ASOLO REP’S BIG NEWS is not only the upcoming EVITA but that the musical will be heard by audiences under a new sound system. It’s promised that this will alter all future effects of musicals in the Mertz Theatre. At a media event for this 40th anniversary opening of EVITA, Josh Rhodes the director and choreographer spoke of it as a “story of ambition” for which a prominent staircase in the set will act as a scenic metaphor. I think Rhodes has been very wise in having Argentinians not only dance the tango in the show but control it choreographically and teach it to the ensemble. If you have ever been to Argentina, you know that its tango artists cannot be beat. In the vocal department, however, Puerto Rican Ana Isabelle is very capable of holding her own as the lead Eva Peron. She sang “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” beautifully for the press, with cast humming lightly for parts of the background. “The Money Kept Rolling In” was a high point for Justin Gregory Lopez as Che. I also was very impressed by the children’s choir, many of whom are local, for we’ve got a lot of talent in Manasota!
SPEAKING OF TALENT, that’s what you’ll be doing about the cast of FLAMING GUNS OF THE PURPLE SAGE at Venice Theatre. They save a silly show. I suspect the December musical on the mainstage, SMOKEY JOE’S CAFE, will be more to more tastes. A friend tells me that their former take on BUDDY HOLLEY won’t be bettered by the version coming in early December to the Van Wezel, but you may want to check out that opinion.
MANATEE PLAYERS has shows opening in both the main stage and the Kiwannis Theater on November 30 and both go through December 17. Is that a first? In the new year, the Mainstage will open first on January 11 with NINE.
THE ARTS & CULTURAL ALLIANCE OF SARASOTA COUNTY has an excellent GUIDE to 2017-2018 year’s offerings all in one place. Strangely, there’s no mention of a SaraSolo Festival or of the Holiday Theatre that was promised for limited holiday performances, probably at The Starlite Room. That reminds me of how much the laugh-loaded STARLITE PLAYERS fare is being missed, but Jo Morello, its creator and head, has dismissed it forever. Jo is busy working on her EGO play about Eugene O’Neill and has another idea–for a musical–perking.
FREE FALL THEATRE in St. Petersburg lost its roof courtesy of Hurricane Irma but was able to go on with its WHITE FANG premiere and–in case you missed it–has it onstage in London, England, should you be there. The popular theater raised enough money to raise the roof anew and will be whole for the rest of the season.
IRMA BLOTTED OUT several performances of the Two Chairs Company’s THE CRUCIBLE at The Players. Elliot Raines, founder and artistic director, tells me that his next production will be given next Spring or early Summer, a switch from the September schedule of the company’s first years. Elliot is still working with The Players even off-stage and will direct THE PRICE by Arthur Miller next March.
A FINAL TRIBUTE TO NATALIE GUNDRUM appeared in the playbill of the Two Chairs Company. The large “ad” was taken out by Jim Taylor, calling Natalie “Fantastic Supporter of the Arts in Bradenton & Sarasota.” Jim, who has done such great work in box offices in both places and donated much, deserves a similar tribute.
KEN HERMAN will be missed; he died just before ushering Irma in. Ken was wife Irene’s stalwart supporter when she was a critic and writer about the arts locally, and retired only last year. Ken also gave special support to daughter Cara Herman, who’s on the staff at Venice Theatre but also appears at other venues throughout the Manasota area. Both Ken and my late husband Jim were vets of WWII and became great friends, with Ken bringing a memory of Jim to the Capitol when he was feted at the WWII Vets Memorial.
FLORIDA STUDIO THEATRE’s Cook Cabaret is jumping with Bobby Darin songs way into the New Year. As I said in my review in TotalTheater.com, there’s an amazing variety in the show, since Darin was “into” so many kinds of music. But MACK THE KNIFE, the show title, is also that of his enduringly popular song.
MICHAEL HEALEY has been so busy at work for Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe that he left off for a while publicizing his photography business. He assures me he is ready to hear from potential customers, so be advised.
KEVIN COSTELLO continues to be a favorite teacher for ACE (Adult & Community Enrichment Classes), ace-sarasota.com. He’s extending classes in art appreciation to a luncheon lecture on December 1 at Mattison’s 41 on Italian Art. Yes, there’ll be very appropriate food. (I remember Kevin from the long-ago days when I taught at the Longboat Key Education Center, as did he.) ACE is also sponsoring a four-session class on The Beattles at STC Sarasota.
LA MUSICA is already in full swing with a December 5 offering. Its big Concert is due at the Sarasota Opera House from April 9 to 18, but publicist Kelly Fores says it’s not too early to book tickets and plan to attend open rehearsals.
NEW MUSIC NEW COLLEGE is also scheduling from January through April. I don’t know why, but the theater program at New College isn’t well publicized. I saw a very interesting Carol Churchill play there last year but it was not open to reviewing. Its young male lead was one of the best actors, student or pro, I’ve seen on a local stage. That’s not to discredit the FSU/Asolo Conservatory, though, since their Shakespeare at Selby was superb. I look forward to next Spring’s offering. BTW, Selby was used for Shakespearian performances in the past — by the now gone Theatre Works.
A NOTE for you who may be in San Francisco and interested in making theater a part of your visit: I saw some interesting shows there as part of the American Theatre Critics Association meeting last summer. There was the always reliable American Conservatory Theatre downtown but also a few venues new to me and worth recommending: The CUSTOM MADE THEATRE COMPANY. in a small upstairs venue at 533 Sutter Street that did a Kurt Vonnegut novel adaptation called MOTHER NIGHT and, in Sillicon Valley, THEATRE WORKS that develops new shows in Palo Alto, a SF suburb. Prices at both theaters are quite low–not more than $20 for a single ticket! And they’re cheaper in threes.