Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Sarasota's Florida Studio Theatre extends "Spamalot" again

  People in the Bradenton-Sarasota area obviously like "Spamalot" a lot.
   The Florida Studio Theatre production of the Monty Python-inspired musical was originally supposed to run through Jan. 15. Then it was extended until Jan. 19. 
FST's "Spamalot"
(Photo by Maria Lyle)

   Now FST has added another full week of "Spamalot." It's now slated to run through Jan. 25 at the Gompertz Theatre at 241 N. Palm Ave. in Sarasota.
   The show, by John Du Prez and Python's Eric Idle, is essentially a reworking of the film "Monty Python and the
Holy Grail," with some other classic Python bits, a lot of pokes at the conventions of musical theater and some hilarious songs. It's a load of fun.
   Tickets are $42-45. Curtain times vary. Call 941-366-9000 or go to www.floridastudiotheatre.org for more details.
   Here's a review of the production: www.bradenton.com/2013/11/28/4856767/spamalot-succeeds-in-sarasota.html

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Sarasota Ballet offers a beautiful, original "Nutcracker."

   Going to see an unfamiliar version of "The Nutcracker" is  a bit of crap shoot. There are many more bad stagings of the classic ballet than good ones, and attempts to "reimagine" it fail much more often than they succeed.
   That makes the experience of the Sarasota Ballet's "John Ringling's Circus Nutcracker" all the more rewarding. Its ideas are interesting and its execution is gorgeous.
   This is the second year for this "Nutcracker," which so far has not been performed anywhere else in the world. There are two more performances today (Saturday, Dec. 21).
   The story has been moved to New York City in the 1930s, where art deco architecture and Depression-era fashion offer a different visual palette than we're used to to seeing in "The Nutcracker." The characters John Ringling and his family, shortly after the death of Mable Ringling.
A scene from ""The Nutcracker"

   The translation works, and the story fits the familiar E.T.A. Hoffman outline without much a stretch.
   The choreography by Matthew Hart is tasteful and clever -- he incorporates ballroom dance styles of the era and Michael Jackson-esque pseudo-gangster reference into the ballet -- and the sets and costumes by Peter Doherty are lovely.
   Performances from the entire cast, from principals all the way through to the very young students dancers, are confident and meticulous. And the Sarasota Orchestra plays Tchaikovsky's music -- perhaps the most familiar classical music of all time -- beautifully.
   Given all that's great about this staging, it feels odd to say that its curtain is a major flaw. But before both act one and act two, the audience has to look at a curtain dominated  garish, amateurish and just plain ugly image of the Nutcracker's face It serves an interesting function in the opening of each act, and it's easy to see why someone thought it would work, but since the audience has to look at something so creepy for 20 to 30 minutes, it's a significant scar on a production that's otherwise pristine.
   Once the curtain has been raised, though, this "Nutcracker" is a marvelous thing to see and hear.
   Remaining shows are at 2  and 8 p.m. today, at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Tickets are $15-$100. call 941-359-0099 ext. 101 or go to www.sarasotaballet.org.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Alfie Boe cancels March 6 Tampa concert

   Alfie Boe's March 6 concert at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa has been canceled. The announcement from the Straz Center did not give a reason and didn't indicate that the show would be rescheduled.  
Alfie Boe

  If you bought tickets with a credit card, you should get a refund automatically. If you paid for tickets with cash or a check, you should receive a refund check within the next week or two.
   The box office number is 813-229-7827. The website address is www.strazcenter.org.

Carolina Chocolate Drops play Tampa Feb. 1

   The Carolina Chocolate Drops seemed to come out of nowhere when they caused a sensation with their 2010 album "Genuine Negro Jig." They went onto win the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album that year, and since then they've cemented a reputation for their mix of virtuosity, innovation and respect for musical tradition.
The Carolina Chocolate Drops
They'll be in Tampa Feb. 1 for a concert at Ferguson Hall at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts.

