Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Sarasota's Tanner takes 'Amish Project' Off-Broadway

Tanner in "The Amish Project" 
   Sarasota actor Katherine Michelle Tanner is heading to New York with seven of her favorite roles ever.
   Tanner portrays all the characters in "The Amish Project," Jessica Dickey's startling fact-based drama about the massacre of Amish children in a Pennsylvania schoolhouse. 

   She first performed the show at American Stage in St. Petersburg a few years back, then brought the same production, directed by Todd Olson, to a theater in Oklahoma and a performing arts festival in Maryland, before she landed back home with a lauded and popular staging for Banyan Theater in July.
   On Tuesday, Tanner announced that in early October she'll be performing "The Amish Project" at the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture, a new performance complex in Greenwich Village.
  Tanner's play will be part of the center's grand-opening festival, which also includes appearances by comedian Jim Gaffigan, the New York premiere of a film that stars David Oyewolo and performances by concert pianist Elaine Kwon, among others
   The Sheen Center is funded by the Catholic Church and named for Bishop Fulton J. Sheen. It was at the center of a controversy earlier this year when it canceled an event that was to benefit the National Coalition Against Censorship. The center canceled the event because one of the four new plays that would have been featured was a Neil LaBute work that had a title that center officials perceived as disrespectful to Islam.
   But aside from that incident, which nobody got overly worked up about, the center's been causing some excitement in the downtown New York performing arts world. It has two theaters and an art gallery and a mission to showcase "the true, the good and the beautiful as they have been expressed throughout the ages."

   Tanner will perform "The Amish Project" at 8 p.m. Oct. 1 and 2. Tickets are $10-$35. There's more information at sheencenter.org.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Cary Elwes cancels tour, including Tampa appearance

   I hope you weren't getting all excited about seeing Cary Elwes at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, because he has canceled.
Robin Wright, Cary Elwes in "The Princess Bride"
   He was supposed to be there on Oct. 10 for something called "The Princess Bride: An Inconceivable Evening with Cary Elwes" that would have featured a screening of the classic film followed by Elwes telling behind-the scenes stories. (He starred as Westley.)
   The announcement from the people at the Straz Center said he is canceling his whole tour because of "the filming of a new movie in which he will star as well as direct."

   If you bought tickets with a credit card you'll get a refund automatically. If you paid with cash or check you'll receive a check in a week or two.
   If you want to talk to somebody about it, call 813-229-7827. The Straz Center website is strazcenter.org.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Internet star Grumpy Cat appears in Tampa

   You've seen her on Facebook. Now you can see her in person.
   Tardar Sauce, who's better known as Grumpy Cat, will be at Tampa Theatre on to celebrate the premiere of her new BuzzFeed video, "Happiness Finds Grumpy Cat." (Happiness is the name of a dog who recognizes Grumpy Cat in the aisles of a PetSmart store. He tries to meet Grumpy and Grumpy tries to avoid him.)
   If you're unfamiliar with Grumpy Cat, you clearly don't waste enough time scrolling through social media feeds. She's a tiny 3-year-old cat from Arizona who has a pronounced and permanent frown on her face, reportedly a result of the same birth condition that caused her
Tardar Sauce, a.k.a Grumpy Cat
small stature. She became a star on the internet thanks to social media posts that juxtaposed her sour puss with wry captions (e.g. "You're still here. How disappointing"). She's also become a regular guest on TV shows, from "The Today Show" to "American Idol." And she's the "official spokescat" for Friskies, which is co-sponsoring the Tampa Theatre event with PetSmart.
   For the Tampa Theatre event, she'll be joined by five feline mascots -- DJ Kitty of the Tampa Bay Rays, Sir Purr of the Carolina PanthersStanley C. Panther of the Florida PanthersKingston the Lion of Orlando City Soccer Club and Aubie the Tiger of Auburn University.

