Friday, March 30, 2012

Top 10: Songs about seafood

Today marks the start of the Hernando DeSoto Heritage Festival SeaFood Fest taking place through Sunday in downtown Bradenton.

Thousands of people will be attending, including me, so I decided it was time for another Top 10 list.

(I know, it has been awhile).

Anyway, here it is, the definitive seafood song playlist.


1. "Rock Lobster," The B-52s
2. "Hold Tight, Hold Tight (Want Some Seafood, Mama)," The Andrew Sisters
3.  "Pulling Mussels (From a Shell)," The Squeeze
4.  "Dead Shrimp Blues," Robert Johnson
5.  "Crawfish," Elvis Presley
6.  "Clams Have Feelings, Too," NOFX
7. "Octopus's Garden," The Beatles
8. "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi," Radiohead
9.  "No Anchovies, Please," J. Geils Band
10.  "Fish Taco," Dick Dale

—Herald file photo by GRANT JEFFERIES/

Country singer Clay Walker headlines De Soto SeaFood Festival in Bradenton

Thursday, March 29, 2012

'Real World' casting call in Tampa

Two decades after its debut, looks like MTV’s "The Real World" will finally hit Tampa Bay.

An email just arrived announcing that casting directors from Bunim/Murray Productions, creators of the “The Real World,” will be holding an open casting call for Season 28 of “The Real World.”

You must be age 20 or older and "appear to be between the ages of 20-24," reads the Bunim/Murray Productions website. 
11 a.m. to 6 p.m., April 4, Hooters of Channelside, 615 Channelside Drive Suite 113, Tampa

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Manatee Players lead 36-Hour Giving Challenge with more than $150K raised

Manatee Players Marketing Manager Denny Miller has confirmed the Bradenton theater troupe has raised more than $150,000 for its new performing arts center thanks to contributions from more than 500 donors.

This morning he tweeted:

"10 a.m. total: $159,366 Donors: 563 Something's in the wind...keep listening! Thanks to our donors and...KEEP DONATING!"
 And then round 10:30 a.m. Miller wrote:

"$30,000 Just Added Into matching funds! DONATE IMMEDIATELY!"

The Manatee Players are leading the way in the 36-Hour Giving Challenge that started 6 a.m. Tuesday, according to today's report by fellow Herald columnist Vin Mannix. More than 100 nonprofits are participating in the online fundraiser

Manatee Performing Arts Center should be huge boon to downtown Bradenton

Manatee Players raise $1.75 million toward new theater in Bradenton

—Photo of the Manatee Performing Arts Center provided by Manatee Players

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

UPDATED 3/30 with PHOTOS: Sarasota Film Festival Manatee Kick Off Party at Tarpon Pointe Grill & Tiki Bar

UPDATED 3/30: Check otu photos from the event by PAUL VIDELA/Bradenton Herald PVIDELA@BRADENTON.COM

OK, who's joining my editor Jana and me for free food and perhaps a few drinks Thursday on the Manatee River?

Here's the deal:

The Sarasota Film Festival announced earlier this month that for the first time in its 14-year history screenings and events will be held in the Bradenton area.

A partnership with State College of Florida, dubbed “SFF@SCF,” brings movies and conversations to the campus’ Neel Performing Arts Center April 20-22.

To celebrate its splashy debut, the Sarasota Film Festival is throwing its debut Manatee Kick Off Party.

The bash is free and open to the public:

5:30-7 p.m. Thursday (March 29) at Tarpon Pointe Grill & Tiki Bar, 801 Riverside Drive E., Bradenton.

Attendees are invited to learn more about the festival and pick up tickets to all SFF films and events while enjoying appetizers, giveaways and a cash bar.

Sarasota Film Festival makes Bradenton-area debut

Sarasota Film Festival lineup features 200-plus movies from around the world

Make peace with Tarpon Pointe

—Photo of Tarpon Pointe Grill & Tiki Bar by Wade Tatangelo

Monday, March 26, 2012

WATCH: HGWT video for 'Dream No More"

Bradenton's Have Gun, Will Travel, which recently returned from a month-long national tour, have  begun writing and recording songs that will eventually become the band's next album, according to a statement issued by the Americana group.

For now, check out this sweet video for the equally tasty new track "Dream No More," off the HGWT album "Mergers and Acquisitions" (read my record review).

Director/Editor: Richard Walker. Director of Photographer: David Coone. Actress: Erica Glynn. Lighting/Color Correction: Alex Benjamin.

—Photo of Have Gun, Will Travel is a screen capture from the video. From left: Daniel Burke, J.P. Beaubien, Matt Burke, and Scott Anderson.

Read more here:

Upcoming  HGWT shows:

4/13 - St Pete, FL @ Hideaway Cafe (Matt solo)
4/20 - Hillbilly Hellfest @ Aces Lounge, Bradenton, FL
4/28 - Stringbreak Festival, Sertoma Ranch, Brooksville, FL
5/04 - Ybor City, FL @ Crowbar w/ Geri X and The Deep Dark Woods
5/12 - WMNF's 31st Annual Tropical Heatwave, Ybor City

Friday, March 23, 2012

REVIEW: The Players of Sarasota's 'Noises Off' turns chaos into comedy

Three decades after its premiere, English playwright Michael Frayn’s classic backstage farce “Noises Off” remains superbly funny in a new staging by the Players of Sarasota.