   They start with material culled from the Piedmont region of the Carolinas, and re-interpret it, highlighting the central role African-Americans played in shaping American popular music.
  Tickets are $24.50 plus service charge. Call 813-229-7827 or go to www.strazcenter.org.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Florida Studio Theatre in Sarasota extends "Spamalot"

    The Florida Studio Theatre production of "Monty's Python's Spamalot" is very funny.
It's also very popular.
FST's "Spamalot"
  So the people at FST have extended the run for a few days. It's now slated to run through Jan. 19 at FST's Gompertz Theatre, 241 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota. 
   Tickets are $42-$45. Curtain times vary. Call 941-366-9000 or go to www.floridastudiotheatre.org for more details.
   Here's a review of the production: www.bradenton.com/2013/11/28/4856767/spamalot-succeeds-in-sarasota.html

Read more here: http://www.bradenton.com/2013/11/28/4856767/spamalot-succeeds-in-sarasota.html#storylink=cpy

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Grant and Gill perform together in Sarasota

   Amy Grant and her hubby Vince Gill often perform Christmas tours together, but they don't usually do concerts together otherwise. This spring though, they'll be co-headlining a tour that's coming to Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota on March 21.
Vince Gill
   Grant and Gill will perform alongside each other for the entire show, playing and singing from each other’s extensive catalog of hits.

   Their four-piece band features steel guitar wizard Paul Franklin (who's featured on Gill's new album “Bakersfield”) and drummer Greg Morrow, keyboardist Tony Harrell and bass guitarist Mike Brignardello, all from Grant's backing group.
   Together, Grant and Gill have sold more than 56 million albums and won 26 Grammys. Grant is in the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and Gill is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
   Tickets are $60-$85. For more information, call 941-953-3368 or visit www.vanwezel.org.

Ohio Players perform for free in Tampa

 The Ohio Players will headline will perform at the 14th Annual Black Heritage Throwback Saturday Music Fest in Tampa on Jan. 18. 
The Ohio Players
The two-day music festival is set for Jan. 18-19 at Curtis Hixon Park at 600 N. Ashley Drive in downtown Tampa. It runs 10 a.m.-7 p.m. each day. The Ohio Players are headlining the Saturday lineup, so you can expect them to take the stage between 4:40 and 5 p.m.
   The Ohio Players were one of the biggest funk bands of the 1970s, creating such hits as "Fire" and "Love Rollercoaster." They're still a popular concert draw -- they played in St. Petersburg this past June with Kool and the Gang -- and they take pride in performing without computer enhancement or sampling. In August they were inducted into the first class of the R&B Music Hall of Fame.
   For the full festival lineup and other information, go to www.TampaBlackHeritage.org.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Manatee Players add two 'Christmas Pageant' performances

    Manatee Players have added two performances of "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever." The new shows are at 4 p.m. Dec. 15 and 22.
   The show's in the Bradenton Kiwanis Studio Theater, the smaller of the two theaters at the Manatee Performing Arts Center. It about family show about some nasty kids
"The Best Christmas Pageant Ever"
who take over a church's traditional Christmas pageant.

   The Manatee Performing Arts Center is at 502 Third Ave. W in Bradenton. Besides the two newly added performances, curtain is at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, through Dec.22. The show's only about an hour long so it's appropriate even for young children.
    Tickets are $26. Go to www.manateeplayers.org or call 941-748-5875.

Jamey Johnson plays St. Petersburg Jan.17

   Country singer Jamey Johnson is coming to St. Petersburg.
   The acclaimed singer/songwriter, who has scored huge hits with his 2008 album "
That Lonesome Song" and its followup, 2010's "The Guitar Song," will be at the Mahaffey Theater Jan. 17.
   Johnson has earned a platinum album for "That Lonesome Song" and gold for "The Guitar Song," and his songs "Give
Jamey Johnson
It Away" and "In Color"
were both named Song of the Year by the Academy of County Music and by the Country Music Association. He's also been nominated for Grammy Awards five times.