   The event is free, and it's slated to run from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 4. The first 150 people who get there will be rewarded with tickets to "an exclusive meet-and-greet with the cat star-power onstage following the viewing," according to the press release. In other words, you'll get to say howdy to a cat.
   Tampa Theatre is at 711 N. Franklin St., right in the heart of downtown Tampa, Call 813-274-8981 or go ttampatheatre.org.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Sarasota Music Archive celebrates 'Vinyl Day'

   It wasn't too many years ago that everyone except music snobs and elitists thought vinyl records were not worth the trouble. They're bulky and inconvenient and they get damaged easily. And you can't play them in your car.
   But vinyl's been coming back in a big way for a number of reasons. "Warmth" is a common adjective used to describe the format's appeal, and it applies to both the sound quality and the packaging. (There are lots of iconic covers from 12-inch albums; not many from CD booklets.)
   On Saturday, Sarasota Music Archive and Barnes & Noble are teaming up for a three-hour celebration of vinyl.
   From 6 to 9 p.m. Barnes & Noble at 4010 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, will have a lot of exclusive and early releases on vinyl, by everyone from Josh Groban to Public Enemy. You can play music-created trivia games and get some special deals. If you buy

three LPs you'll get a free "Vinyl Day" tote bag. There's also a drawing for a Crosley
turntable and headphones (pictured at right).
   And, if you become a member of the Sarasota Music Archive at the event -- which costs $30 for one person or $40 for two -- you can pick 10 LPs for free from a designated bin.
   The Sarasota Music Archive is part of the Sarasota County Library System and it's connected to the Special Collections Department of the Selby Public Library. It includes  several hundred thousand recordings, tapes, sheet music and books.

   You can call Barnes & Noble at 941-923-9907 if you need more information.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bradenton theater screens Robin Williams' last drama

   Robin Williams died 11 months ago, but several of the films he worked on near the end of his life have yet to be released.
   Bradenton audiences will get a chance to see one of those films on Tuesday when the Carmike Royal Palm 20 screens "Boulevard."
   It was Williams' final dramatic performance on screen. The story is about an aging man (Williams) who has lived an oppressively dull existence until a chance encounter with a troubled stranger leads him to break free.

a man  (Williams) who has worked at the same bank many years, in a life of monotony. A chance meeting with a troubled young man named lead him to break from the confines of his old life.
   It also stars Kathy Baker and Bob Odenkirk.
  The official release date isn't until Friday, July 10, so Bradenton audiences will be among the first to see the film.
   There's only one screening of  "Boulevard" scheduled, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 7. The Carrmike Royal Palm 20 is at  2507 53rd Ave E., Bradenton. Call 941-752-3796.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Theatre Odyssey's play festival returns to Sarasota

   Ten-minute play festivals have been popping up all across the country in recent years. They're popular with playwrights, theater companies and audiences.
   Playwrights appreciate the chance to be produced and get some money, theater companies like them because they can help develop new work and up-and-coming writers, and audiences like them because they generally make for really edifying and entertaining evenings of theater. And since the plays are short, audiences don't risk the boredom of a full-length show that they don't like. If you don't like one 10-minute play, you'll probably like the next one, and it's right around the corner.
"As Long as the Moon Shines"
Photo by Cliff Roles
 Locally, Theatre Odyssey's annual Ten-Minute Play Festival has become one of the most respected.The 10th annual festival is coming up this weekend. It runs today through Sunday at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts in Sarasota.
   This year's plays are "The Coward" by Dylan Jones, "Dancing Lessons" by Connie Schindewolf, "Dream On, Merry Mae" by Bernard Yanelli, "High School Reunion" by Arthur Keyser, "It's Time to Move On" by Ron Pantello, "The Locket" by Mark Leib, "Nimby" by Robert Kinast and "Why" by Marvin Albert.
   The plays get full productions from local theater professionals, and they're judged by a panel of theater experts. There's a cash prize for the winner. (Full disclosure: I am among the judges this year. The others are Summer Wallace, head of the theater department at Riverview High School and an adjunct professor of theater at New College of Florida, and Jim Sorensen, a prominent local actor who recently joined the staff of Florida Studio Theatre. The judges all volunteer their time.)
   The plays this year are about divided between comedies and dramas. There's also a bonus play. Theatre Odyssey hosts a student festival every year, and this year's winner, "As Long as the Moon Shines" by Julien Freij, a junior at St. Stephen's Episcopal School in Bradenton will be staged again this weekend. It won't be judged and it won't be eligible for the prize money, though.
   This year's festival has a couple of new elements. The opening night performance will be interpreted into American Sign Language, and 12-year-old violin prodigy Jenny Armor will perform during the intervals between plays between plays. 

