Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Season tickets availble now for Sarasota's FST

   Season tickets are now on sale for the Florida Studio Theatre's 2013-14 mainstage season.
   They'll run you between $45 and $75 and they'll get you into all four mainstage shows.
   Season tickets holders get big discounts, but they also get first choice of seats and other benefits.
   FST will announce the other three shows in mainstage season on Sept. 22.
  That's also the day that single tickets for  "Spamalot," the first show of the mainstage season, go on sale. The single tickets will set you back $18-$49.
   "Spamalot," one of the most popular and acclaimed musicals of the past decade, opens Nov. 15 in the Gompertz Theatre. It's the Tony Award-winning musical based on "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." It's directed by Bruce Jordan, who recently directed FST's hit staging of Steve Martin's "The Underpants." "Spamalot" will run through Jan. 5.
  You can order tickets by calling 941-366-9000, by visiting, or by visiting the FST box office

Gregg Allman Sarasota tickets on sale Sept. 6

   Tickets for Gregg Allman's upcoming concert in Sarasota will go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 6.
   Allman, the legendary Southern rock pioneer and former Manatee County resident, will appear at the Sailor Circus at 7 p.m. Jan. 8. Tickets are $100, $45 and $35, plus a $1 service charge.
Gregg Allman
   The venue only holds a couple of thousand people, and promoter Barbara Strauss said demand has been high even before the tickets are on sale. So if you want to go, you probably shouldn't wait too long.
    "I've sold $7,000 in tickets to my friends," she said. "It's a party every time he comes town."

   There will be an opening act or two, but they haven't been announced yet.
   You'll be able to get tickets by calling 941-355-9805, by visiting or by going to the Sailor Circus box office. The Sailor Circus, which is part of Circus Sarasota, is at 2075 Bahia Vista Street, Sarasota.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Gregg Allman to play Sarasota Jan. 8

   Southern rock pioneer, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member and former Manatee County resident Gregg Allman will perform in concert Jan. 8 at Sailor Circus in Sarasota.
   There aren't a whole lot of details available at this point, and there's no word on when tickets will go one sale. But they'll run you $100, $45 or $35.
   Allman's career has had its share of peaks and valleys since those legendary Allman Brothers Band albums of the '60s and '70s, and right now he's on a peak. His most recent album, "Low Country Blues," is one of the most celebrated of his career. His voice is in fine form and he's got a great band working with him.
   Information about when and where to get tickets should be available soon. We'll keep you posted.

Sarasota group presents readings of Williams plays

   You're not likely to find a better theater bargain than this.     
   Alleged Theatre Company is presenting readers-theater versions of four one-act plays by Tennessee Williams, arguably the greatest American playwright. And it's all free.
   The one-acts are "Portrait of a Madonna," "The Case of the Crushed Petunias,” "Mister Paradise" and "Wagons Full of Cotton." All four are directed by Cinda Goeken.
   It all gets going at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31, in the lobby of Players Theatre, 838 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.
   It's free, but donations are welcomed. The donations will go to the Players Theatre.
   This is only the second offering from the Alleged Theatre Company, which specializes in readers-theater productions of significant plays. Their previous  presentation was Paula Vogel's "How I Learned to Drive," which, coincidentally, is on the schedule for Asolo Rep's 2013-14 season.
   For more information call 941-729-7448.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Why Miley Cyrus' VMA performance was reprehensible

