Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Honoring Marvin Gaye: John Legend joins Kennedy Center program

Marvin Gaye's game-changing 1971 album "What's Going On" is the inspiration for a new curriculum aimed at "encouraging young artists to engage in social issues," reports the Associated Press.

Tuesday it was announced that John Legend is joining the Kennedy Center to start a program in honor of Gaye, one of the most important singers (and songwriters) of his generation.

Read more.

Monday, January 30, 2012

LISTEN: Jack White's new single 'Love Interruption'

Here's "Love Interruption," the first single off Jack White's upcoming solo debut album, "Blunderbuss."

The digital version of the acoustic guitar-based, terrifically spooky, 1960s-feeling track with female backing vocals will be available to purchase at midnight.

"Blunderbuss" will be released April 24 on Third Man Records/ Columbia.

A vinyl version of the "Love Interruption" single featuring exclusive non-LP B-side "Machine Gun Silhouette" will be released Feb. 7 on Third Man Records, but is available now for pre-order at www.jackwhiteIII.com and www.thirdmanrecords.com.

White produced and recorded "Blunderbuss" at his own Third Man Studio in Nashville.

In a publicity he said it is "an album I couldn't have released until now. I've put off making records under my own name for a long time but these songs feel like they could only be presented under my name. These songs were written from scratch, had nothing to do with anyone or anything else but my own expression, my own colors on my own canvas."

—Jack White publicity photo courtesy of Third Man Records

Picking on the 'Best Pictures'

I’ve been a bad cinema-goer this past year.

Of the nine movies up for Best Picture at the Feb. 26 Academy Awards I’ve seen only one.

Regardless, I feel inclined to give my opinion on each anyway — just like everybody else does.

Read more here: http://www.bradenton.com/2012/01/29/v-print/3826615/picking-on-the-best-pictures.html#storylink=cpy

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Gasparilla survival guide

The Gasparilla Pirate Fest, better known as the Gasparilla Day Parade, has been a Tampa Bay tradition for more than 100 years.

The swashbuckler-themed event can be a wonderful afternoon spent along beautiful Bayshore Boulevard and throughout downtown.

Or it can be a disaster.

It all depends on your planning.

And self-discipline.

The parade officially takes place from 2 to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, but expect people to start showing up at dawn to reserve a spot and filling the neighboring bars until Last Call.

Here are 15 tips to help you have a safe, fun day while surrounded by 400,000 party people.

Read more.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

REVIEW: Asolo Rep gets risqué with ’Yentl’

The Asolo Repertory Theatre pushes the envelope with its highly sexualized staging of “Yentl.”

Superb acting throughout carries the play. It’s frequently steamy on stage as the actors successfully sell the many, intricate modes of young lust. The welcome comedic elements are delivered with charming aplomb.

A smart, fresh score by original “I Kissed a Girl” singer/songwriter Jill Sobule functions as wonderfully innovative Greek chorus.

The songs are strongly performed by a band of mostly Asolo Conservatory students. While the sonics lean toward Old World folk, the lyrics give the play a winning, contemporary edge.

But there are times when director Gordon Greenberg tries too hard to make the show hip.

For starters, there’s full-frontal male nudity sans complete disclaimer.

(Signs outside the entrance and all the Asolo Rep website warn about is “some mature themes and brief nudity.")

Moreover, considering the countless ways such a swimming scene could have been handled, the staging can only be described as gratuitous.

At most, a few bare bottoms would’ve sufficed.

(Incidentally, the Asolo Rep’s latest has production little to do with the Barbra Streisand movie musical of the same name except for the major plot points.)

The play by Leah Napolin and Isaac Bashevis, based on Singer’s short story “Yentl The Yeshiva Boy,” begins with a young Jewish woman seeking to enjoy the same education as her male peers in 19th-century Eastern Europe.

After her tutoring father dies, teenage girl Yentl (Hillary Clemens) dresses in his clothes and transforms herself into boy Anshel so she can continue studying Judaism.

Older student Avigdor (Andrew Carter) defends the effeminate Anshel and the two become best friends.

Yentl falls in love with Avigdor while maintaining her masquerade, and the idea of his sexuality comes into question as they exchange romantic glances.

The story takes its strangest turn when Yentl learns that Avigdor was rejected by bride-to-be Hadass (Gisela Chipe) and then marries her to bring the three into a love triangle.

Yentl shares the marriage bed and takes Hadass’ virginity (a sheet is held up and crass comment made).
Meanwhile, Avigdor marries pushy shopkeeper Pesha (Summer Dawn Wallace).

Clemens, who’s also great as May Daniels in Asolo Rep’s “Once in a Lifetime,” shines as the character who has “the soul of a man in the body of a woman.” 

The plays ends with many questions regarding the future of the main characters, except for the nonconformist Yentl.

