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High quality theater options to consider

by Roger Pettingell

Catch live performances here in Sarasota

Different experiences of performing arts at local not-for-profit centers

Palmer Ranch entertaining center in Sarasota is an option when looking for a theater experience
Glenridge Performing Arts Center - Palmer Ranch entertaining center in Sarasota is one option

You are standing in line for a cocktail in the lobby of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, the lights flicker with a signal that the show is about to start. You get your drink and head to your seat. It’s a good experience as it is in many of the live theaters here in Sarasota. And there are other theaters on school campuses and community centers that offer an option to the for-profit live performance halls that are well celebrated.

The Addams Family, a new musical just finished a short run at Glenridge Performing Arts Center (GPAC), concluding its third season of performances by the Rise Above Performing Arts group. A student cast of 43 members led a lively song and dance of this spooky and kooky family in New York.

The 260-seat GPAC theater is in the Glenridge campus of the Palmer Ranch community in southeast Sarasota near Honore Avenue and Palmer Ranch Parkway. It has state-of-the art lighting and sound, large screen and Schimmel grand piano. It is also ADA compliant with wheelchair accessibility and an induction loop for the hearing impaired.

The next season of Rise Above performances at Glenridge picks up again September 12-15 with School of Rock; Glory Days, a new American Musical November 1-3; the classic West Side Story January 3-5 and January 9-11; and the season finale, Bring It On, based on the popular 2000 cheerleading movie, April 23-26. This exceptional group of talented young performers compete nationwide, including its show choir that were the 2018 Grand Champions at OrlandoFest.

When Rise Above is not performing at GPAC, there are concerts and other professional performances. This year Patchouli and Terra Guitarra presented Landscape of Guitar, a music and art production. The Four Freshman has an annual spring concert at GPAC. This group started in 1948 at Butler University in Indiana, and has endured over the years with new talent and a legacy that continues to today. Nate Najar returns December 13 for his annual Jazz Holiday, this year with Daniela Soledade, Chuck Redd and Adrian Cunningham.

Looking for dinner and a pre-show cocktail? Although Palmer Ranch is somewhat in seclusion and known for its privacy with lush landscaping, there are plenty of restaurants on Clark Road to enjoy before or after the show. Rise Above is also looking to build a new performing arts hall. Its new undisclosed location may be closer to restaurants. You can get involved by texting to 44321, donate.

College and community sponsored recitals and concerts are scheduled in the Neel Performing Arts Center on the South College of Florida campus in Bradenton. Built in 1966 and remodeled in 1999, this auditorium has wheelchair accessibility and seating for 830 guests. It is also the home of the Elizabeth M. Eaton Memorial Pipe organ built by master craftsman Charles McManis.

To enjoy a cocktail and dinner before the show there are plenty of franchise restaurants near the campus on 14th Street (US 41) in Bradenton. The Italian cuisine restaurant Primo Ristorante and the popular Anna Maria Oyster Bar are a short drive away.

Neel hosts a variety of tribute concerts including the upcoming tribute to Pink Floyd, Pig Floyd, May 18; John Denver December 8; James Taylor February 9; Linda Ronstadt February 16; and Beach Boys March 22. There are other performances by the Diamonds, a Broadway musical salute on January 12 and Bill and The Belles, a celebration of vintage country music and vaudeville on January 26.

Riverview Performing Arts Center has live concerts, recitals and performances
Riverview Performing Arts Center in Sarasota

On the high school campus, the Riverview Performing Arts Center closer to downtown Sarasota is an elegant theater that seats over 1,000 patrons. The auditorium was built in 2009 when the new Riverview High School campus was constructed. It is equipped with superior lighting and sound technology. There isn’t a bad seat in the house from the individual seating with comfortable arm rests on each. Franchise restaurants are also on US 41 past Phillippi Creek near Proctor Road in Sarasota.

High school and community programs include concert, dance, lecture, plays and meetings year round. This week the high school presents its Choir Spring Concert on Friday, the Annual Recital will be held May 25. On August 2 the Peace & Love Tour is a 50th anniversary tribute to the Woodstock concert. Snatam Kaur will perform live with songs from her new album on October 23 as the winter season begins with a new slate of concerts.

Shows at the Venice Performing Arts Center (VPAC) on the high school campus brings together three different organizations for the arts and a variety of community events with 120 performances each year. The Venice Institute for Performing Arts was chartered as a non-profit on January 1, 2017 to help the community build on its strong arts tradition and to teach student skills that will last a lifetime.

VPAC has 1,090 unobstructed view seats that slope to the 2,000 square-foot stage and orchestra pit that can accommodate 50 musicians. Acoustics are exceptional based on surround-sound boards placed throughout the venue. Handicap seating is available on the main floor and balcony. The center itself is nearly 47,000 square-feet.

Timeless Country with the CJ Simmons Band is up next June 29 for its special monthly summer show season at VPAC. The All American Boys Chorus based in Costa Mesa, California performs July 27, followed by the Sandy Toes Stand-up comedy August 10. The winter season picks up strong with The Nutcracker, December 14, Decades Rewind December 31, Cash, Killer & the King tribute January 18. Broadway Boys January 24, movie music by Dick Hyman, Ken Peplowski, and Clairdee, January 30, and Beatles vs. Stones in the Battle of the Brits as the winter season continues February 1. More February, March and April tributes concerts and shows are on the VPAC website. One of the more popular annual events in Venice is the performance of Shen Yun, March 13-16 at VPAC, that celebrates 5,000 years of Chinese heritage.