Brilliantly conceived and written, it’s a play within a play about the chaos surrounding the production of an awful, double entendre-filled British sex comedy titled “Nothing On.”

Frayn offers audiences three different, equally humorous looks at the fictional play’s first act.
Act one takes place at a dreadful dress rehearsal the night before the opening of the play. The actors miss cues, flub lines and struggle with minding the main prop, a plate of sardines.

The second act brings the audience backstage for a Wednesday matinee performance a month later. Here’s where the love triangles formed between the cast members result in violence manifested through superbly choreographed and executed silent-slapstick.

By act three, “Nothing On” has reached the end of its run and we witness a performance of sheer ineptitude that again makes for comic gold.

For at least many in the audience, “Noises Off’ probably works so well because the happenings on stage hit close to home despite the play being a farce.

In the program, Kelly Woodland, the director, notes that “every person who has ever been involved in theater who sees, reads or performs ‘Noises Off” sees a person or situation he has directly experienced and recognizes.”

It’s that aspect of reality and recognition that makes Frayn’s most famous work such a masterpiece.
But it still takes smart direction and a first-rate cast to make the magic happen.

And Woodland and company don’t disappoint.

Danae DeShazer shines as the ditsy, lingerie-wearing ingenue Brooke Ashton while Jamie Stewart-Butrum creates hoots of pity as her tears-prone nemesis, the young assistant stage manager Poppy Norton-Taylor.

Walter Price plays the awesomely snarky director Lloyd Dallas and the scene-stealing Gianni Damaia portrays sleep-deprived stage manager Tim Allgood.

Carolyn Zaput is delightfully cranky as fading star Dotty Otley, who has foolishly put much of her life savings into producing “Nothing On.”

Michael Morris has fun playing the goofball Garry Lejeune, who stops rehearsal to spout such memorably idiotic lines as:

“Lloyd, let me just say one thing, since we’ve stopped. I’ve worked with a lotta directors, Lloyd. Some of them were geniuses, some of them were bastards. But I’ve never met one who was so totally and absolutely... I don’t know.”

Jason Kimble revels in playing Frederick Fellowes, the nosebleed prone actor who simply must know the motives behind even his most trivial actions.

The least quirky character in the play, dependable and scandal-free Belinda Blair, is played with winning charm by Lilian Moore.

Finally, Dan Higgs generates chuckles nearly every moment he steps on stage as Selsdon Mowbray, a veteran actor whose main objective is staying happily drunk.

So, there you have it.

Nine actors working with a most capable director off an excellent script to deliver laugh-out loud theater.

—Top photo: From left: Lilian Moore, Jason Kimble and Carolyn Zaput in The Players of Sarasota’s production of "Noises Off."

—Second photo: Danae DeShazer. Both photos provided by The Players of Sarasota.

Details: Through-April 1, The Players Theatre, 838 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Tickets: $25/$12 (students). Information: 941-365-2494 or

Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe anounces 2012-13 season

Nate Jacobs
The Sarasota-based  Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe 2012-2013 season, announced today, features three musical revues and an award-winning drama by August Wilson.

Founding Artistic Director Nate Jacobs' "50s Jukebox Revue" kicks off the season Nov. 16, followed by Wilson’s "Jitney," "Soul Crooners 2" (also adapted by Jacobs), and closing the season is the Tony Award-nominated "It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues."

Subscription prices are still $75 for four shows. Individual tickets will be available later this fall and will remain priced at $28. Each production will run for five weeks as opposed to the previous four-week run

“Our amazing success this past year created a wonderful challenge,” Jacobs said in a statement. “How can we accommodate the tremendous demand for tickets? Almost every show this year was sold out, one expanded before we opened the doors. Lengthening the runs seemed to be the logical answer. We are very excited about the upcoming season and the chance to introduce more people to our unique and talented Troupe performances.”

Jacobs’ "50s Jukebox Revue," running Nov. 16 through Dec. 16, celebrates the music of such pioneering rock 'n' roll and blues artists as Fats Domino, Little Richard and Muddy Waters. "Why Do Fools Fall in Love," "Stagger Lee" and "Shake, and Rattle and Roll" are among the musical numbers to be performed.

Wilson's "Jitney" will be presented Jan. 4 through Feb. 3, 2013. Winner of the 2001 Drama Critics Circle Award and the 2002 Laurence Olivier Award, the play is set in Pittsburgh of the 1970s, centering around a group of unlicensed cab drivers as they strive to find honor and accomplishment in the harsh world around them.

"Soul Crooners 2" features the cast of the original smash with a new repertoire of songs from the 1970s. From Feb. 22 to March 24, 2013, Charles Manning, Leon Pitts, Mikeyy Mendez, Jacobs and Sheldon Redon will be back to sing some of the greatest soul songs of all time.

Closing out the season will be the four-time, Tony-nominated "It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues" (April 12-May 12, 2013). This musical revue takes the audience on a journey through the evolution of the blues with songs written and/or made famous by Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker and Huddie "Lead Belly" Leadbetter.