   Last year Johnson released his fourth studio album, a duet tribute album to late songwriter Hank Cochran. The Grammy-nominated "Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran" paired him with Willie Nelson, Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris, Ray Price, Elvis Costello, George Strait, Vince Gill and Merle Haggard.   
   Tickets go on sale at noon Dec. 13. They'll set you back $29.50, $39.50 and $49.50. Go to  www.themahaffey.com, call 727-893-7832. You can also stop by the Mahaffey box office. The Mahaffey is at
401 First St. S., St. Petersburg.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Sarasota singer releases album, performs Tampa concert

   If you're up toward Tampa this evening, you might want to stop in and see Sarasota songstress Katherine Michelle Tanner in concert at Unity of Tampa. She'll be performing Christmas standards and her own original Christmas songs.
   There are a couple of reasons for the concert. It's a fundraiser for Gorilla Theatre, one of Tampa's oldest and best professional theater companies that is returning after a hiatus of several years.
   It's also a chance to buy her new CD, "Dreaming of a White Christmas," which was just released today.
   If you can't make the concert, you can get the album by emailing treefortprodcutions@gmail.com, leave your number and someone will contact you. (A website that will let people order is in the works.)

   Tanner's an accomplished singer and dancer, but she's best known to area audiences as an actor. She was recently in "Time Stands Still" for Banyan Theatre and "The Amish Project" at American Stage.
  Tampa Unity is at 3302 W. Horatio St. Call 813-879-2914. Tickets are $25 at the door.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Chris Cornell cancels concert in St. Petersburg

   The Chris Cornell/Bhi Bhiman concert scheduled for Friday at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg has been canceled.
    Cornell had to cancel a Nov. 27 show in Delaware to rest his shoulder after suffering a severe strain. He performed in
Cornell (second from left)
with Soundgarden

Atlanta Tuesday, but Wednesday morning, a doctor advised complete rest because the injury has worsened.

   All tickets will be refunded, which would seem to indicate there are no plans to reschedule. If you ordered through the phone or a website you should receive an automatic refund. If you bought tickets at the box office you'll have to go there and get your money back. The box office is open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. 

Sally Struthers charms as Dolly in Sarasota

   "Hello, Dolly!" is a great musical, and Sally Struthers is a hoot in the lead role.
   Struthers is heading the touring production that stopped at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota for two shows. The last one's this evening (Wednesday, Dec. 4) at 8 p.m.
   The cast is strong (Tuesday's performance has several understudies, so theoretically Wednesday's cast should be even better), with especially impressive acting and amazing dancr moves. They all had good, solid voices -- though none of the vocal work was truly exceptional -- and a lot of the dance moves were astounding. The pit orchestra's great and the costumes are gorgeous.
   Struthers sings OK -- though she certainly won't make you forget Barbra Streisand's performance in the film -- and she's disarming in her role. But she's at her funniest in a few scenes where she improvises and even interacts with the audience.
Struthers in "Hello, Dolly!"
   The production's only real weaknesses come in the set and lighting design. There are a couple of attractive sets, but most of them are cheap-looking and obviously designed for much smaller stages. And the lighting too often gives the show a day-glo look.
   People don't go to see musicals for the sets and the lighting, though. All those great Jerry Herman songs, plus some funny moments from Struthers and the rest of the cast, make this show well worth seeing.
   Van Wezel is at 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.Tickets are $35-$70.  Call 941-953-3368 or go to www.vanwezel.org.    


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Against Me! plays St. Peterburg's State Theatre

   Against Me! is one of the best bands in the country, and they're going to be at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg Jan. 24.
   That's just three days after the band will releases its sixth album, "Transgender Dysphoria Blues," their first since frontman Tom Gabel announced that he would change his name to Laura Jane Grace and start living as a woman.