   Shows are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Cook Theatre at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Tickets are $20. Call 941-799-7224, or go to theatreodyssey.org.

Friday, April 24, 2015

2Cellos cancel U.S. tour, including Tampa date

   If you you were planning on spending the evening of May 9 watching two young Croatian cellists rock out, well ... sorry.
Stjepan Hauser (left) in happier times
   2Cellos were supposed to perform at Ferguson Hall at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa that night, but on Friday the show was canceled. Apparently Stjepan Hauser -- one of the 2Cellos -- has injured his neck. It's not a serious injury, 2Cellos' p.r. people say, but still the duo has canceled its US tour. The people at the Straz say a new date will be announced soon.
   Meanwhile, if you already have tickets, you got some money coming back to you. If you bought them with credit card you'll get an automatic refund. If you paid with cash or a check, you'll get a check in the mail in a week or two.
   For more information, call 813-229-7827 or go to strazcenter.org.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Kevin Nealon to perform in St. Petersburg

   If you missed Kevin Nealon's appearance at McCurdy's Comedy Theatre in Sarasota in November -- or if you caught that show and you're dying to see him again -- fret not. He has just scheduled another show in the area.
   Nealon, one of the funniest people who's been on "Saturday Night Live" over the past several decades, will be at the Palladium in St. Petersburg on Oct. 17.
Kevin Nealon
   He's best known for his sketch work on "SNL" and for his role on the Showtime series "Weeds," but he started as a stand-up comedian and he said that's still his first love.
   "Stand-up is what I started doing," Nealon said in an interview with the Herald. "It's all I ever wanted to do."
   The Palladium is at 253 Fifth Ave. N., on the outskirts of downtown St. Petersburg, Tickets go on sale at noon Friday, May 1, and they cost $37.50, $45.50 and $52.50. Call 727-893-7832 or go to Mahaffeyonthemove.com for tickets. If you want more information about the show or the venue, go to.mypalladium.org.

Friday, April 17, 2015

"Pippin" scores in Tampa despite off-key Pippin

   It was opening night for the national tour of “Pippin’ at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa. The house lights came on for intermission during the opening. In the audience, two friends compared their observations.
   “The guy who plays Pippin cannot sing at all.”
   “SO bad!”
   “But he’s really hot.”
   “SO hot!”

Sasha Allen and "Pippin" castmates
   How good is this new production of the classic musical?
   Despite an actor in the title role who regularly hits notes as sour as month-old milk, it turns out to be one of the best Broadway shows that has come our way in years.

   Sam Lips is the guy who plays Pippin in this very fictionalized story about Charlemagne’s son, and it's only fair to note that his acting is adequate and his dancing and acrobatic work are quite good.
   And, fortunately, he’s surrounded by an amazing cast without any other weak links.
   Sasha Allen, who lists “The Voice” first among her credits in the program, is ferocious as the Leading Player, a role most often associated with male actors. Allen has the vocal chops, the confidence and the charisma the role demands. She sometimes makes you think of Tina Turner in “Beyond Thunderdome.”

   John Rubinstein, the original Pippin on Broadway, is a lot of fun here as Charles, and Adrienne Barbeau is a revelation as Pippin’s grandmother Berthe.

   The 70-ish Barbeau swings from a trapeze, performing stunts, singing well while she’s hanging upside-down and looking quite good in her somewhat revealing form-fitting costume.
    Director Diane Paulus’ circus motif for the production, created by Gypsy Snider with a luscious big-top set by Scott Pask, is wondrous, packed with impressive illusions and Cirque du Solieil-style aerial stunts. Dominique Lemieux’ costumes, Kenneth Posner’s lights and Chet Walker’s choreography are all lovely and flavorful. And there’s killer a four-piece pit orchestra that sounds much larger than it is.

And, of course, “Pippin” is packed with great Stephen Schwartz songs and a clever book by Roger O. Hirson.
   It’s a show that’s almost flawless.
   Unfortunately, its one flaw is huge. 
   It runs through April 19 at the Straz Center, 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa. The remaining shows are at 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets will run you $61.50-$85.50 plus service charge. call 813-229-7827 or go to strazcenter.org.