For more information or to purchase season subscriptions, visit the website at or call the box office at 941-366-1505.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Q&A: Commander Cody on 'Lost in the Ozone' 40th anniversary

Commander Cody performs Friday at Aces Live

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s first full-length release, “Lost in the Ozone,” debuting in the Billboard 200.

One of the great country-rock albums of all time, it features such classics as the Top 10 hit “Hot Rod Lincoln,” “Seeds and Stems Again Blues” and “Wine Do Yer Stuff.”

Commander Cody, real name George Frayne, recently spoke to the Herald from his Saratoga Springs, N.Y., home about the album.

Frayne and his new band-mates will be performing songs from “Lost in the Ozone” and more favorites on  Friday (March 23) at Aces Live in Bradenton.

While recording your debut album, “Lost in the Ozone,” what did you and your band-mates at the time hope to accomplish?

We were just sort of of trying to be a rockabilly-blues band. We were trying to reach the college kids.”

“Lost in the Ozone” is rightfully cited as one of most important country-rock albums. But Bob Dylan released “John Wesley Harding,” which closed with the country song “I’ll Be Your Baby, Tonight,” in December of 1967. 

The Byrds’ “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” came out in Aug. of 1968 and then Dylan issued “Nashville Skyline” in ’69.  Were you listening to any of these albums?

Oh, yeah. Those albums gave us a sense that the avenues we chose to go down were valid and other people were listening to the same stuff as we were.

I probably discovered “Act Naturally” off a (Buck Owens) greatest hits album in '63 or '64, when we were getting really bored with playing stuff like "Wooly Bully"... Doing “Act Naturally” and (Owens') “Tiger By the Tail,” and then the Beatles doing "Act Naturally" we knew we were doing the right thing.

What inspired you to cover and sing vocals on the classic rockabilly song “Hot Rod Lincoln”?

Here's the thing that happened. Basically, I played piano and booked the band. There was no Lynyrd Skynyrd or Marshall Tucker but for some reason there had to be a Commander and the band decided it would be me. People would say, “Where’s The Commander?"

I couldn’t sing a (expletive) note but sure could talk fast. I found the Johnny Bond version (of "Hot Rod Lincoln") in the 50 cent bin at the farmer’s market in Bay Shore (N.Y.) and just said, "Let’s do it."

"Lost in the Ozone" features a cover of the Willie Nelson chestnut “Family Bible” and fiddle and steel guitar throughout. But at the same time, you had long hair and were singing hippie anthems like the title track. How did country audiences react to your music back then?

They hated us. That’s why he stopped, by 1976 we had broken up. To them we just had long hair and didn’t take a bath and wanted to find a pot party. We played the CMA convention and they booed us off stage.

Another great song from “Lost in the Ozone” is “Seeds and Stems Again Blues.” Does it surprise you that 35 years after co-writing that song, marijuana legalization is still a hot topic?

It should have been legal a long time ago.

The album opens with three killer songs, all credited to you and Billy C. Farlow. Any chance of you and him ever working together again?

No. Billy C. stole some stuff from me so we’re not talking.

What did he steal?

He stole my stash, man. My medical marijuana. If it wasn’t so serious it would be funny.

Details: Commander Cody with S.G. Skin & Bone Band, 9 p.m. March 23, Aces Live, 4343 Palma Sola Blvd., Bradenton. Tickets: $20 (advance), $25 (door). Information: 941-795-3886 or

Monday, March 19, 2012

UPDATED 3/20: Sarasota Film Festival kick off party

UPDATED 3/20 with full story and pics from Marie Selby Botanical Gardens:

Tom Hall of the Sarasota Film Festival speaks during a party Monday night. WADE TATANGELO/


The 14th Annual Sarasota Film Festival Sponsor and Press Kick Off bash is 6-8 p.m. today at the beautiful Marie Selby Botanical Gardens overlooking the bay.

For live coverage follow my editor Jana and I at

For complete story, check back here or

Sarasota Film Festival makes Bradenton-area debut

Sundance winner 'Robot and Frank' opens Sarasota Film Festival

Friday, March 16, 2012

UPDATED 3/19: Bestselling author Erik Larson speaking in Lakewood Ranch

UPDATED 3/19: Author discusses 'In the Garden of Beasts,' at Polo Grill in Lakewood Ranch

My new favorite author, Erik Larson, will be the guest speaker today at the 25th annual Library Foundation Book & Author Luncheon Friday in Lakewood Ranch

The noon event, which I'm attending, is at the Polo Grill.

Larson has penned the best-selling, novelistic non-fiction works "Devil in the White City" (a Leonardo DiCaprio movie in pre-production) and, his latest, "In the Garden of Beasts" (Tom Hanks recently purchased the film rights).
Erik Larson knows darkness.
His bestselling "Devil in the White City," which earned him the 2004 Edgar Award for "best fact crime book," is about a Chicago serial killer.
He followed a couple years later with "Thunderstruck," another nonfiction book about a murderer.
But those horrors couldn't prepare Larson, the guest of honor at the Manatee County Library Foundation's annual author luncheon, for what he encountered when crafting his latest factual tour-de-force, "In the Garden of Beasts."
The book deftly places the reader with an American family in Hitler's Berlin. It's 1933 and history professor William E. Dodd finds himself appointed as the first U.S. ambassador to Nazi Germany, which initially enthralls his highly social, 24-year-old daughter, Martha. Eventually, though, it becomes clear to them they are surrounded by monsters.
"In no previous book did I have this experience," Larson said by phone from his Seattle home.
Read more of my Larson feature that ran Sunday.