   Miley Cyrus gave a shocking performance at the MTV Video Music Awards show Sunday night. Everybody's talking about it today. And suddenly everybody in the world knows what "twerking" is.
   The outrage about how "provocative" the performance was comes off as disingenuous, at best. People who watched the VMAs knew, maybe even hoped, that something shocking would happen. That's probably one of the reasons they watched. (Saying you watch the VMAs to see who wins the awards is like saying you read Playboy magazine for the articles.) People chose to watch and then they complained because they saw exactly the same kind of performance and the same kind of scandal that highlights the VMAs many years.
   Almost everything that's written about Cyrus' performance mentions that she's "only 20" or "not yet 21" and a "former Disney star." But Britney Spears, another former Disney star, was the same age when she gave Madonna an open-mouthed kiss on the same show a decade ago. This is the kind of stuff that happens on the VMAs. We know that when we tune in.
Miley Cyrus at the VMAs
   If you're a parent who thinks your teenager will be damaged by watching something provocative, well,  how old were you when you listened to Jim Morrison (who at the time was only two years older than Cyrus is now) sing a song about a kid who rapes his mother and kills his father? How old were you when you listened to Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side"? Or when you watched countless hip-hop and hair-metal videos with strippers in them? This stuff is not new.
   And if you didn't want your kids to see sexy dancing by young women in scanty outfits, you shouldn't have let them watch the VMAs in the first place, 'cause it happens every year.
    But yes, it's right to be offended, and offended deeply, by Cyrus' performance. Not because it was provocative, but because it was a load of garbage. From the bizarre opening pose with the tongue sticking out, to the laughable sets and costumes, the clunky dancing and the gross and unsettling gestures, it was all just hideous. It was the clumsiest and most un-sexy thing on the VMAs since Michael Jackson kissed his "wife" Lisa Marie Presley in 1994.
   We shouldn't be so shocked that someone as young as Miley Cyrus performed so provocatively; we should be appalled that someone who's as talented and professionally polished as Miley Cyrus performed so amateurishly. That's what was so reprehensible. That's why it's a bad example for our kids.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Jimmy Fallon comes to Tampa in October

   The future king of late night TV is coming to Tampa.
   Jimmy Fallon will bring his "Clean Cut Comedy Tour" to Tampa Theatre at 8 p.m. Oct. 16.
   Three other comics -- Julian McCullough, Nate Bargatze and Nick Thune -- will open.
   Fallon, of course, is the current host of "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon." But much more importantly, he's slated to replace Jay Leno as host of "The Tonight Show" in February.
Jimmy Fallon
   Tickets are $45 plus service charge, and they'll go on sale at noon Saturday through They'll also be available at the Tampa Theatre box office from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday starting Aug. 26.
   Tampa Theatre is at 711 N. Franklin St. in downtown Tampa. Call 813-274-8981 or go to for information.
   The show is presented by Ruth Eckerd Hall's "On the Road" program.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Individual "Book of Mormon" tickets available Sunday

   There hasn't been so much excitement about a Broadway musical coming to town in a long, long time.
   "The Book of Mormon," the universally acclaimed show that prominent critics have called "the best musical of this century" and "heaven on Broadway," opens its two-week run at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa on Nov. 12. Season subscribers got first dibs on tickets, but at least at the moment there are plenty left for people who want to see just this show.
   Individual tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 25. And actually, if you have an American Express card
"The Book of Mormon"
, you can buy tickets starting today and up until 9:59 a.m. Friday.

   Tickets are $69-$153.50 plus service charge. You get them by calling 813-229-7827, by going to or by going in person to the Straz Center box office. The Straz Center is at 1010 N. MacInnes Place in Tampa.
   "The Book of Mormon," which comes from the same team that created TV's "South Park," won nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Score (Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone), Best Book (Parker, Lopez and Stone) and Best Direction (Casey Nicholaw and Parker).
    Straz Center officials are expecting this show to sell out, and sell out fast, so you're advised to get your tickets soon if you don't want to be left out.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Lakewood Ranch's Winterfest announces additions to lineup