Read more here: http://www.bradenton.com/2015/04/09/5735830_pippin-opens-at-the-straz-in-tampa.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy

Monday, April 13, 2015

Comedian Chris Tucker comes to Straz in Tampa June 12

Chris Tucker
   Chris Tucker is one of those rare entertainers who equally adept at both acting and stand-up comedy.
   It's easy to find him on screen, because every movie he does seems to turn into a huge ht, from the "Rush Hour" series with Jackie Chan to "Silver Linings Playbook" with Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro.
   Soon it'll be easy to catch his stand-up act, too. He'll be at the Straz Center for Performing Arts in Tampa on June 12.

   If you know Tucker from his movies, you might not know that he was a favorite on Russell Simmons' "Def Comedy Jam" in the '90s. He also has a stand-up special coming out on Netflix in July.
   Tickets for the Tampa performance are $45.75-$65.75 plus service charge. They'll go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, April 17. Call 813-229-7827 or go to strazcenter.org

Chaka Khan to perform in St. Petersburg

   If you like any kind of popular music, chances are you like Chaka Khan.
   Since her teenage years back in the 1970s fronting the funk-pop outfit Rufus, who hit it big with  Stevie Wonder's "Tell Me Something Good," through solo career that included such hits as “I Feel For You” and “I’m Every Woman,” Chaka Khan has proven she can handle
Chaka Khan
R&B, jazz, pop, rock, gospel, funk and even country music. She has 10 Grammy Awards and 22 Grammy nominations, 10 No. 1 singles and 11 gold or platinum albums to prove it.
   She has a new CD coming out later this year, and you'll no doubt be able to hear some of the new material when she comes to the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg on Nov. 13.
   Tickets for the just-announced show go on sale at noon Friday, April 24. Prices are $42.50, $52.50, $65.50 and $75.50. Call 727-893-7832 or go to themahaffey.com,

Monday, March 16, 2015

Abba musical 'Mamma Mia!' returns to Tampa

   It was a pretty lousy movie, but on stage "Mamma Mia!" can be a massive amount of fun.
   We'll all get another chance to see when the jukebox musical based on songs by Abba when it returns Tampa. The just-announced non-Equity run at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts is set for June 23-28.
The real Abba
   Only eight shows in Broadway history have run longer than "Mamma Mia!" It's been running since 2001 and as of Monday had notched 5,550 performances.
   The plot, retro-fitted to the songs, is pretty silly, but the songs are so great you
won't mind too much.
   One tip, if you go: Don't rush out of the theater when the actors take their bows, as a lot of people do. There's a bit afterward in which the cast performs a few songs that didn't fit into the plot and it's one of the most enjoyable parts of the whole show.
   Tickets go on sale online at 10 a.m. Friday, March 20. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Tuesday – Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday,  at 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday. They'll set you back  tickets are $25-$65.50 plus service charge. Call 813-229-7827  or go to strazcenter.org. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Asolo Rep's 'Unplugged' festival opens in Sarasota

   Asolo Repertory Theatre's sixth annual Unplugged festival gets going this weekend. The festival features brand-new plays -- so new the playwrights are still tweaking them -- performed by Asolo Rep actors.
   This year's festival will include three plays, but only two have been announced so far. And the third one isn't going to happen until April 19 so there's no rush.
   First up is Bill Bowers' "Stories From the Road." Bowers is a New York writer and actor -- he was in "The Lion King" and "The Scarlet Pimpernel" on Broadway-- and he performed in
the recent SaraSolo Festival. (He won an award at SaraSolo that from now on is going to called the Bill Bowers Award.) He's performed all over the world, in fact, in such diverse venues as the White House, an Amish colony and a nudist resort, and his new one-man show offers some stories from his travels.
   Next is "The Cannibals of McGower County," by Drew Larimore, a playwright with some solid credentials. The intriguing plot synopsis has three women celebrating a birthday when the ex of one of them shows up. He ends up getting shot and killed, and the title tells you how they dispose of his body.
   "Stories From the Road" is set for this Sunday, March 15, and "Cannibals" for Sunday, March 22. Curtain is at 7 p.m for both, and they'll both be in the Asolo Rep rehearsal hall at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Tickets are just $7. Call 941-351-8000 or go to.asolorep.org.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Sarasota's Asolo Rep announces Broadway-bound world premiere