Read more here:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

LISTEN: Jack White's new singles 'Sixteen Saltines' and 'Love is Blindness' (U2 cover)

Jack White just released "Sixteen Saltines," the alt-rocking second single from his forthcoming debut album "Blunderbuss," out April 24 on Third Man Records/Columbia.

White unveiled the song for the first time during his March 3 appearance on "Saturday Night Live." Pre-orders for a 7" vinyl single featuring the non-album B-side, White's creepy-cool cover of U2's "Love Is Blindness" (also posted below), are currently being taken at: and

The vinyl single hits stores March 20.

The White Stripes/The Raconteurs/The Dead Weather mastermind is currently playing select headline and festival dates leading up to the release of "Blunderbuss," including a headlining set at the Third Man Records Texas Stand-Off, the label's first ever official South By Southwest showcase, on Friday, March 16 at The Stage on Sixth in Austin, TX.

—Publicity photo courtesy of Nasty Little Man

Sarasota Opera's 2012-13 season features world premiere of 'Little Nemo in Slumberland'

The Sarasota Opera announced today that its fall season will include the world premiere of Daron Hagen and J.D. McClathcy’s "Little Nemo in Slumberland."

The 2013 Winter Festival will feature the Sarasota Opera premiere Giacomo Puccini’s "Turandot," Giuseppe Verdi’s "A King for a Day (Un giorno di regno)" and Carlisle Floyd’s "Of Mice and Men."

This year's fall Sarasota Opera Season opens with Verdi’s "Rigoletto," which is based on Victor Hugo’s play “Le Roi s’Amuse.” It was the opera chosen to be the first performed in the opera house when it re-opened in 2008.  "Rigoletto" will open on Oct. 26 and run through Nov. 12.

"Little Nemo in Slumberland" will be a co-production with the University of Kentucky Opera Theater, implementing the new theater technology, SCRIBE (Self-Contained Rapidly Integratable Background Environment). This technology has been successfully used in productions at the University of Kentucky Opera Theater and The Atlanta Opera. There will be two performances on Nov. 10 and 11.

The 2013 Sarasota Opera Winter Festival will open with the Sarasota Opera premiere of Puccini’s "Turandot," which features some of the composers most famous music including the tenor aria “Nessum Dorma (None shall sleep)."

Following "Turandot" will be Georges Bizet’s "The Pearl Fishers (Les PĂȘcheurs de perles)," last seen in Sarasota in 2003.

Sarasota Opera will present the world premiere of a new critical edition (transcribed directly from Verdi’s manuscript) of Verdi’s second opera "A King for a Day." Verdi’s first comic opera (his only other comedy was his final opera "Falstaff"), "A King for a Day" is based on the play "Le faux Stanislas" by Alexandre Vincent Pineu-Duval. It will be the 29th installment in the company’s continuing Verdi Cycle.

The Sarasota Opera will present Floyd’s "Of Mice and Men" as a continuation of its American Classics Series. Premiered in 1969 at Seattle Opera, Floyd adapted the opera from the novella by John Steinbeck and wrote both the music and libretto himself. As was done with the first two American Classics Series Operas, the 2011 production of "The Crucible" and the 2012 production of "Vanessa," Sarasota Opera will design a series of education events around this production "Of Mice and Men."

The four productions will run in rotation from February 9 through March 24, 2013.

Subscriptions and single tickets are on sale by calling 941-328-1300 or visiting

—Photo: Little Nemo as drawn by Winsor McCay.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Will the 'Mad Men' survive?

My favorite show is finally returning to TV.

The last episode of “Mad Men” originally aired Oct. 17, 2010.

So it’s understandable that icy ad man Don Draper (Jon Hamm) sounds a bit nervous about his acclaimed drama returning to AMC.

The two-hour season premiere of “Mad Men” on March 25 follows a prolonged hiatus due to negotiations between the network and series creator Matthew Weiner.

“Ideally, if you’re a fan of the show and it’s been off the air for a year and a half you’ll be excited for it to come back on,” Hamm says in a promo video posted on AMC’s website. “Hopefully, the absence in this case has made the heart grow fonder.”

The first basic cable series to win the Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series, “Mad Men” has taken home the trophy in each of its first four seasons starting in 2008.

That makes it one of the most acclaimed shows in television history.

But not exactly a huge crowd-pleaser.

Alas, more people do watch that “(expletive) idiot” Kim KardashianHamm’s term, not mine, no, never — over on E!

But how many of the loyal viewers of “Mad Men” will return after such a long absence?

Seventeen months.

That’s a lot to ask.

To quote Hamm again:

“Hopefully, the absence in this case has made the heart grow fonder.”