   The lineup of acts slated to appear at Winterfest, the new two-day music festival at Lakewood Ranch, is filling up.
   Seven more acts were announced Monday: country star Ty Herndon, The Alabama Blues Brothers, Hotel California, The Backtrack Blues Band, Highway to Hell, Elvis impersonator Joseph Hall and the Mudbugs Cajun and Zydeco Band.
    Except for  Herndon, none have the name recognition of the stars that had previously been announced -- Alabama founder Jeff Cook, Jefferson Airplane's Marty Balin, Rick Derringer and Edgar Winter and "Key Largo" singer Bertie Higgins -- and four are tribute acts.
Ty Herndon
   Country stalwart Billy Dean, 11-year-old guitar phenom Jake Castro and popular locals the Billy Rice Band are also among the acts announced originally.
   More additions are yet to be announced.
   “There are still a few acts we are asked not to announce until later,” said Jim Chiaffredo, the spokesperson for Winterfest.
   The festival is scheduled to run from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. March 29-30 at the Premier Sports Complex in Lakewood Ranch.
   Winterfest officials predict about 20,000 people will attend each day. They say they plan to make Winterfest an annual event.
   Regular one-day tickets are $11.34 for kids ages 3-10, $16.52 for ages 11-17 with a valid student ID and $26.87 for adults.
   Two-day tickets are also available for $42.39. (No two-day tickets are available for kids or students, at least at this time.)
   You can also get VIP tickets for $259.74 per day, or $363.24 for both days. Those tickets get you into an air-conditioned VIP area.
   You can buy tickets at, and you can get festival information at

Elmore Leonard's 10 rules for writing

   Even if you've never opened a book in your life, you probably know the work of Elmore Leonard.
Elmore Leonard, 1925-2013
   He wrote dozens of best-selling novels and popular short stories over the decades, and lots of them were turned into movies. He wrote some screenplays too. Most of the movies, like most of his books, achieved that rare combination of mass appeal and critical admiration. Among them are "Jackie Brown," "Get Shorty," "Hombre" and "3:10 to Yuma."  His short story "Fire in the Hole" was the basis for the excellent TV drama "Justified."
   He favored Westerns and crime stories. His prose was terse and powerful.
    He once summed up his approach in an essay that included his 10 rules for writing. They are:

  1.  Never open a book with weather.
  2.  Avoid prologues.
  3.  Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
  4.  Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said”… he admonished gravely.
  5.  Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. 
  6.  Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."
  7.  Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  8.  Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  9.  Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
  10.  Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
 My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.
 If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

   Elmore Leonard passed away Tuesday, a couple of weeks after he suffered a stroke. He was 87.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Cat dude Jackson Galaxy comes to Sarasota

  Jackson Galaxy, the tatted-up cat fancier who stars in "My Cat From Hell" on Animal Planet, is coming to Sarasota.
   He'll be at the Hyatt Regency starting at 4 p.m. Sept. 14, to talk about cats and how to relate to them. Then, starting at 5 p.m., he'll sign copies of his memoir, "Cat Daddy: What the World's Most Incorrigible Cat Taught Me About Life." (You can buy a copy of the book at the event if you don't already own it, or if you need a new copy because the one you have is too dog-eared.)
Jackson Galaxy
   Tickets are $20, or $50 if you prefer VIP seating. You can get tickets at Cat Depot, 2542 17th St., Sarasota, or at Or you can call 941-366-2404.
   If you're a die-hard Galaxy fan. you can put in a bid on a private dinner that follows the signing. Six people will dine with Galaxy and officials of the Cat Depot. You can bid  from 11 a.m.  Sept. 3, at until 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6, at 7 p.m. The minimum bid is $500. Call 941-366-2404 or go to to bid.
   Cat Depot is a nonprofit, no-kill, free-roaming shelter, that provides a home for up to 130 homeless, abandoned and injured animals at any time.
   The Sarasota Hyatt Regency is at 1000 Boulevard of the Arts.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Applebutter Express plays McCabe's in Bradenton

   One of the funnest bands in Florida, the Applebutter Express, returns to McCabe's Irish Pub this weekend.
The Applebutter Express
   The Tampa-based bluegrass-flavored band has strong Bradenton ties -- they play here a lot and one member graduated from Southeast High School -- and their good-timey music and grin-inducing concerts make them favorites all around West Central Florida. They also played at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Tennessee last year, which is pretty cool. 
   There's no cover for their show at McCabe's, but it's 21-and-over so leave the kids at home.
   It starts at 8 p.m. Saturday. McCabe's is at 302 Old Main St. in downtown Bradenton. Call 941-896-3126.