—SCOTT BRAUN/PUBLICITY PHOTO of Hillary Clemens and Andrew Carter

Details: Playing through April 6, Asolo Repertory’s Mertz Theatre, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Tickets: $27-$71. Information: 941-351-8000 or www.asolorep.org

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

UPDATED 12:45 p.m.: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band to play Tampa

UPDATED 12:45 p.m. (via email from Tampa Bay Times Forum — note prices still not listed): Tickets for the show go on sale this Saturday, January 28 at 11 a.m. at the McDonald’s Ticket Office at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, Ticketmaster outlets and at Ticketmaster.com. To order tickets by phone call 800.745.3000.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's "Wrecking Ball" World Tour has a date at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on March 23.

No prices have been announced yet but tickets go on sale Jan. 28, according to Springsteen's website.

It's the third stop of the tour, following the March 6 release of the album "Wrecking Ball," and only Florida date.

This will be the band's first tour since the death of sax man Clarence Clemons.
Springsteen recently released "We Take Care of Our Own," the first single off the upcoming album (watch official video below).

I wrote about it Sunday:
One of the few superstar artists left who still makes music that matters, Bruce Springsteen offers a powerful, nuanced slice of poetic rock ’n’ roll on his new single “We Take Care of Our Own.”

Propulsive drums push the fist-pumping melody.

Then there’s a chorus that could easily be mistaken for simple jingoism.

“Wherever this flag is flown,” Springsteen sings. “We take care of our own.”

It’s easy to get lost in the inviting mix of potent percussion, cutting modern guitar, somber keyboards and rich strings — but pay attention to the verses.

There’s a darkness on the edge of each line.

Read more here: http://www.bradenton.com/2012/01/22/v-print/3808230/bruce-springsteen-issues-potent.html#storylink=cpy

Read more.

—Publicity photo by Jo Lopez 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

UPDATED 1/20: Sarasota Blues Fest has earlier date, new name, long-time organizer has left

UPDATED 1/20: "Later that same day, Barbara Strauss told the Herald from her home in Sarasota that she had parted ways with the festival..."

The Sarasota Blues Fest typically takes place around the first Saturday in November.

But the 22nd annual edition — now dubbed the Sarasota Blues and Music Fest — will take place Saturday, Sept. 29.

Houston-based ExtremeTix and Three Zebras Entertainment, which took over ownership of the Sarasota Blues Fest last year, made the announcement this morning.

The debut Bradenton Blues Festival is scheduled to take place at the Bradenton Riverwalk at Rossi Park (currently under construction) in downtown on Saturday, Dec. 1.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Can LL Cool J save Grammys?

LL Cool J publicity photo
The Grammys have become one of the great yawn-inducing awards shows of the year.

Perhaps with that in mind, The Recording Academy has chose rapper-actor LL Cool J to host the event when it airs Feb. 12.

For the past seven years, the show limped along sans emcee.

The performers already confirmed for the upcoming broadcast are Foo Fighters, Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars and Jason Aldean.

Anyone excited?

Does the thought of watching Swift act surprised to win her millionth award make anyone else feel a little sick?

Read more here.

Friday, January 13, 2012

REVIEW: The Fonz makes ‘happy days’ at Manatee Players

Bringing one of the most iconic, super-cool characters in sitcom history to the stage and making him sing would surely be disastrous without the right actor.

Fortunately, for the Manatee Players, Travis Rogers turns in an Aaaay-plus performance as the Fonz in the Bradenton community theater company’s production of “Happy Days: A New Musical,” which opened Thursday.

He has the hair, jeans, leather jacket and that all important swagger.

Rogers recreates every signature gesture and catch phrase with nearly the same streetwise élan that made Henry Winkler a star.

He also sings in a manly manner while still managing to emote his feelings for Pinky, who is played by Taylor Elizabeth with winning sass, charm and vulnerability.

Paul Williams’ bouncy melodies are brought to life by the ace seven-piece band led by conductor/keyboard player Rick Bogner. The famed singer/songwriter’s lyrics aren’t exactly memorable but they propel the story develop the characters as needed.

As for the book, “Happy Days” creator Garry Marshall wrote it, giving the dialogue many of the same hallmarks of the hit TV show.

But not all the jokes work.

No matter how well some lines are delivered by the capable cast they just sit in the air as if waiting to be rescued by a laugh track.

As for the plot, well, it’s predictable and ridiculous and exactly what you’d expect from a musical version of “Happy Days,” the sitcom that made the world look pretty much perfect during the Eisenhower Era.

The gang’s main hangout, Arnold’s, is going to be demolished to make room for something called a mall. The plan is to prevent its destruction by raising funds with a dance contest and wrestling match that will be televised.