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Manatee Players add 'Legally Blonde,' 'Anything Goes' to 2012-13 season

'Bruiser' from 'Legally Blonde'
Frothy, contemporary fun from Hollywood and a work by a master of the Great American Songbook round out The Manatee Players' upcoming season.

The Bradenton community theater troupe announced today that the Broadway musical version of the hit Reese Witherspoon movie "Legally Blonde" will open 2012-13. The performance dates will be Aug. 16 though Sept. 2.

Auditions for the show will be June 3 and 4 at the Manatee Players' Riverfront Theatre, 102 Old Main St., Bradenton. The director is Dewayne Barrett, with Rick Bogner as musical director.

In January, Cole Porter's classic "Anything Goes," which opened on Broadway in 1934 and won the Tony Award last year for Best Revival of a Musical, will fill the Manatee Players' stage.

The show features such timeless Porter songs as "It's De-Lovely," "Friendship," "I Get A Kick Out Of You," "All Through The Night," and "Anything Goes." Auditions will be held at the Manatee Players theater on Sept. 30 and October 1.

As was reported in January, the Manatee Players' roster for next season also features “Evita” (Sept. 20-Oct. 7), “Pump Boys and the Dinettes” (Oct. 25-Nov. 11), “Plaid Tidings” (Nov. 28-Dec. 16), “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” (Feb. 21-March 10, 2013), “Miss Saigon” (March 28-April 14, 2013) and “Fiddler on the Roof” (May 2-19, 2013).

Manatee Players to make 'major announcement'

REVIEW: 'Aida' at Manatee Players features star performance by lead

Monday, March 12, 2012

UPDATED 3/20: Manatee Players to make 'major announcement'


The Manatee Players' new home near the Bradenton Riverwalk/Photo provided.

Bradenton's best theater company apparently has some big news to share.

The Manatee Players will hold a press conference 4 p.m. March 20 (it's a Tuesday) at their new, not-yet-finished Manatee Performing Arts Center, 502 3rd Avenue West in downtown Bradenton.

A "major announcements will be made by the Manatee Players, Kiwanis Club of Bradenton and the Manatee Community Foundation at this event," reads the email issued today.

The public is invited to attend.

I'll be there reporting.

Incidentally, it might have something to do with this, currently posted on the Manatee Players' website:
Well... you've listened to us talk about the need to finish the Manatee Performing Arts Center for six years. You'll be happy to hear that there is light at the end of the tunnel and you can help us get there! An incredible matching funds opportunity has become available to us for a very limited amount of time.

Donations as small as $25 and as large as $1,000 will be matched during "The 36-Hour Giving Challenge-Where Community Meets Philanthropy". This event starts on Tuesday March 27 at 6:00 a.m. EST and runs through Wednesday March 28 at 6:00 p.m. EST This is an online event so people around the world can help us reach our goal. The earlier in the morning that you log onto the website, the greater chance that more matching dollars will be ours.

Let's say that you are an early bird and log on at the very beginning and donate $100, that $100 will be matched making the donation $200. Another philanthropic group, unique to the Manatee Players, will then match that $200 making the final donation $400. Not an early bird? If you send the information needed below, we can do that for you, since staff will be at the office before the 6:00 a.m. kick-off. Here's what information is needed:
Read more.

Tyrese, Molly Hatchet, Marshall Tucker Band and more at Gulfcoast Rhthm & Ribfest in Palmetto

Tyrese/publicity photo
A winning,  eclectic lineup ranging from contemporary R&B star/"Transformers" actor Tyrese to classic Southern rock favorites the Marshall Tucker Band are scheduled to take the stage during the 6th annual Gulf Coast Rhythm & Ribfest taking place at the Manatee County Fairgrounds in Palmetto from April 13 to 15.

In addition to the live music, rib teams from across the country return to serve up their award-winning recipes and to compete for this year’s top honors.

Here's the entertainment lineup:

April 13
6 p.m. Mitch Clark Band
8:30 p.m. Eric Darius

April 14
Noon Dr Dave Band
1:30 p.m. Kettle of Fish
3:30 p.m. War
6 p.m. The Marshall Tucker Band
8:30 p.m. Molly Hatchet

April 15
1 p.m. TBA
4 p.m. Ace Factor
6:30 p.m. Tyrese

Tickets are $10 (advance) to $35 (front of stage).

Saturday, March 10, 2012

REVIEW: Asolo Rep’s ‘Fallen Angels’ soars

You really can’t go wrong with dueling, desperate housewives.

That’s what Asolo Rep stars Kate Hampton (“God of Carnage,” “Once in a Lifetime”) and Hillary Clemens (“Yentl,” “Once in a Lifetime”) play, extremely well, in the company’s staging of “Fallen Angels.”

Noel Coward’s seldom seen 1925 comedy of manners opened Friday in Sarasota.

Hampton and Clemens portray upper-class Londoners (nice period costumes Virgil Johnson) who have been best friends since childhood and are now dangerously bored with their respective husbands of five years.

As comedy would have it, both had a premarital affairs at different times with the same Frenchman in Italy. He happens to be in town the weekend their unsuspecting spouses, also argument-prone pals, go golfing out of town.

