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


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

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, 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).


Flaming Lips headline Tampa's Gasparilla Music Festival

   Tampa's Gasparilla Music Festival has had some strong lineups in the first few years of existence, but the 2014 festival kicks things up a couple of notches.
   Indy gods Flaming Lips and progressive country singer-songwriter Jason Isbell -- whose album "Southeastern" is widely considered one of this year's best -- are among the acts announced so far.
    The festival is set for March 8 and 9 in Curtis Hixon Park and the adjacent Kiley Garden in downtown Tampa.
Wayne Coyne of Flaming Lips
   Also slated to appear are Los Amigos Invisibles, a Venezuelan jazz-funk band, Swedish singer-songwriter Anders Osbourne, and Americana band Delta Spirit. Lots more acts are still to be announced, festival organizers say. Last time, the festival ran only one day and featured more than 30 national acts, so it's reasonable to assume there will be significantly more than that in 2014
   Tickets are $40 for both days. You can order tickets and get other information at

Friday, November 15, 2013

Radio theater returns to Bradenton airwaves

   Radio theater is largely a relic of decades past, but it has seen a tiny bit of a resurgence in recent years.
   Some intriguing plays are coming to local airwaves in the coming days. It's an interesting (and free) way to experience theater and it's worth a listen.

  At 8 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17, WUSF (89.7 FM) is airing "Holy Matter," a new one-hour play by Tampa playwright Denis Calandra. It's a mystery based around John F. Kennedy's visit to Tampa 50 years ago, days before his death, and a fictional Tampa mob family.
   Calandra is the authorized translator of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's plays. He wrote the acclaimed play "Cuban Bread" about Tampa's cigar workers and co-wrote an adaptation of Carl Hiassen's "Lucky You" that got great reviews in London and Edinburgh.
   At 7 p.m. Monday, Nov, 18, WMNF (88.5 FM) and St. Petersburg's Studio@620 kick off the fifth season of their "Radio Theatre Project" with an installment of “The Continuing Adventures of Noel Berlin, Cabaret Detective” by Paul Wilborn and Matt Cowley and “The Last Radio Drama” by Ludy Marvin Wilkie, directed by area theater stalwart Jim Wicker.
   "The Last Radio Drama" is about actors in a 1950s radio soap opera who face the cancellation of their show as radio loses audience to television.
   "Noel Berlin" is in its second season and features old-fashioned cliff-hanger episodes set in St Petersburg with cabaret music and stunning sound effects. 
   You can see the WMNF plays as they're performed by going to the Studio@620, at 620 First Ave. S. in St. Petersburg. It's a pay-what-you-can arrangement.
   Go to for more information about the WMNF series.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Popovich Comedy Pet Theater cancels St. Petersburg show

    The Popovich Comedy Pet Theater performance scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014 at The Mahaffey Theater has been cancelled. Star Gregory Popovich is reportedly scheduled to have surgery and has cancelled all shows in the first four months of 2014.
   The Mahaffey people say they'll reschedule the show for the 2014-2015 season.
   Ticket holders who ordered through the phone or web will receive an automatic refund. Patrons who purchased at the box office have to go back there. Tickets won't be honored for the rescheduled date.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Asolo Rep adds Melucci memoir to season

   Asolo Repertory Theatre has added "I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti Sauce" to its 2013-2014 season.
Jacques Lamarre’s stage adaptation of Giulia Melucci's memoir is set to preview May 18 and May 20, with opening night May 21. It'll run through June 15, 2014 in Asolo Rep’s Cook Theatre.
    In the lead will be Antoinette LaVecchia as Melucci, an Italian-American writer living in Brooklyn with an entertainingly unsuccessful love life.
Giulia Melucci
    Melucci’s best-selling memoir intertwines her family’s recipes with stories of her past relationships. LaVecchia (as Melucci) prepares a Italian meal from scratch on stage, and  shares tales of her past loves and the food she cooked for them. Audience members with upgraded tickets can sit on stage and enjoy the meal LaVecchia prepares.
    LaVecchia, who won a Best Actress award from for her portrayal of Melucci.
   The Asolo porduction directed by Rob Ruggiero the director of Asolo's season-opening "Show Boat."

   For information, call 941-351-9010 or go to www,

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sinbad is coming to McCurdy's in Sarasota

   Sinbad's best known as an actor in TV and movies, but he's always been a stand-up comedian. And he's bringing his stand-up act to McCurdy's Comedy Theatre in Sarasota Nov. 22-24.
   Sinbad starred with Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Jingle All the Way” and with the great Phil Hartman in "Houseguest."
He has starred in the sitcom “A Different World" as well as his own series, “The Sinbad Show." And he was one of the contestants in the third season of "The Celebrity Apprentice."
   Tickets are $43. Discounted tickets are not accepted for this show. Shows are at 7 and 9:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 22 and 23, and 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 24.  

   For tickets and information call 941-925-3869 or go to


Monday, November 11, 2013

Collective Soul to play St. Petersburg's Mahaffey

   Collective Soul, who broke into the mainstream 20 years ago with the hit single “Shine,” is coming to St. Petersburg.
They'll be at the Mahaffey Theater at 7 p.m.  March 2. Opening will be Ed Kowalczyk, the former lead singer of Live.
    Tickets start at $35.50 and will go on sale at noon Friday, Nov. 22.
    It's been a long time since their biggest hit, but Collective Soul's been active all along, and three of its four member remain from the "Shine" era. The newest member is guitarist Joel Kosche, who joined in 2001.
Collective Soul

   Kowalczyk was the lead singer and primary songwriter for Live (who played at the Mahaffey in May) until he went solo in 2009.