The major second act dilemma boils down to whether The Fonz will overcome his “weak” knee and save the day by beating the bad-guy Malachi brothers (Matthew Boerner and Tyler Johnson).

The Manatee Players’ production is silly fun marked by Rogers’ wonderful homage to Winkler.

—Photo of Travis Rogers as The Fonz by PAUL VIDELA/pvidela@bradenton.com

Details: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays Jan. 12-29, Riverfront Theatre, 102 Old Main St., Bradenton. Tickets: $25/$11 (students) Information: 941-748-5875 or www.manateeplayers.com.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

REVIEW: Asolo Rep’s ‘Once in a Lifetime’ full of laughs

A satire of the film industry when it premiered in 1930, “Once in a Lifetime” works as a winking, rather than biting, comedy in the successful new staging by Asolo Repertory Theatre.

Sure, the first collaboration by famed playwright team George Kaufman and Moss Hart has several references so buried in dust that only film buffs will chuckle at them in recognition.

But the play’s zany appeal remains largely vibrant throughout regardless of its age and at times flimsy premise.

“Once in a Lifetime” takes the audience across the country via Pullman car with three vaudevillians who land in Hollywood to teach silent film actors how to speak on camera in the new age of “talkies.”

Jerry Hyland (Andrew Carter) thinks he’s the ringleader but it’s May Daniels (Hillary Clemens) who runs the show. George Lewis (Jason Bradley) is the rube who does what he’s told, at least for the most part.

Carter is a reliable straight man while Daniels gets the most zingers and delivers each with winning aplomb. Bradley deftly plays the egoless idiot who becomes the studio golden child.

David Breitbarth swings for the fences and touches all the bases as unhinged movie mogul Herman Glogauer.

A mere 19 actors play more than 70 roles, with the professionals and Asolo Conservatory students working together seamless through the numerous scenes.

Credit director Mark Rucker for keeping the comedic timing mostly spot-on and the action moving swiftly without ever getting lost in all those exits and entrances.

The look of the play also merits praise.

Set Designer Erik Flatmo and Costume Designer Alex Jaeger make each scene an eye-catching experience, even if it’s just the three leads moping around a hotel room in New York.

And then there are the more subtle details.

Like the way the actors bounce while riding on the train and the desert scenery is projected behind them as an homage to old movies.

Another treat is the actual film, supposedly shot within the story, that’s projected in front of the stage.

Yeah, “Once in a Lifetime” is screwball silliness.

But done remarkably, laugh-out-loud well.

—PUBLICITY PHOTO From left, Andrew Carter (Jerry Hyland), Jason Bradley (George Lewis) and Hillary Clemens (May Daniels).

What: “Once in a Lifetime”
When: Playing through Feb. 29
Where: Asolo Repertory’s Mertz Theatre, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota
Tickets: $27-$71
Information: 941-351-8000 or www.asolorep.org

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Red Hot Chili Peppers postpone tour, Tampa date

Red Hot Chili Peppers lead singer Anthony Keidis (pictured far right) and his bum foot has reportedly pushed back the band's tour.

This just in from the Tampa Bay Times Forum (formerly St. Pete Times Forum):
Red Hot Chili Peppers regret to announce that they must postpone the start of their upcoming U.S. tour due to multiple foot injuries sustained by lead singer, Anthony Kiedis.  Kiedis recently underwent surgery to remove a crushed sesamoid bone and correct a detached flexor tendon in his foot.  He is expected to make a full recovery.
The Tampa Bay Times Forum will now host the opening date of the tour on Thursday, March 29. Tickets for the original January 23 date will be honored for the rescheduled date.  Refunds are available at point of purchase. 
TICKETS:  Tickets for this show are on sale now at the McDonald’s Ticket Office at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, Ticketmaster outlets and at Ticketmaster.com.  To order tickets by phone call 800.745.3000.  Ticket prices are $39.00 and $59.00 (Facility fee and service charges not included).  For dinner reservations at the newly renovated Firestick Grill on the day of the event please visit tampabaytimesforum.com or call 813.301.6926 for more information.  Advanced parking passes are available at www.Ticketmaster.com and the ticket office.
—Publicity photo by Ellen von Unwerth 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

REVIEW: Golden Apple spotlights Neal Sedaka

“Breaking Up is Hard to Do” offers a sweet, slice of escapist nostalgia.

Especially if you grew up in, or have perhaps idealized, an Eisenhower-era of innocent romance that probably never existed.

The Golden Apple Dinner Theatre’s production of the Neal Sedaka-celebrating jukebox musical from 2005 has barely enough of a book by Ben H. Winters and Erik Jackson to connect the 18 songs:
"Where the Boys Are", "Sweet Sixteen", "Calendar Girl", “Love Will Keep Us Together,” and, of course, the chart-topping title tune, just to name a few.