The three, 30-minute acts unfold much like contemporary sitcoms, with the middle one packing a killer series of belly laughs.

“Fallen Angels” takes place over the course of a Saturday and Sunday in the London flat of Julia (Hampton) and Fred Sterroll (Jason Bradley, largely reprising the endearing dolt he played in “Once in a Lifetime”).

The play opens with Julia basically telling Fred, while he eats breakfast, that they’re marriage is dead — at least in the romance department.

He dismisses her pleas for passion and takes off with his buddy Will Banbury (Andrew Carter, also seen in “Once in a Lifetime” as well as “Yentl”) to hit the links.

Enter Clemens’ Jane Banbury, near hysteric as she tells Julia that their Frenchman Maurice Duclos (David Breitbarth)  is in London.

The first act finds the women humorously confirming they are both “ripe for a lapse” and, after initially planning to flea the city, staying and pledging to remain friends no matter who Maurice fancies when he comes calling.

By the second act it’s 9 p.m. and the women are antsy because they haven’t heard from their handsome Frenchman.

Strong martinis are followed by a bottle of champagne and plates of oysters — among other food items — as the two friends, fueled by alcohol, slur insults at each other.

The results are laugh-out-loud funny.

Hampton and Clemens’ timing is spot-on as they trade barbs in between stuffing their faces with (real) food and (fake) booze.

More guffaws come courtesy of Julia’s exchanges with her know-it-all maid Saunders, portrayed by gifted Asolo Rep veteran Carolyn Michel.

Granted, the third act doesn’t quite live up to the second despite the sustained ace performances by the cast and smart direction by Peter Amster (who also oversaw Asolo Rep’s winning production of “Deathtrap” last season.)

But, on balance, “Fallen Angels” is frothy fun of the best kind, worth attending if only to watch Hampton and Clemens crush during the second act.

—Photo: From left, Kate Hampton and Hillary Clemens star in the Asolo Repertory Theatre’s production of “Fallen Angels.” ANNAMAE BAFIA/PUBLICITY PHOTO

Details: Through May 13, Asolo Repertory’s Mertz Theatre, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Tickets: $27-$71. Information: 941-351-8000 or

Friday, March 9, 2012

Reba McEntire closes Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City

The Florida Strawberry Festival, famous for its namesake fruit and booking top country music acts, closes Sunday with a performance at 7:30 p.m. by country music queen Reba McEntire, who recently starred in an episode of “Oprah’s Master Class” on the OWN network.

On it, the singer talked about the plane crash that killed seven members of her band and her tour manager more than 20 years ago.

"I don't guess it ever quits hurting," she said on the show. "It's the worst thing that's ever happened in my life."

—Publicity photo

Details: 303 N. Lemon St., Plant City. Admission: Adults: $8 (advance)/$10 (gate); Youths ages 6-12: $4 (advance)/$5 (gate). Children ages 5 and younger admitted free with paid adult. Concert tickets: $50 for reserved seating. Information: 813-754-1996 or

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Bradenton-bound country singer Jerrod Niemann's bus burns in Tenn.

Country singer Jerrod Niemann, who I interviewed last week for a story to advance his March 9 show at Joyland in Bradenton, and everyone aboard his tour bus are safe after the vehicle burned in Chattanooga, Tenn., reports the Associated Press.

I just got off the phone with Niemann's Nashville-based publicist who confirmed he is fine and will perform Friday at Joyland in Bradenton.

"Thanks to everyone for all the bus comments & wishes," Niemann tweeted around 11:30 a.m. today. "Had friends, family (Dad & Uncle) & we thank God for letting us wake up today!"

UPDATED 3/8: Read my interview with Niemann:

Moody Blues' Graeme Edge to release book of 'Written Works'

Graeme Edge publicity photo
Gregg Allman isn't the only rocker with local ties releasing a book this spring.

Downtown Bradenton resident Graeme Edge also has one coming out to coincide with his band The Moody Blues' 32-city U.S. tour “The Moody Blues: The Voyage Continues – Highway 45,” celebrating the 45th anniversary of the prog-rock group's pioneering breakthrough album "Days of Future Passed."

In conjunction with the tour, drummer Edge, poetic-lyricist for the band since the release of “Days of Future Passed,” will issue “The Written Works of Graeme Edge.”

The book will include poems written by Edge, including his lyrics from the band’s many albums, preceded by recollections and stories of their recordings. The book will cover Edge’s “Morning Glory – Late Lament” from the “Days” album recorded in 1967, to “22,000 Days” from the “Long Distance Voyager” album recorded in 1981 to “Nothing Changes” from “Strange Times,” the band’s last studio release in 1999, and more, and will be available exclusively on the tour

The tour kicks off March 11 at Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood (Fla.). Dates, VIP experience details and on sale information are available through the Moody Blues’ official website.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Win copy of signed Gregg Allman autobiography out May 1

Will he name names when it came to partying in Bradenton and on Anna Maria Island?

Who really did burn down the Oar House?

What will he have to say about Dickey Betts?

Or Dan Toler?

Former Manatee County resident Gregg Allman's autobiography "My Cross to Bear," comes out May 1.