Laura Jane Grace
   The Gainesville-based Against Me! made a splash in 2002 with their acclaimed debut album, "Against Me! Is Reinventing Axl Rose," and the band's 2007 album "New Wave" was named Album of the Year by Spin magazine.
   The Sidekicks and the Shondes open.
   Tickets are $15. You can get them at

   The State Theatre is at 687 Central Ave, St. Petersburg. Call 727-895-3045.

Rosie O'Donnell to perform at McCurdy's in Sarasota

   Rosie O’Donnell’s a talk-show host who’s won 10 Emmy Awards (counting Daytime Emmys), an actor who was the third baseman in “A League of their Own,” an author, a philanthropist and an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights and other progressive causes.
   All that makes it easy to forget that she got her start way back when as a stand-up comedian.
She’s doing stand-up again, and she’ll be doing it in
Sarasota next month.
O’Donnell will be at McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre for five shows, Jan. 17-19.
   It was O’Donnell’s stand-up comedy that first brought her to the nation’s attention when she appeared on Ed McMahon’s talent show “Star Search” in 1984. But she soon moved on to acting, and her popular talk show, “The Rose O’Donnell Show” premiered in 1996.
   She joined the cast of “The View” in 2006 and heated up that show’s political discussions.
   Earlier this year, O’Donnell announced that she was returning to stand-up with a tour of Australia.
   It’s reasonable to expect that this won’t be O’Donnell’s last show in the area. Back in October, she bought a $5-million house on Casey Key.
   She’ll be doing two shows at McCurdy's, at 7 and 9:15 p.m. on Jan.17 and 18, and a 7 p.m. show on Jan. 19. Tickets are $29 and $45.
   McCurdy’s is at 3333 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Call 941-925-3869 or go to www.mccurdyscomedy.com.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Tim Conway announces retirement, cancels Sarasota show

   It was only last month that the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall announced that Tim Conway had been added to its season schedule.
   Now comes the announcement that Conway has decided to retire from concert performance, and that he's canceled all his Florida appearances. Obviously, that includes his March 22 date in Sarasota.
Tim Conway

   Here's what the statement from the people at Van Wezel (apparently quoting from Conway's representatives) said:
   "After completing an exhausting and extensive national book tour promoting his autobiography, 'So You Think That's Funny,' Tim Conway, in consultation with his family, has decided that it's time to retire from performing live in concert on the road. Tim will truly miss this part of his performing career and will look back upon it with only very fond memories. He sincerely apologies for any inconveniences and disappointments this has caused to his fans and to the venues but believes that this is in his and his family's best interest going forward."
   Conway, of course, is best known from his stint on "The Carol Burnett Show." He'll be 80 years old in a couple of weeks.
   If you have tickets, call 941-953-3368 and you can get a refund or credit toward tickets for another Van Wezel show.

Monday, November 25, 2013

One Direction is coming to Tampa in 2014

   If you're a One Direction fan, you'll probably be excited to learn that the Brit boy band is coming to Tampa.
   But you'll probably be bummed to find out that you have to wait an eternity to see Niall, Zayn, Liam, Harry and Louis. They won't be at Raymond James Stadium for more than 10 months. The show's set for Oct. 3 of next year.
One Direction
   The guys got together three years ago after auditioning separately for the British version of "The X Factor," and they've put out to album since 2011. There's good chance they'll have another one under their collective belt by next October, so you'll get to hear some newer stuff in addition to such huge hits as "What Makes You Beautiful" and "Live While We're Young"

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Sarasota Ballet scores with Balanchine, Ashton, Britten

   It was a concert designed to have something for everybody. And all three dances on the Sarasota Ballet's program earned enthusiastic applause from the audience, so all three obviously had appeal.
   The first piece, Balanchine's "Serenade," set to Tchaikovsky's "Serenade for Strings," was a luminescent piece of pure classical dance, with Balanchine's typical musicality matched by the fluidity of the dancers. A couple of humorous touches -- a dancer purposely falls on her face at one point -- somehow enhance he piece transcendent beauty.
"Illuminations" (1950)