Charming performances, particularly by Sarah Cassidy (as Marge Gelman) and Robby May (Gabe Green) also greatly help goose along the paper-thin plot about Lois (Alana Opie) and Marge.

It’s 1960 and Marge just got dumped so the two friends go to a low-rent Catskill resort for the Labor Day weekend in search of love.

Or at least fun.

Aspiring singer Marge falls for house crooner Del Delmonico (Brian Minyard) before realizing he’s a phony and nerd Gabe is the one who really has the goods.

It’s one of those plot points that announces itself from about six numbers away but works thanks to the chops of Cassidy and May.

Meanwhile, manager Esther Simowitz (Helen Holliday) and veteran stand-up comic/emcee Harvey Feldman (Steve Carroll) engage in a wonderful war of words and barely hidden romance. Their verbal jabs are true treats as is their stirring second act duet of “King of Clowns.”

In the end, everybody in the cast happily sings “Love Will Keep Us Together,” the song Sedaka co-wrote with Howard Greenfield in 1973 that became a mega hit for The Captain and Tennille a couple years later.

It’s a silly love song, and the show is far from substantial but it’s hard not to walk away feeling a bit uplifted by “Breaking Up is Hard to Do.”

Photo (from left) of Sarah Cassidy, Robby May and Alana Opie by Cliff Roles/Courtesy of Golden Apple Dinner Theatre.

Details: Playing through Feb. 26, Golden Apple Dinner Theatre, 25 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota. Tickets: $45 for dinner and show. Information: (941) 366-5454 or www.thegoldenapple.com.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

UPDATED 1/6: Florida Sound Stage opens in former Sanborn Studios Lakewood Ranch facility


A mere weeks after Sanborn Studios, LLC terminated the lease at its primary facility in Lakewood Ranch the space is back open for business under new, local management.

D&B Media Group now operates Florida Sound Stage in Lakewood Ranch.

Read more.

—Photo of sound stage courtesy D&B Media Group

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Manatee Players 2012-13 season announced

“Miss Saigon” will make its Manatee Players premiere during the company’s just announced 2012-13 season.

The national award-winning theater troupe is letting folks have a little fun with guessing the opener, though, which will also be a downtown Bradenton debut when it runs Aug. 16 through Sept. 2.

“We can’t legally tell you what this show title is, but you don’t have to be blonde to figure it out!” said Denny Miller, the Manatee Players’ marketing director, in a statement issued this afternoon.

The majority of the roster is confirmed.

It 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).

In addition to “Miss Saigon,” “Pump Boys and the Dinettes” as well as “Plaid Tidings” will be first timers to the Manatee Players’ stage.

There’s still an opening for the Jan. 17-Feb. 3, 2013 slot.

“Hopefully, the TBA show will be announced in February,” Miller wrote.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

UPDATED 1/4: Iron Butterfly and Captain Beyond guitarist Larry 'Rhino' Reinhardt dies in Bradenton


Former Iron Butterfly guitarist Larry “Rhino” Reinhardt died Monday at Manatee Memorial Hospital in Bradenton.

Reinhardt was 63 years old and battling several illnesses, according to his longtime friend and music collaborator Richard Price.

“It was a culmination of a lot of things,” he said.

Reinhardt, a Manatee County native, can be heard on Iron Butterfly’s 1970 album “Metamorphosis.” It reached No. 16 on the Billboard 200 and produced the hit single “Easy Rider (Let the Wind Pay the Way).”

Two year later Reinhardt cofounded Captain Beyond, which released a self-titled album on famed Southern rock label Capricorn Records in 1972 and another, titled “Sufficiently Breathless,” in 1973. The group’s final release, “Dawn Explosion,” came out on One Way Records/Warner Bros. in 1977. All three albums cracked the Billboard 200 with “Sufficiently Breathless” reaching No. 90.

“Captain Beyond has a rather legendary status in the ranks of hard ’70s rock,” reads the entry from AllMusic.com.

Reinhardt began his career in the 1960s playing around Bradenton and Sarasota before he relocated to Jacksonville to play with future Allman Brothers Band members Berry Oakley (bass) and Dickey Betts (guitar/vocals) in the group Second Coming, which later featured Price on bass.

Reinhardt and Price, who is most famous for his work with Lucinda Williams, would perform together again during the past decade. The two men spoke shortly before Reinhardt’s death.

“He was a great friend and had a great sense of humor,” Price said from his home in Sarasota. “He was always there if you needed him.”

Price considers Reinhardt one of the best guitarist of his generation.

“He’s truly in the top 10 of greatest Southern rock, psychedelic, blues-rock players,” Price said. “He’s up there with all the great rock players of his time.”

--Photo of Reinhardt by Mark T. Kracker taken in March of 2011.