Vanilla Fudge cancels Saturday's show in Tampa

   The kept you hangin' on until the last minute, but now, just two days before their scheduled concert in Tampa, Vanilla Fudge has canceled.
   The '60s psychedelic soul greats, with most of the original lineup intact, were supposed to play at Friday Morning Musicale in Tampa on Saturday. The promoter announced Wednesday night that the show was canceled.
   There's no explanation, and no word about rescheduling. In fact, the email from SoundStage LIVE Productions read, in its entirety, "Canceled, tickets refunded at place of purchase. Thank you!"
   So there you have it.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Tickets for Winterfest at Lakewood Ranch available

    Winterfest, the new music festival slated for Lakewood Ranch March 29-30.
   Regular one day tickets are $11.34 for kids ages 3-10, $16.52 for ages 11-17 with a valid student ID and $26.87 for adults.
   Two-day tickets are also available for $42.39. (No two-day tickets are available for kids or students, at least at this time.)
   You can also get VIP tickets for $259.74 per day, or $363.24 for both days. Those tickets get you into an air-conditioned VIP area.
Rick Derringer
   The lineup announced thus far includes Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane, Jeff Cook of country band Alabama, Manatee County resident Rick Derringer performing with his former musical partner Edgar Winter, "Key Largo" singer Bertie Higgins, country stalwart Billy Dean, 11-year-old guitar phenom Jake Castro and popular locals the Billy Rice Band.
    There's no word yet on which acts will play which days.
Jeff Cook
   Organizers say more acts will be announced later, and that they'll cover a broad range of genres, from blues and rock to jazz.
   The festival is scheduled to run from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. at the Premier Sports Complex in Lakewood Ranch.
   Besides music, Winterfest will include more than 50 vendors and a kids' area.
    Winterfest officials predict about 20,000 people will attend each day. They say they plan to make Winterfest an annual event.
   You can buy tickets at, and you can get festival information at

Read more here:

Monday, August 12, 2013

Rachel Potter performs Sunday in St. Petersburg

   Rachel Potter, who's found Broadway success as as the Mistress in the Tony-nominated 2012 revival of "Evita" and as Wednesday in "The Addams Family," will perform at the Hideaway Cafe in St. Petersburg on Aug. 18. 
    Potter hails from Pinellas County, and besides appearing on Broadway (and as Glinda in the national tour of "Wicked") she has scored a country hit with "The Verdict." That song was nominated for an Independent Music Award earlier this year, in the "Best Country Song" category. Potter co-wrote "The Verdict" with Patryk Larney. 
   Local audiences had a chance to see her recently in "Spring Awakening" at freeFall Theatre in St. Petersburg. For her show at the Hideaway, she'll be joined by some of her "Spring Awakening" cast mates, several of whom have Broadway credits. 
   The entire cast of that show was terrific, so this could be a really cool evening. They'll all be doing their own material -- and Potter will be doing mostly songs from her country album -- so don't expect re-creations of the big numbers from "Spring Awakening."
   The show starts at 7 p.m. (Doors open at 5 p.m.) Tickets are $10. The Hideaway is at 1756 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg. Call 727-644-7895 or visit

Friday, August 9, 2013

Manatee Players deliver a stunning "Les Miserables"

