kid and "Scottish" Symphony No. 3.

Tickets are $32-$82. For more information, visit

And for those interested in the abundance of Super Bowl concerts and related activities, check out our Weekend section tomorrow.

- January Holmes

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Local film opportunity

Here's an opportunity for those who have always wanted to be in film. Auditions are set for Feb. 5 and 6 (location to be announced, possibly at Lido Beach) for an indie flick called "Portrait of Yvonne." The film is about the emotional struggles of four men who are trying to work through their flaws to find happiness. Scenes will be shot on beaches and other locales across the area.

Several families, young boys and older couples are needed. Filming will be Feb. 11-24.

Headshots and resumes can be emailed to producer Jeremiah Kipp at Mention you saw this post on our Web site.

Here's some info on the characters:

Boys at the pool: Caucasian, age 7-12, distinctively good-looking and wholesome, or eccentric class clown types. Brothers welcome. One of the kids jumps in the pool. (1 or 2 days)

Security Guard. Age 60s-80s. Could be male or female.
Could be a man or woman in his/her 60s or 70s, or even 80s. The type of person who retired 20 years ago but has just re-entered the workforce because their benefits are running out. (1 day)

Real estate agent. Age 40s. Female. Should have a strong and positive demeanor – confident, secure, a very nice (almost TV anchor) smile, but with eyes that are deeper and more substantial. Someone who lived through hard years and bad decisions in her 20s and 30s (a bad marriage, too much drinking, etc.) but in her 40s she has gotten her life together as a single, successful career woman. (1 day)

NY Businessmen: Age 40s-50s. Male. Corporate types. Must be comfortable appearing in scene shot on airplane. Paranoid about losing their jobs but covering it with professional demeanor. When not talking business, they can get lost in their own worlds checking iPhones/blackberries. (2 days)

Hotel Valet. Age 20s-30s. Hispanic. He has a quiet look and feeling about him. (1 day)

Bartender. Age 20s-30s. Tanned. Could be male or female but should be attractive, fit, tan. Someone who’s spent the last several years since college just hanging out on the beach, and is very comfortable in their own skin. (1 day)

Hotel Guests: Caucasian, male and female, age 60s and older, background roles but prominently featured in several scenes.

Also seeking families, age 30s-40s, with young kids with a middle-America look. (3 or 4 days, does not need does not need to be same actors but recurring background are welcome).

- January Holmes

Monday, January 26, 2009

'Spitfire' highlights local talent

The past few weeks have kept me busy both in and outside the newsroom, but yesterday I made time for theater "off the clock," so to speak, making my way down to the final performance of the Players Theatre's "Spitfire Grill."It was truly a delight. It was a brilliant pick by artistic director Jeffery Kin, who also directed the folksy musical.

This well-written James Valcq and Fred Alley piece is based on the 1996 film featuring a woman just released from prison who changes the tiny town of Gillead and its sole eatery - the Spitfire Grill - while trying to start a new life. The bluegrass, folksy music was the centerpiece of the show, with exceptional acting performances by the cast.

As I sat in the seat of a very crowded theater for the show's final performance, there were many times I was amazed at the talent before me on stage and beyond - in the tech booth, in the orchestra pit, etc. There were equal to, if not better than some of the professional shows held elsewhere that I've seen. "Spitfire Grill" would be a great show to take to festival competitions in the future.

Though this show is over, don't forget to check out other theater offerings in the area. There's Florida Studio Theatre's "Occupant," which runs through Jan. 31, Manatee Player's "Music Man" runs through Feb. 1 and Asolo Repertory Theatre's "Winter's Tale" through May 16.

- January Holmes

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Players unveil new season

The Players Theatre is putting some pizazz into its upcoming 80th anniversary season - and that's not just with its new line-up of shows.

In the fall, look for a new sign at its Tamiami Trail location in Sarasota displaying the theater troupe's new logo and a freshly painted mural on the front of its building to kick off a year's worth of shows for 2009-2010.

As far as musicals, the troupe's Broadway series has a little something for every kind of theater-goer with a season that reflects The Players' 80-year history along with its future. There's musical classics, revues and some rock 'n' roll from the past. Artistic director Jeffery Kin, who unveiled the line-up today during a luncheon at the Bijou Cafe in Sarasota, has themed the season"Moving forward and looking back - 80 years of entertainment."

"The theme started it first," said Kin on how he chose the shows. "Moving forward and looking back - it's the kind of energy, love and fun of the last 80 years, but not so much that we get stuck in it because we want to look towards the future too."

The season begins Sept. 24 with the tap-dancing Cole Porter comedy "Anything Goes." It's followed by "Red Hot Operetta" - a musical revue drawn up by Kin that features snippets of 80 years worth of favorite operettas the theater has produced - including "HMS Pinafore," "Mikado" "Pirates of Penzance" and more. For the holidays, there's "A Christmas Carol" that, believe it or not, has never been produced at The Players, Kin said. He plans to stage a new version of the classic.