VPAC is not to be confused with The Venice Theatre, just a few blocks from VPAC downtown near Centennial Park. The Venice Theatre hosts many events too including Honk!, a musical tale of the ugly duckling, May 10-19. There are plenty of good dining experiences available around Centennial Park with French, Italian, seafood and casual cuisine.

All of the performances and more can be found on our Upcoming Events page. This list is updated every Thursday and at current lists events, festivals and shows up to June 7, 2020.

These venues listed above are available to the public for rent. You may be able to find more throughout Sarasota, such as the Visual Performing Arts Center at Booker High School. I have many properties in my inventory, please contact me at (941) 387-1840 for an exclusive showing or if you have a property to sell or buy.

References to other entertainment venues in Sarasota

Theater Performances in Sarasota

by Roger Pettingell

Rich in History, 'On With the Shows'

These Sarasota Locations Offer Top Quality Entertainment

Asolo Repertory Theatre, Cook Theatre and Mertz Theatre
Asolo Repertory Theater - Home to the Historic Asolo Theatre, Cook Theatre, and Mertz Theatre.

Last week I wrote about opera, orchestras and the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe. Sarasota has plenty of live theater, from amateur to professional. The smaller theaters in the area are as small as the 260-seat Glenridge Performing Arts Center on Palmer Ranch to The Players Theatre downtown with seats for 402.

The Players has an interesting history of 84 years. Montgomery Clift and Jayne Meadows performed there before their stardom. Polly Holliday, Flo on the television show Alice, also started her career at The Players Theatre. I have been told that Polly stayed at a Coldwell Banker home now for sale while she spent 10 years in Sarasota learning her craft. The amazing “Villa Cirque” home on Delmar Avenue was owned by Asolo creator Everett "Chick" Austin. House guests included Bette Davis, Prince Rainier, Gypsy Rose Lee and Dame Edith Sitwell.

The Asolo Repertory Theatre on the Ringling Museum grounds is one of the most interesting structures for arts in the area. Two of the theaters were built for audiences in other countries, before shipping to its home at the Ringling Museum. Originally built in 1798 in Italy, the Historic Asolo Theatre was dismantled and stored. The state purchased the theater and moved it to Florida at the Ringling Museum in 1949. It was on display at the museum until later when it was reassembled and modernized for its first performance in 1958 at its current location. There are three tiers arranged close to the stage, with every seat that has a great view of the show. This theater for professional actors is the largest in Florida for the professional actors guild, Actors' Equity Association (AEA), and is the largest repertory theater in the southeastern United States.

This building is home to the Historic Asolo Theatre, Cook Theatre and another reassembled foreign venue, Mertz Theatre. Also assembled with three tiers, the Mertz Theatre has orchestra, mezzanine and balcony levels. With 500 seats, the architecture is grand and the acoustics are ideal for musical arrangements. Originally built in 1903 in Scotland as an opera house, Mertz Theatre was moved to the Ringling Museum in 1977, reconstruction was completed in 1989.

Florida State University, the Asolo Conservatory, conducts their performances in the 161-seat Cook Auditorium. FSU offers a three-year graduate degree Masters in Fine Arts program for 12 students that qualify from nationwide auditions. Graduates join the AEA upon completion. Their training is extensive including a showcase of talent in New York city and six weeks of training in London. In the third year they are full-time with the Asolo Repertory Theatre. Graduates have appeared on Broadway, television and movies. Upcoming events for these three theaters appear on our calendar web page.

Also on our calendar of events are performances for the Florida Studio Theatre, which is actually a village of three stages in downtown Sarasota close to the bayfront. The winter mainstage opened with the Tony-award winning musical, Hairspray, which runs through January 4. Other shows this season include Dancing Lessons, Fly, and Chapatti. The winter cabaret season has three shows on its schedule; Dancing In The Street, American Pie, and Never Marry A Girl With Cold Feet. FST has been in Sarasota since 1973 with shows that are considered more contemporary.

There are theaters in nearby cities also worth mentioning for their high quality entertainment. The Manatee Players have their live shows in the newly built Manatee Performing Arts Center in Bradenton. Amahl and the Night Visitors and Meet Me in St. Louis are two shows worth considering in December. This is the final week for two shows on two stages in the Venice Theatre, The Full Monty and God of Carnage. It might be a fun time while the adult-aged family is down for the holiday.

7038 Hawk Harbor Circle, Bowless Creek
7038 Hawks Harbor - Ideal opportunity to build your dream home near Whitfield Estates and Villa Cirque.

My family and I wish you the best of holidays and a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving. If you are interested in seeing Villa Cirque mentioned above, please call our office at (941) 387-1840. Close to Villa Cirque I have another home in Whitfield Estates on the water that I can show you at 7322 Westmoreland, or a great property nearby at 7038 Hawks Harbor Circle that is in an ideal location with dockage and direct access to Sarasota Bay. Also, this is a great time to sell your property in Sarasota or Longboat Key. Beachfront homes are in high demand.

References to other entertainment venues in Sarasota

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About Roger Pettingell

Roger Pettingell of Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate is your Longboat Key, Florida Luxury Real Estate Specialist. Roger provides his real estate expertise to sellers, investors, developers, and buyers in the Sarasota area including Anna Maria, Bird Key, Bradenton Beach, Casey Key, Cortez, Grand Bay, Holmes Beach, Longboat Key, Marina Bay, Osprey and Siesta Key. Search for homes, luxury homes, condominiums, investment property, development property, and vacant land and lots on the Longboat Key, Florida and the surrounding area.