   There are thousands of reasons why community theaters almost never produce “Les Miserables.”
   It’s a gargantuan show with a daunting score. The chances of getting dozens of excellent singers, including some excellent child actors who can sing, all willing to work hard for free, are slim.
   The show is iconic, and almost everyone who likes musical theater has seen a Broadway tour or the movie and remembers great performances. Comparisons are inevitable.
   The sets and costumes are necessarily elaborate and expensive. They’re demanding for designers and would strain the finances of a lot of regional professional companies, let alone community theaters.
   In short, artistic and financial disaster are real possibilities.
The Manatee Players chose to stage “Les Mis” anyway, and the result is astounding.
   It’s not Broadway-quality, but it’s so close that anyone, even people who saw the dazzling Manatee Players production of “Miss Saigon” (by the same writers as “Les Mis”) that opened the Manatee Performing Arts Center a few months back, will be bowled over.
   It’s hard to know where to begin praising this production, so perhaps it’s best to start by addressing the production’s few weaknesses.
   Most notably, the cast of more than 50, one of the largest in Manatee Players’ history, doesn’t include quite enough great voice. There are no bad voices, certainly, but one or two decent-sized roles are inhabited by actors who are not quite up to the vocal rigors of the score.
   Besides, the opening night performance was marred by sound problems. Body mics cut out often, and some actors were much louder than others. And there was occasional but noticeable clatter as sets were moved around offstage.
But such shortcomings pale in the glow of this overwhelming production directed by Rick Kerby, the Manatee Players’ artistic director.
   All the leads are phenomenal, with gorgeous voices and charismatic stage presences. Kenn C. Rapczynski as Jean Valjean wields a tenor voice that’s capable of intense power and surprising delicacy, and has a commanding persona.
   Bradley Barbaro is a rich and deep Javert. He has a lovely voice, but on “Soliloquy,” his character’s most well-known song, Barbaro’s acting is as beautiful as his singing.
   Sarah Cassidy (Fantine) has a lovely voice that enlivens many key moments, and she delivers a poignant reading of “I Dreamed a Dream.”
Rapczynski and Barbaro
   Stephanie Woodman-Costello and David W. Walker are lively as the Thenardiers, the play’s only comic characters. (Walker also designed the beautiful and evocative costumes.)
   Those are just the most notable of the many fine performances, in roles great and small.
   A seven-piece pit orchestra  (under musical director Aaron Cassette) is impressive but unobtrusive.
Joseph R. Oshry’s lights enhance the show’s gloom and triumph, and Kirk Hughes’ sets, which eschew the turntable-centered set of the classic Broadway staging, are beautiful.
   There’s no getting around the fact that the narrative in “Les Mis” is hard to follow. It skips forward in time, and characters who are children in one scene are adults in the next. It can be hard to keep straight.
   This production benefits from history – most people have seen the show once or twice and know at least the basics – and from the relative intimacy of the theater.
   In a huge space such as Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, which hosted a touring production of a few months ago,  “Les Mis” can become a spectacle and lose some of its humanity. The 380-seat Stone H
all at the Manatee Performing Arts Center enhances the audience’s connection to the actors and the characters.
   No matter how high your expectations, the Manatee Players’ “Les Miserables” will not disappoint.

   It runs through Aug. 25 at the , Manatee Performing Arts Center, 502 Third Ave. W., Bradenton. Curtain is at  7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $26-$36. For information, call 941-748-5875, or visit

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Manatee Players offer evening of one-acts

   The Manatee Players are offering an anthology of one-act plays later this month. It'll be the first production in the Kiwanis Club of Bradenton Studio Theater at the Manatee Performing Arts Center.
   The six plays, directed by Russ Carthy, are "Things That Go Bump in the Night," "Walter," "The Greatest Role," "Walgreens" and "GOS Lady." The features actors are Caroline Cox, Dan Coppinger, Alice Cotman, Amy Dop, Jay Poppe, Bob Weintraub, Laura Morales, Philip Croome, Miriam Ring, Jo Kendall, Fatima Paula and Juliana Ortiz. 
    Performances are at 8 p.m. Aug. 23-24 at the Manatee Performing Arts Center, 502 Third Ave. W., Bradenton. Tickets are $15. Call 941-748-5875 or visit

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Metal gods GWAR to rock Tampa's Ritz

   Oderus Urungus, Balsac the Jaws of Death, Jizmak Da Gusha, Beefcake the Mighty and Pustulus Maximus are coming to Tampa.
   They are GWAR, the Antarctica-based gods of satirical heavy metal. They'll be at the Ritz Theatre in Ybor City Nov. 5.
  This is band you really ought to see at least once in your life.
   Besides, this could be your chance to sample Impaled Ale, the beer created for the band by Tampa's Cigar City Brewing, which also made a beer inspired by Bradenton's Have Gun, Will Travel.
   Whitechapel, Iron Reagan and A Band of Orcs open. Tickets for go on sale Aug 2. They're $20 in advance, $23 day of show. You can buy them here: