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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

Comedy clubs and hilarious stage plays

by Roger Pettingell

Laughter, good medicine at any time

The best locations to find comedy performances in Sarasota

Florida Studio Theatre
Improv comedy - The Florida Studio Theatre improv troupe performs Friday and Saturday nights.

“Laughter is good medicine,” are upcoming seminars at Sarasota Memorial Hospital in April. And indeed, humor can turn a stressful day into a day that has a feel-good ending. How about any day of the week? There are a few places in Sarasota to get a regular fill of laughter and chase those blues away. Some of these venues you may be quite familiar with and others only passively recognized for its comedy.

The first venue that comes to mind is McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre, which last year celebrated its 30 year anniversary in Sarasota. Pam and Les McCurdy have been operating the theatre since 1988 from local venues in Bradenton and Sarasota. After 2014 the club moved from a small strip mall in the Trail Plaza, across from the Walmart Marketplace on North Tamiami Trail.

Today it continues as one of the most prestigious comedy clubs on the Gulf coast at their current location, 1923 Ringling Blvd in downtown Sarasota. There you can find well known comedians nightly such as Pauly Shore, Jamie Kennedy who has appeared in over 40 films, Josh Blue and his comedic look at his cerebral palsy that has been highlighted on network TV, late night talk-show guest Chris Cope, Helen Keaney with numerous TV credits, or Al Romas who has appeared on MTV and Comedy Central. Dale Jones, with several comedy shows on his resume, is up next from Wednesday to Sunday.

As their tagline also indicates it is a Humor Institute, a boot camp to build confidence on stage for those willing to share their jokes or humorous anecdotes. Les and Ken Sons guide the tutelage for structuring an on-stage performance. Sounds serious, but laughter is soon to break out in these sessions. These eight-day classes result in a 95% success claim, they say the other 5% just don’t listen. The next on-stage performance from the Humor Institute is on May 1. Visit the Green Room before and after where everyone is a comedian.

Alumni and other self-proclaimed comedians compete on stage in Open Mic Nights on Wednesdays starting April 24 and on some Tuesdays starting May 7. The competition concludes in an Open Mic session on June 18 with the winner receiving five minutes on the main stage and a cash prize. The annual World Series of Comedy, July 17-20, will present 40 North American comedians who travel the United States to compete in cities as the best comedian in the country. You can register as a comedian on TheWorldSeriesofComedy.com website.

Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall
Big and Purple - Yes, there are comedy acts at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota

Mostly known for attracting high-profile concerts, musicals and stage performances, the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall brings in some of the most highly visible comedians such as Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno to its stage. Next Tuesday The Second City troupe is in the city with their show, “It’s Not you, It’s Me” which brings laughter to the study of human relationships. The hilarious musical, “Menopause” follows on Wednesday. Multiple award-winning actress Whoopi Goldberg performs stand-up on April 27. And if you haven’t seen, “The Book of Mormon” get your tickets now as they go quickly for the four shows January 7-10, 2020.

The Florida Studio Theatre has its improv team perform every Saturday at 8:30 PM. The current run is “Comedy Freestyle” where all the rules of improv are removed. Just about anything Sarasota, “Life’s a Beach” is an improv performance each Friday at 7:30 PM. The “Tournament of Fools” this Saturday lets the audience decide who goes on to be the “Champion of the Fools”. For longer running plays, “Buyer and Cellar,” takes a comedic route in the play about a struggling actor who finds out life in the big city when he moves to Los Angeles. The show is currently running through Sunday in the FST Bowne’s Lab Theatre at 1241 North Palm Avenue.

“In a Word” at the Urbanite Theatre is extended to April 21 and combines grief with comedy for a look back at one fateful night. The theater on Second Avenue presents many dramatic plays but slips in a good hilarious performance such as the satirical “The Thanksgiving Play” with a long run starting November 8.

Now back to Sarasota Memorial Hospital where lectures on Parkinson’s support, baby health and trauma treatments are scheduled daily, they include a lesson improving your health through laughter at HealthConnection on the first floor of the hospital this Friday and again on April 26. Improv actors from FST will lead the hour-long training of laughter exercises.

References to other entertainment venues in Sarasota

Keep up the laughter for a healthy lifestyle, these venues and more have their performances listed on our upcoming events page. Get your Vitamin D in Sarasota with outside activities while visiting. And when you are ready to commit permanently or during the winter months check out my new listing last week in the Beaches community at 775 Longboat Club Rd, #706. This beautifully updated seventh-floor 2BR/2BA residence has direct Gulf of Mexico views on the beach of Longboat Key. Please contact me at (941) 387-1840 for an exclusive showing or if you have a property to sell or buy.