The Players will welcome in 2010 with "Some Enchanted Evening," a Rodgers and Hammerstein revue showcasing snippets from hits like "The King and I," "Oklahoma!" "Cinderella" and more. That's followed by the non-musical of "Lend Me a Tenor;" Kin's flagship musical of the season - Fiddler on the Roof" - and "The Who's Tommy" - a spicy musical highlighting the rock hits of The Who.

Kin said that despite a bad economy, which has dampened show attendance somewhat for the current season, The Players Theatre will continue to offer great community theater for years to come.

"It's a great environment for people to enjoy themselves," he said.

Season subscriptions are available for $80-$126 and single tickets for $23. For more information, call 365-2494 or visit

- January Holmes

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

American Stage breaks records

I was so caught up in all the holiday revelry that I didn't get the chance to see American Stage Theatre Company's "A Tuna Christmas." I knew that two-man show, featuring the wacky goings-on of more than two dozen residents in the tiny, hillbilly-like town of Tuna, Texas would be a laugh riot - the show broke attendance records at the 30-year-old theater, selling 4,453 tickets. It surpasses "Dinner with Friends," which was produced during the 2005-2006 season at American Stage.

Artistic director Todd Olson said the theater, located in downtown St. Petersburg, is experiencing prosperous times during the nation's economic drought.

"Since the recession has been declared it seems like every week, somewhere in the country, another professional theatre has closed its doors," he said. "Somehow we are having the best fall we have had in our 30 years. We are approaching a record 3,000 subscribers, 'A Tuna Christmas' exceeded all goals and our new After Hours series attracted another 6,000 patrons. More people saw theatre at American Stage this past fall than any other season in our history."

Other top attended shows in American Stage's history includes "Anna of the Tropics," "Moonlight and Magnolias" and "Proof."

American Stage's next production is "King Hedley II," which opens Jan. 21.

In other news, it's Wednesday, and maybe you're looking for a something to do locally tonight. If so, then head down to the Players Theatre in Sarasota to watch the Lazy Fairy Improv Troupe perform at 7:30 p.m. The troupe have become regulars at the theater, performing in the lobby at least once a month. Tickets are only $12. Bring the kids too. The show is PG-13 friendly.

- January Holmes

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

'Wonka' Golden Tickets all snatched up

Well, if you've been hoarding Willy Wonka bars from the Manatee Players' recent promotion of chocolate in hopes of finding that last Golden Ticket - eat no further.

The ticket was discovered by young Jordan Boezem, who will be sharing her prize winnings - which includes a candy gift basket, Mattison's Riverside gift certificates, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center tickets and a free trip to Disney World - with her family.

What a sweet way to end 2008.

- January Holmes
(Pictured are Manatee Players artistic director Rick Kerby with Joanne, Jerry and Jordan Boezem).

Monday, January 5, 2009

One New Year's resolution down

Well, I've already accomplished one New Year's resolution - finally seeing the musical "Spring Awakening," which came to the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center during the holidays. I saw the show Saturday. And believe me, such a treat has been a long time coming for me. I've been trying to see this show for about two years!

I first caught wind of "Spring Awakening" in the summer of 2006 when I was working at a paper in Hilton Head, SC. I was interviewing Duncan Sheik, famously known for the chart-topping hit "Barely Breathing." Sheik spent part of his youth on the island and still had family ties there. So while vacationing with the family, he decided to throw a small concert at one of the local restaurants in town. The concert, by the way, was fabulous. During our phone interview, which was promoting said concert, he mentioned his excitement for the 1891 Frank Wedekind play-turned-musical of "Spring Awakening" - a coming-of-age story of German teens struggling with the many trials of adolescence and puberty. Sheik was the brains behind composing the music.

Naturally, as a fan, I wanted see the show. To hear him describe the convergence of 19th century drama (which, actually, for a show like this could easily fit into 2009) and 21st century rock made it even more intriguing. So a year later, in the fall of 2007, I was hoping one of my best friends in New York would surprise me with tickets to see the show during my visit. But she couldn't snag any decent seats - and student rush tickets (she's a graduate student at NYU) were constantly sold out for the show. Maybe next time, she said.

So finally, after a couple other unsuccessful attempts, I was delighted to finally see this Tony Award-winning musical. The music was awesome, the setting was eye-catching, the staging was beautifully divine and the story - though tragic at times - was brilliant. With the teenage story line, it was like watching the new 90210, only 1,000 times better with outstanding acting and lots of inner dialog set to music, which is probably why it has attracted many young fans. Yes, there was a scene or two I could have done without due to my personal preferences, but even those scenes were performed dramatically well. During the show, I could help but think that Wedekind was before his time with a play that deals with teen sex, sexual abuse, suicide and more. No wonder his book was banned back in the 19th century.

If this show comes around again to the Tampa area, be sure to see it as it won't be playing on Broadway anymore in a couple weeks. It's a show unlike any other.

- January Holmes