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 

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

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

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 piĆ¹ 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

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

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