   Bradenton-area audiences will get to see a new musical based on the life of Josephine Baker before it goes to Broadway.
Cox as Baker 
(photo by Frank Ruiz)
   "Josephine" will get its world premiere at Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota beginning with previews in April and a three-week run that starts May 6.
   There's some serious talent behind the show and the production.
   The star is Deborah Cox, who starred on Broadway in the title role of "Aida" and as the female lead in the recent revival of "Jekyll & Hyde." She also recently provided the vocals for the Whitney Houston in the Lifetime movie "Whitney."
   Composer Steve Dorff and lyricist John Bettis wrote Houston’s "One Moment in Time" and Madonna’s "Crazy For You." Bettis has won an Oscar and an Emmy. Dorff has been nominated for five Emmys and three Grammys.
   The musical revolves around Baker’s time with the Folies Bergere in Paris, her affair with Swedish Crown Prince Gustav VI and her service in the French Resistance during World War II. 
   For information, call 941-351-8000 or go to asolorep.org.

Sarasota Opera stars perform live on WSMR

   Classical music station WSMR (89.1 and 103.9 FM) has been doing some really wonderful live broadcasts featuring the stars of local operas, and two more are coming up next week.
   At 11 a.m. Tuesday, March 10, Maestro Victor DeRenzi and principal artists from Sarasota Opera will present excerpts from the current production of Puccini’s "Tosca."
   On Thursday, DeRenzi returns with cast members from "The Marriage of Figaro."
A scene from Sarasota Opera's "Tosca"

   Host Russell Gant will interview DeRenzi and the Sarasota Opera artists as they present well known arias and duets from the two productions.
   Selections from "Tosca" include Cavaradossi’s famous Act III aria “E lucevan le stelle” and Tosca’s Act II aria “Vissi d’arte,” which you'll recognize even if you're not an opera fan.
   Thursday's selections include Figaro’s Act I aria “Non più andrai” and the famous Act II duet “Sull’aria,” sung by the Countess Almaviva and Susanna.
   "Tosca" runs through March 28 and "The Marriage of Figaro" through March 27 at the Sarasota Opera House, 61 N. Pineapple Ave,, Sarasota, Call 941-328-1300 or go to sarasotaopera.org..

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Bradenton-area veterans tell their stories on stage

   They all had military backgrounds and absolutely no theater experience. On Tuesday. they put on a show in St. Petersburg that drew a rousing ovation from a standing-room-only crowd.
   The men and women who make up the cast of "Telling: Tampa Bay" will be in Sarasota Friday to reprise their performance piece at the Players Theatre. It's free and open to the public.
   The piece originated with two-hour-long interviews with six veterans, plus one veteran's wife, about their military experiences. Texas-based writer and director Jonathan Wei shaped the
Terri Davis
interviews into a stage play, performed by the veterans themselves under the direction of long-time St. Petersburg professional director Lisa Powers. They have rehearsed for about 12 hours a week since January.
   Several of the performers are from the Bradenton-Sarasota area. One of the men lost a leg in combat. One of the woman was raped by American military men.
  Bradenton's Terri Davis has happier story. She worked at the Pentagon as a cryptography technician during the Cold War, and spent two great years in Iceland, where she met her husband.
   "I sort of have the comic relief story," she said.
   She describes the show as " a lot of little stories and one big story."
   Davis said her first performance was uncomfortable, because she was reading her own words, but they had been edited into a script by someone else. The response from the first audience, though, has left her feeling excited to get on stage Friday at the Players.
   "After Tuesday," she said, "it's going to be a lot easier.

   Friday's performance begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Players Theatre, , 838 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. It lasts about an hour, and it's followed by a talk-back. (At Tuesday';s performance, the talk-back was ended after an hour of audience still had questions and comments.)
   The original interviews were conducted at the WEDU studio in Tampa. They'll be worked into a documentary that will be aired nationally on PBS on Veterans Day.
   For information call 941-365-2494 or go to theplayers.org.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Kelly Clarkson schedules Tampa show; Pentatonix opens

  On Tuesday, pop star Kelly Clarkson dropped her latest album and announced a national tour that will help introduce her new songs to her fans. One of the late stops on the tour will be in Tampa.
   The album and the tour are both called “Piece by Piece.” The tour begins July 11 but it doesn't come to the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa until Sept. 15, only five days before the tour is scheduled to end. The great a cappella group Pentatonix opens.
   Ticket prices range from $35.25 to $125.90. They’ll go on sale at 10 a.m.  Saturday, March 14 through livenation.com.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Comedian Kevin Hart adds second Tampa show

Kevin Hart
   Kevin Hart's "What Now" tour has been filling huge arenas all over the country. More than a dozen cities along the tour have added second shows to accommodate demand.
   Tampa is the latest.
   Hart will now perform two shows at Tampa's Amalie Arena on May 8 -- the originally scheduled 7 p.m. show and a just-announced 10:30 p.m. show.
   Tickets for the second show go on sale at noon Friday, Feb. 27. They'll run you $56.25, $61.25, $76.25 or $127.25, plus service charge. Call 813-301-2500 or go to amaliearena.com. Tickets for the early show are already on sale.

Sarasota Opera to perform live on WSMR Thursday

   If you're thinking about seeing the upcoming Sarasota Opera production of "Don Carlos" but you're just not sure, you can get a free sample Thursday morning (Feb. 26).
   At 11 a.m., Maestro Victor DeRenzi, the Sarasota Opera's artistic director, will be in the studios of classical music station WSMR (89.1 FM) with cast members from "Don Carlos."
A scene from "Don Carlos"
(Photo by Rod Millington)

They'll chat with host Russell Gant and perform live selections from the opera.
  Selections will include such famous arias as Eboli’s “O Don Fatal” and Élisabeth’s "A Toi qui sus le néant." Artists who will sing on-air include Jonathan Burton (Don Carlos), Michelle Johnson (Élisabeth de Valois), Mary Phillips (Eboli) and Marco Nisticò (Rodrigue). They'll be accompanied on piano by John Spencer IV.
   "Don Carlos" is Giusseppi Verdi's powerful drama, set in Renaissance Spain at the time of the Inquisition, about the ill-fated attraction between Don Carlos and Élisabeth, the wife of his father, King Philip of Spain. It's considered one of opera’s masterpieces.
   The live production of "Don Carlos" opens March 7 and continues in rotation with other operas in the Sarasota Opera Winter Festival through March 24. Tickets prices range from $19 to $130. Call : 941-328-1300 or go to sarasotaopera.org.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Alanis Morissette schedules St. Petersburg concert

  Alanis Morissette is coming to St. Petersburg.
  The Grammy-winning Canadian singer-songwriter (and former child actor) first hit the big time in the mid-'90s with her ferocious hit "You Oughta Know" and her debut album "Jagged Little Pill." The album spawned several other hits and some popular videos. 
   She's kept busy as a musician and actor ever since. Among other acting roles, she played God in the Kevin Smith film "Dogma" and she had a recurring role on "Weeds." She was also a "celebrity guest mentor" on the second season of "The Voice."
   Her St. Petersburg show is slated for 7:30 p.m. April 28 at the Mahaffey Theater. Tickets are $49.50, $69.50, $79.50 and $99.50, and they go on sale at noon Friday, March 6. Call 727-892-7832 or go to themahaffey.com.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Opening night delayed for Asolo Conservatory show in Sarasota

   There's been a bit of a change to the schedule of the upcoming show from the FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training in Sarasota.   The musical "(title of show)" was supposed to open Wednesday. But one of the actors is "very ill," a conservatory spokeswoman said, so opening night has been pushed back to this Friday, Feb. 20.
The cast of "(title of show)"
 The actor is apparently quite the trouper, though, because he's going on with the show Wednesday and Thursday. But the people at Asolo Conservatory are now calling those performances "previews," because the actors won't be in top form. He expects to be fine by Friday's opening night.
   Here's what that means for the ticket-buyer: Wednesday is a "pay what you can" show, and tickets for Thursday's performance are $27. Starting Friday, tickets go to the regular price of $29.
   It runs through March 8 at the Cook Theatre at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, 8 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. Call 941-351-8000 or go asolorep.org.
   "(title of show)" is a quirky hit musical by Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen. They wrote it in three weeks, and the plot is all about their writing a musical in three weeks. When the show moved to Off-Broadway and Broadway, the writers added segments about the show moving to Off-Broadway and Broadway.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Sarasota's Florida Studio Theatre extends 'Dancing Lessons'

   Mark St. Germain is a favorite playwright of Sarasota audiences. His plays “Freud’s Last Session,” “Becoming Dr. Ruth” and “Best of Enemies" have all been big hits with patrons of Florida Studio Theatre.
   FST has another hit on its hands with St. Germain's latest play, "Dancing Lessons."
  Vanessa Morosco and Jason Cannon
"Dancing Lessons" (Photo by Cliff Roles)

The romantic comedy-drama about two damaged loners -- an academic with Asperger's Syndrome and a dancer with a physical injury -- has been extended for a second time.

   It's now slated to run through March 14 in FST's Keating Theatre. Single tickets range from $18 to $49. Call 941-366-9000 or go to FloridaStudioTheatre.org.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Opera Tampa scores with season-opener 'Rigoletto'

   The winter opera season is in full bloom, and in case Sarasota Opera's current productions of 'Tosca" and "The Marriage of Figaro" aren't enough to satisfy your cravings, Opera Tampa is offering a terrific production of "Rigoletto."
   The Verdi classic kicks off the 20th anniversary season for the company, which performs at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts.

   The cast for this production is stunning. On opening night, the most thrilling moments came from soprano Claire Coolen as Gilda, who wielded a gorgeous voice with impressive control and a powerful stage presence, and tenor David Guzman as the Duke of Mantua.  Guzman's rendering of the opera's most famous piece, "La Donna e Mobile," was simpy beautiful, and his duets with Coolen were highlights of the evening.
Guzman as the Duke. Photo by Will Staples
    Sarasota soprano Johanna Fincher was also impressive in a smaller role as  Countess Ceprano. (Fincher will be performing closer to home this spring, in concert with Gloria Musicae in April and the Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota in May.)
   All the design work, especially the  evocative and textured lighting by Chad Jung, is a treat to look at.
   The only downside is that Opera Tampa is only presenting this lovely production twice. The remaining performance is at 2 p.m. Sunday, February 15. Tickets are $49.50-$99.50 plus service charge. If you love grand opera it's well worth the price and the drive. Call 813-229-7827 or go to strazcenter.org.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Steely Dan, Elvis Costello announce Tampa date

   An outdoor concert in west central Florida in the middle of August. No way you're going, right? After all, it'll be like 170 degrees outside and it'll probably rain.
Donald Fagen and Walter Becker of Steely Dan
   Maybe you'll change your mind when you find out it's a Steely Dan concert with "special guests" Elvis Costello and the Impostors.
The just-announced concert is set for Tuesday, Aug. 11 at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa. Tickets go sale at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb 21 at livenation.comThey'll run you between $39 and $159.50 
   Both bands are even better live than on recordings.
   If you can't wait until August, Costello  will be in Clearwater on March 16 at Ruth Eckerd Hall. Tickets for that show are on sale now at rutheckerdhall.com for $49.50-$150.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Awolnation, Pretty Lights added to Big Guava

   A bunch of new acts have been added to the lineup for this year's Big Guava Festival in Tampa.
   It's a decent group: DJ/producer Pretty Lights, electronic music stars Awolnation, pop-rock band Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
, rockers Night Riots and Jacksonville band
Pretty Lights
   There's no one on the roster of additional acts that rises to the stature of the previously announced The PixiesThe Strokes, TV on the Radio, Passion Pit, Jenny Lewis, and Ryan Adams. Also on the originally announced lineup are Hozier, James Blake, Cold War Kids, Banks, Run the Jewels, Death From Above 1979, Action Bronson, Big Data and Iration.
   The Big Guava Music Festival is slated for May 8 and 9 at the Florida State Fairgrounds and the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre.
   You can get two-day passes for $115. You get access to all the stages and unlimited midway rides for that price.
   Go to bigguavafest.com for tickets and information.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Ramsey Lewis concert moved to St. Petersburg's Palladium

   If you have tickets to the the upcoming concert featuring jazz great Ramsey Lewis and R&B great Philip Bailey, you're going to have to drive a few blocks farther than you planned.
Ramsey Lewis
   The Feb. 24 shows was supposed to be at St. Petersburg's Mahaffey Theater, but it's been moved to the Palladium.
   The Palladium's a great venue, older and much more intimate than the Mahaffey. It's at 253 Fifth Ave. N.
   Bailey, who's best known as the lead singer from Earth, Wind & Fire, will perform with Ramsey Lewis and His Electric Band. They'll be doing some Earth, Wind & Fire stuff, and the band will no doubt offer "The In Crowd" and other classic Lewis instrumentals.
   Tickets run $49.50-$69.50. Call 727-893-7832 or go to themahaffey.com for tickets. (Student tickets are available for $35 at the door only, with a valid student ID.) If you want to know more about the Palladium, go to mypalladium.org.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Bradenton-area actor sparks "The Buffalo Kings"