   You can get tickets by phone at 727-893-7832, online at or in person at box office. The Mahffey is at 401 First St. S., St. Petersburg.

Tampa's Straz Center offers cheap "Mormon" tickets

   Almost everyone is eager to see “The Book of Mormon,” which is coming to the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa this week. But a lot of people don't want to shell out $69, which is how much the least-expensive regular tickets are, before the service charge.
if you're lucky you can get tickets for $25 apiece.
The Straz Center will host a lottery for a limited number of ultra-cheap tickets before each performance. Starting two and half hours before each performance, you can show up
A scene from "The Book of Mormon"
at the Straz and tell them you want to be part of the lottery. They'll draw names two hours before curtain and each winner can get one or two tickets for $25 per.

   It's not all cheap tickets in the lottery. The seats are scattered around the house, so you could end up getting a few hundred dollars worth of tickets for $50. You have to be there at the time of the drawing to win, and you have to pay cash for the tickets.
   “The Book of Mormon” runs Nov. 12-24. Curtain is at 7:30 Tuesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday. The Straz Center is at 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa. For more information, call 813-229-7827 or go to

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tampa mayor goes overboard for Billy Joel

   The press release arrived by email Tuesday afternoon. At 2 p.m. Wednesday, it said, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn would hold a press conference at the Tampa Bay Times Forum to make a "major concert announcement."
   It instantly became fodder for newsroom and social media speculation. Who could it possibly be?
   Paul Simon and Sting had just announced a joint tour and the last date was in Orlando. Maybe a Tampa show had been added. Was that big enough for this kind of announcement?
Billy Joel
   Paul McCartney? The Rolling Stones? Bruce Sprinsgsteen? Neil Young? They had all been here before, with no mayoral pronouncements preceding their appearances.
   What about some weird thing with, like, the remaining members of the Who and Nirvana?
   Who in the world was a big enough star that the mayor would announce the concert?
   Maybe some feuding major rappers appearing together for the first time?
   Whoever it is, it had to be someone massive, a mega-star of unrivaled renown.
   Early Wednesday afternoon, a non-mayoral announcement came out that Miley Cyrus had added another show at the Forum. She's bringing her Bangerz Tour to the Tampa Bay Times Forum on March 20. (She's also headlining the 93.3-FLZ Jingle Ball at the same venue on Dec. 18.)
   Could that be that be what had hizzoner so enthused?
   Then just after 2 p.m., we got the official word: Billy Joel is coming to the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Jan. 17.
   Billy Joel's okay and all. Sure, back in the day he made the worst videos this side of Hall and Oates, but he wrote some good songs and had some big hits in the 1970s. He married Christie Brinkley and let all us goofy-looking guys believe that we might have a shot with supermodels.
   But seriously -- that's a "major concert announcement" worthy of the mayor of a mid-sized American city? That's what music fans all over west central Florida have been buzzing about for the past 24 hours? Billy Joel just played in St. Petersburg last year!
   It wasn't half as exciting as anyone was guessing, and most people thought their guesses didn't have the star-power to merit such hype. In fact, the emailed Miley Cyrus announcement earlier in the day was every bit as big a deal as the mayor's thing about Billy Joel.
   Oh, well. At least we don't have to wonder anymore.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Applebutter Express song will be in Witherspoon film

   The Applebutter Express -- the Tampa-based bluegrass-flavored band has strong Bradenton ties -- are hitting the big screen.
   Or at least their music is. The band announced today that they had signed a contract to have their song "Hey My Brotha" used in an upcoming movie called "The Good Lie."
The Applebutter Express
   The film, which is set for release in 2014, stars Reese Witherspoon in a story about a Sudanese refugee who's taken into the home of a straight-talking American woman.
   It's hard to figure how a good-timey bluegrass band's music fits into that story, but we'll find out next year.
    Applebutter Express plays in Bradenton  and one of their members went to Southeast High School.
   If you can't wait until next year to hear "Hey My Brotha," you can go see the Applebutter Express play on the Riverwalk Friday evening and request it. They start at 6:30 p.m. and it's free.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Hit Men add St. Petersburg show

   Even if you've never heard the Hit Men, you've certainly heard their music.
   The vocal group is made up a pop music veterans who have been members of the Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and who have performed and recorded with Carly Simon, Jim Croce, Cat Stevens and Elton John.
   They were already scheduled to come to Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall on Feb. 17, but now they've added a show at the Palladium in St. Petersburg March 14. So you can take your choice, or see them twice.
The show includes such Four Seasons hits as “Oh, What a Night,” “Who Loves You,” “Marianne,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Rag Doll.”  plus lots of  other songs  that members of the Hit Men helped make famous, including “Mony Mony,” “Hanky Panky,” “Peace Train,” “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” “You’re So Vain” and “You Belong To Me.” 
The Hit Men
   Tickets for the Palladium show are  $35, $45 and $55 and will go on sale at noon Nov. 15. You can get them at the Palladium box office, 253 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg, call 727-822-3590 or go to
   The Van Wezel show will set you back $35-$50. Call 941-953-3368 or go to