"As one of the greatest rock icons of all time, Gregg Allman has lived it all and then some," reads the publicity material. "For almost 50 years, he's been creating some of the most recognizable songs in American rock, but never before has he paused to reflect on the long road he's traveled. Now, he tells the unflinching story of his life, laying bare the unvarnished truth about his wild ride that has spanned across the years."

The book promises to set "the record straight about the band's struggles in the face of death" ... "While the rock and roll excesses of drugs, alcohol, and personality clashes led to a series of breakups that culminated with the band's permanent reunion in 1989, (Allman) fought his own battle with substance abuse, going to rehab no less than eleven times and floating through a string of failed marriages, including his tabloid-frenzied relationship with Cher, before finally cleaning up once and for all."

To reward pre-orders, the publishers have put a contest with prizes that include signed merchandise such as a copy of the book, signed posters or copies of Allman's latest solo release, the hit "Low Country Blues," and the grand prize includes two tickets to any Allman Brothers Band or Gregg Allman Band show.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Asolo Rep announces 2012-13 season

Michael Edwards/Herald file photo
The Asolo Repertory Theatre’s 54th season will be all about the U.S.A.

But not exactly in a jingoistic way.

Announced today by Michael Edwards, producing artistic director, and Linda DiGabriele, managing director, the 2012-13 roster features four Pulitzer Prize winning plays, three Tony Award winners and one world premiere, all centering around the theme "The American Character."

The project will examine and celebrate the people, culture, history and experiences that make our country unique while serving as a guiding, artistic principle for the Asolo Rep over the next five seasons. 

After 2012-2013, the following four seasons will feature select productions that explore what it means to be an American. The American Character Project will also increase the commitment to new American playwriting, with Asolo Rep pledging to produce at least one world premiere each season.

“The American Character Project is a five year artistic initiative that poses a series of galvanizing questions: what is the American character? How did it come to be? What is its nature? How has it evolved into what it is now? Where is it going?” said Edwards, an Australian, in a statement. “It’s impossible to ever concretely define such a vast, far-reaching concept as the American character, but that is precisely why it is worth exploring. These questions provide a gateway to a truly collaborative experience that we will share with our audiences."

Edwards has assembled a creative advisory group of American theater artists who are already informing the programming for the American Character Project. The group consists of Tony Award-
winning director Frank Galati, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwrights Lynn Nottage and Nilo Cruz as well as artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival Bill Rauch.

“They are true creative companions,” Edwards said in a statement. “Providing exciting ideas and inspiring our whole organization as we embark on this journey.”

Frank Galati/Herald file photo
The 2012-2013 begins with the musical "1776" (Nov. 16-Dec. 22). Directed by Galati, the 1969 Tony Award winner for Best Musical follows John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Richard Henry Lee and Thomas Jefferson  as they attempt to convince the members of the second Continental Congress to vote for freedom from the British monarchy by signing the Declaration of Independence.

The 2013 Repertory Season brings four Pulitzer Prize winning plays in a row to Asolo Rep, beginning with George Kaufman and Moss Hart’s "You Can’t Take it With You" (Jan. 4-April 20, 2013). Directed by Peter Amster (of Asolo Rep’s "Deathtrap" and upcoming "Fallen Angels").  Winner of the 1937 Pulitzer Prize, "You Can’t Take it With You" examines the American Dream.

Opening next in repertory is David Mamet's 1984 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner "Glengarry Glen Ross" (Jan. 11-Feb. 28, 2013). A biting look at a greed-infested 1980s real estate office, Mamet’s characters stop at nothing to get ahead with a profit. This production will be directed by the artistic director of New York’s Keen Company, Carl Forsman (of Asolo Rep’s "A Few Good Men").

Third in the Rep lineup is Wendy Wasserstein’s "The Heidi Chronicles" (Jan. 19-March 20, 2013), winner of the 1989 Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Awards for Best Play. It tells the story of Heidi Holland, a successful art historian, as she tries to find her bearings in a rapidly changing world. This production is being directed by Cleveland Play House’s Associate Artistic Director Laura Kepley.

The final Pulitzer Prize winner of the repertory season will be Bruce Norris’ 2011 winner "Clybourne Park" (March 15-May 2, 2013), directed by Edwards. Told from the perspective of the white couple that sells their house to the black family in Lorraine Hansberry’s "A Raisin in the Sun," "Clybourne Park,"  gives a modern twist to the issues of racism, housing and the dream for a better life. This production will travel to the South Miami-Dade Cultural Center for a week of performances after it concludes at Asolo Rep.

Asolo Rep is also presenting a world premiere March 22, 2013, as part of The American Character Project. "To ensure the highest quality of work is presented to our community, Asolo Rep is conducting a thorough search for just the right piece, and so cannot reveal the title at this time," reads a statement from the company. "Because of 'Unplugged,' Asolo Rep’s new play festival, the choices of cutting-edge work are growing, and we look forward to letting you know what piece we will be premiering soon."

The final repertory production will be Ken Ludwig’s  Sherlock Holmes-esque"The Game’s Afoot" (March 29-May 12, 2013). The murder mystery comedy sets the scene in a snowy Connecticut mansion where American star William Gillette (best known for his iconic portrayal of Sherlock Holmes), invites his co-stars from his current production for a Christmas Eve celebration. When one of the guests is murdered, Gillette employs the persona of the master detective he’s made famous on the stage. This is only the second production, the first having been produced at Cleveland Play House. It will be directed by Greg Leaming, associate artistic director at Asolo Rep.

"Pulse" (May 23-June 16, 2013) is a new dance musical created by and starring Broadway performer Noah Racey. Pulse will be directed by" Bonnie & Clyde" director and Tony Award nominee Jeff Calhoun.

The final summer musical will be announced at a later date and will begin June 21.

Alongside its season, Asolo Rep will also present "Unplugged," a festival of new play readings performed by the 2012-2013 acting company, and Asolo Rep presents an FSU/Asolo Conservatory production of "The Tragedy of Macbeth" (Oct. 2-3, 2013) as its New Stages 2012 tour.

The 2012- 2013 Florida State University/Asolo Conservatory 2012- 2013 Season:

The FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training also announced its 2012–2013 season, which features some of the country’s most talented acting students performing in a series of four plays in The Cook Theatre at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts. In addition to the second year class season, third year Conservatory students perform on the Asolo Rep mainstage with the professional company.

"Twelfth Night" by William Shakespeare (Oct. 30-Nov. 18)

One of Shakespeare’s best known comedies, full of music, laughter and the high drama of young love, starring the entire second year student body of the FSU/Asolo Conservatory.

"The Aliens" by Annie Baker (Jan. 1-20, 2013)

In a back lot behind a Vermont coffee shop, two social outcasts befriend an innocent young employee from the shop. In doing so they teach him about friendship, commitment and what it means to grow into manhood.

"Stop/Kiss" by Diana Son (Feb. 19-March 10, 2013)

Two young women in New York spend a quiet evening together talking about their boyfriends and life. In the process, as they sense a growing, unspoken attraction for each other, an innocent kiss results in a savage gay-bashing, resulting in a complex story about hatred, love, and the difficulties of living life fully.

"Candida" by George Bernard Shaw (April 9-28, 2013)

A minister’s wife must choose between a passionate young poet who is smitten with her, and her older but far more reliant husband. A comedy about love, passion and the liberated woman by one of the 20th century’s most venerable playwrights.

Tickets for Asolo Repertory Theatre’s 2012-2013 season and the FSU/Asolo Conservatory season are available through the Asolo Repertory Theatre box office by calling 941-351-8000 or toll-free, 800-361-8388. Tickets are also available online at

Thursday, March 1, 2012

UPDATED 3/2: Selena Gomez headed to Sarasota for filming of 'Spring Breakers'

UPDATED 3/2: 'Justin Bieber babe Selena Gomez shooting movie next week in Sarasota'

It appears the movie "Spring Breakers," starring Oscar nominee James Franco and singer/former Disney darling/current Justin Bieber girlfriend Selena Gomez, will be filming next week at the Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota.

Writer-director Harmony Korine ("Kids," "Gummo") will shoot scenes with Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens ("High School Musical"), Ashley Benson ("Pretty Little Liars") and Heather Morris ("Glee") on the local campus, according to a report in the Tampa Bay Times.

Franco will reportedly not be in Sarasota and join the production at a later, undisclosed date in St. Pete Beach.

The film is about four college girls who go to jail after robbing a restaurant in order to fund their spring break vacation,  according to They then find themselves bailed out by a drug and arms dealer who wants them to do some dirty work.

Christine Meeker-Lange, special assistant to the president for media and community relations at Ringling College, told the Times that exteriors will be filmed on campus as well as scenes in student housing and a laundry room.

"We don't have the details of who is shooting when," Meeker-Lange said. "I think that's purposeful and I appreciate that. We want them to have the best experience possible."

—Photo: Selena Gomez performs at the 2011 MTV European Music Awards in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in November. Credit: Joel Ryan/Associated Press

INTERVIEW: Jerrod Niemann on new single 'Shinin' On Me'

Rising country star Jerrod Niemann —whose hits include "Lover, Lover," "What Do You Want" and "One More Drinkin' Song" — just released his new song, "Shinin' on Me."

He wrote the lead single from his upcoming second album with buddies Lee Brice, Rob Hatch and Lance Miller. The four musicians were in Austin at Lake Travis playing AquaPalooza with Brad Paisley in 2010.

"It was just one of those magical moments," Niemann said when he called today while en route to a concert in Knoxville, Tenn. "We were back in the bus and there was this wonderful Texas breeze.

"It was such a great day and we were like,  'Why can’t everyday be like this when life sucks?'

"And we just started jamming and the song wrote itself, which doesn't happen very often. Those guys are all friends of mine and it's such a joy to write tunes with people you enjoy."

Niemann, on tour with Miranda Lambert, has been performing "Shinin' On Me" on acoustic guitar in concert.

"I always look at the philosophy of, 'If you can write it on guitar you should be able to perform it that way,'" he said. "It's fun to add stuff to it but at the end of day you have to be able to play it on your own."

I interviewed Niemann for an upcoming story to advance his March 9 show with Brice and Tyler Farr at Joyland in Bradenton.

—Jerrod Niemann publicity photo from