   When the world premiere of "The Buffalo Kings" opened at freeFall Theatre in St. Petersburg a few weeks back, two well-known Bradenton-area actors were part of the ensemble cast. Now there's only one, Katherine Michelle Tanner. The other, Jenny Aldrich, had to drop out for some personal reasons.
   The play, by Natalie Symons, has been a huge hit for freeFall. I runs through this weekend, and tickets are reportedly scarce.
   The acting's impressive all around. (Aldrich was replaced by long-time Tampa Bay area favorite Mimi Rice, who stepped in at the last minute and performed one show with script in hand.)

Tanner (left) and Aldrich (right)
   The script, about a family on New York state facing several crises, some of the  everyday variety and others life-shattering, has tons of delicious great moments and some good laughs, but it's unfocused. It's packed with inconsequential subplots (one about a bad hairdo takes up a lot of the 80-minute first act and then is simply dropped) and extraneous characters (one houseguest who nobody can stand has to stay because his car is snowed in, while everyone else seems to come and go at will.) Meanwhile, the most compelling relationship, the one between a teenage boy recovering from a hate crime and his grandfather who's in the early stages of dementia, never gets developed -- and then turns out to be the raison d'etre for the entire story.
    Tanner and the rest of the cast (which also includes the always terrific Brian Shea) make it pretty easy to overlook the script flaws. This is a handsomely mounted and wonderfully acted production of a play that's overflowing with promise but seems not quite finished.
   There are two shows Saturday and one Sunday at freeFall. Tickets are $21-$44. FreeFall is at 6099 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. 727-498-5205, freefalltheatre.com.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Sarasota Ballet changes March program

"Shostakovich Suite"
   There's been a change in an upcoming Sarasota Ballet program. 
   The performance that's scheduled for March 27-30 was supposed to include Sir Peter Wright’s "Summertide."   That's out, and in its place is a revival of resident choreographer Ricardo Graziano’s "Shostakovich Suite."        The other pieces on the revised program are Paul Taylor's "Company B," which is based on music by the Andrews Sisters, and the world premiere of a new work by Graziano.
   "Summertide" is now slated for the November program.
   Call 941-359-0099 or go to sarasotaballet.org if you want to know more.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Sarasota's Banyan Theater Company announces 2015 season

Tanner in "The Amish Project"
   Two years ago, Sarasota actor Katherine Michelle Tanner delivered one of the most amazing performances local theater goers have ever seen. The play was the American Stage production of Jessica Dickey's "The Amish Project," which is based on a mass murder in an Amish school in 2006. Tanner played all seven characters, male and female, from young victims to the killer's wife to townspeople only peripherally involved. No one who saw that performance will forget it.
   Those who missed it will have another chance. "The Amish Project," with Tanner reprising her roles, is part of the recently announced Banyan Theater Company season.
   Banyan produces shows only in the summer. "The Amish Project" is the second show of the Banyan's 14th season.
   All shows in the Banyan season are in the Jane B. Cook Theatre at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts in Sarasota. A three-show subscription costs $70, a two-show package is $52 and single tickets are $28.50. Go to banyantheatercompany.com for information and tickets.

    Here's the season schedule:

  "Art" by Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton, June 25-July 12
   The winner of the 1998 Tony Award for Best Play and the 1996 Olivier Award for Best Comedy revolves around friends who argue over the artistic value of a painting.

   "The Amish Project" by Jessica Dickey, July 16-Aug. 2
    A devastating and beautiful play that gives an intriguing glimpse into Amish culture and compels the audience with our own capacity for forgiveness and condemnation.

   "My Old Lady" by Israel Horovitz, Aug. 6-23
   Horovitz (the father of Beastie Boy Ad-Rock) has written more good plays than most people have seen. This one, which was made into a movie starring Kevin Kline and Maggie Smith, is one of his best. It's about a financially struggling middle-aged man who inherits an apartment in Paris and finds that French law says the tenant can stay there until she dies. He has no choice but to move in with her.