   The ballet, accompanied by the Sarasota Orchestra, next celebrated Benjamin Britten's 100 the birthday with Ashton's "Illuminations," with music by Britten and lyrics taken from Rimbaud poems. It's a wonderfully surreal narrative piece of comedy and drama. It would be tempting to call it Felliniesque, except that Ashton created it in1950, before Fellini as influential.
   The final piece, Balanchine's "Who Cares?," just didn't seem to fit. It's set to a series of 15 Gershwin songs, and the pop flavor of the music and the dance felt at odds with the sublime pleasures of the first two works.
   There were some fine moments of dance, though, especially in several pas de deux, and the piece was an undeniable crowd-pleaser.
   The orchestra, conducted by Ormsby Wilkins, sound gorgeous throughout the evening, and seemed as comfortable with Gershwin as with Britten.

   There are two more performances, at 2 and 8 p.m. today (Saturday, Nov 23) at the Sarasota Opera House, 61 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota. Tickets are $33.25-$100. Call 941-359.0099, ext.101 or go to www.sarasotaballet.org.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Palmetto's Jesse Yawn added to Bradenton Blues Festival

   Dec. 7 is the date of the second annual Bradenton Blues Festival. It's also the 72nd anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
   That's one reason the blues festival people have invited Jesse Yawn, a Palmetto-based blues singer with a solid national reputation, to perform. 
    Yawn's an Army veteran who uses a wheelchair to get around. Festival organizers are building a wheelchair ramp so Yawn can get on stage.
Jesse Yawn

   He'll join festival headliner Eddie Shaw on stage at 5 p.m. to perform the classic "Every Day I Have the Blues."
   Yawn's known for his flashy suits, fedora hats and deep, bellowing voice.  Yawn he tarted in gospel music before turning to the blues. he's worked with some of the greats including Jack McDuff, George Benson, Grant Green and Albert King. He was a fixture on the Blues scene in the Washington, D.C. area before he returned to his native Florida.
   A high point in his career came when he was asked to perform at shows that were part of President Bill Clinton's inaugural events. 
   The Bradenton Blues Festival is scheduled for 11 a.m.- 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7 on the Bradenton Riverwalk. Tickets are $10-$40. Call 941-681-0708 or go to www.bradentonbluesfestival.com.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sutton Foster cancels March 1 Sarasota show

   Sutton Foster's a major Broadway star, so you can't blame her for canceling her upcoming Sarasota show so that she can star on Broadway.
   She was supposed to come to the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall on March 1. But she got the lead role in a new musical called "Violet." Her contract with Van Wezel allowed to back out, so she did.
   The Van Wezel people say they hope to reschedule for another season. If you have tickets, call the box office at 941-953-3368 to find out about getting a refund or a credit to another show.

Queens of the Stone Age play St. Petersburg

     Queens of the Stone Age are one the best live bands around. 
   You can see for yourself pretty soon, 'cause they're coming to the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg Feb. 4.
   Tickets are $40.50, $50.50 and $66.50 and go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 22.
You can get tickets online at www.themahaffey.com, by phone at 727-893-7832 or in person at the Mahaffey Theater box office. The Mahaffey is at 401 First St. S. in downtown St. Petersburg.

   In their early years they played pretty much straight riff-oriented hard rock and they made some great music and put on ferocious shows. Now they're much more eclectic and much more interesting.

Queens of the Stone Age 
 QOTSA formed in 1996 out of the ashes of Josh Homme's former band Kyuss. The current lineup includes Homme (vocals, guitar, piano), Troy Van Leeuwen (guitar, lap steel, keyboard, percussion and vocals), Dean Fertita (keyboards, guitar, percussion, vocals), Michael Shuman (bass guitar, keyboard, vocals) and Jon Theodore (percussion).