Address List Price Media Slideshow
775 Longboat Club Rd, #706 $795,000 Video Photo Slideshow

 

Call us at (941) 387-1840 for an exclusive showing

 

Holiday events this weekend

by Roger Pettingell

Get into the spirit of the season

From boat parades and tree lightings to festivals and concerts this weekend

Tree lighting in St. Armands Circle, December 1, 2017
St. Armands Circle Tree Lighting - Santa's entrance and entertainment delighted the crowds on Friday night. Click the image for a short video of weekend highlights.

There certainly was plenty of holiday cheer this past weekend. The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall had An Irish Tenors Christmas on Saturday and LeAnn Rimes Sunday with her Today is Christmas Tour. Then there were boat parades, the Seafood and Music Festival on the Siesta Key Beach, downtown Sarasota holiday parade, and the annual Holiday Night in St. Armands Circle to kick off the season with lighting of the tree. If you want to get into the holiday spirit but missed these events, there are plenty more this weekend in Sarasota and surrounding areas. And many of these events are free to the public.

There are two boat parades on Saturday. Line the shores of Sarasota Bay in downtown Sarasota for good viewing of the Sarasota Holiday Boat Parade of Lights, now celebrating 32 years. Marina Jack will also provide an excellent viewing of the boats in the parade that starts at 6 PM. There is a $20 fee to enter your boat and cash and awards will be presented in five categories. There will be a captain’s meeting on Thursday at 5:30 PM in the Marina Jack Restaurant. For more information go to the website. Proceeds will benefit Suncoast Charities for Children.

Either side of the Manatee River in Palmetto or Bradenton near the Green Bridge will be prime viewing for the Manatee River Holiday Boat Parade that starts at 6:30 PM. The boats will pass the Pier 22 restaurant at 8:30 PM where the judging will take place. Call in advance for dinner reservations and the best parade view. Up to $1,900 for first and second place will be given away in two categories of boats, under 40 feet and over 40 feet. There is no fee to enter but tomorrow is the deadline. Go to their Facebook page for more information and to enter.

While you are in Bradenton on Saturday check out the Sounds of the Season just a block from the river on Old Main Street. From 6 to 10 PM there will be live music and movies. Santa will be there in his village and you can catch some machine-generated snow flakes.

Looking for a holiday treat before the weekend? Catch up on your holiday shopping on Thursday night from 5 to 8PM at the Downtown Venice Christmas Walk. Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus will be there, as well as live music and discount shopping. Head to Lakewood Ranch on Friday night for Holidays Around the Ranch from 6 to 9PM on Main Street. Catch Santa and a slide made of snow. There will be local vendors and entertainment.

Three wise men at live nativity scene
Live nativity scene Friday night with the three wise men in front of the St. Armands Key Lutheran Church

There are more events on Saturday including the annual Privateers Christmas Parade at 10 AM on Gulf Drive from Bayfront Park to Coquina Beach. North Port will have a parade of Poinsettia covered floats and tree lighting from 5 to 9:30PM in its Poinsettia Festival. Santa will make his appearance and there will be much to do for children. The Gingerbread Land contest will be on the second floor of City Hall. Venice will light their tree in a celebration from 5 to 7PM Saturday in West Blalock Park. The lighting will mark the first day for the tree to stay lit nightly until 10PM through January 1, 2018. That night there will be a ballet performance of the Nutcracker in the Performing Arts Center in Venice.

Saturday and Sunday head to Lido Beach for their Holiday of the Arts Festival. This is a juried arts festival sponsored by the Sarasota Downtown Merchants Association with 80 artisans from across the country showcasing their original works. The event and parking is free to the public, open 10AM to 5PM each day at 400 Benjamin Franklin Drive.

If you are curious about the dress for Christmas in the 1840s through 1870s go to Ellenton for the Gamble Mansion Christmas. The Ladies of the United Daughters of the Confederacy will be in dress of the period surrounding the Civil War. There will be a confederate encampment as the 4th Florida Volunteer Infantry will be in military uniforms of the era in Gamble Plantation Historic State Park, from 10 AM to 3 PM on Sunday.

The Masterworks Series Symphonic Carnival, under the direction of Anu Tali, will be at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall on Friday and Saturday at 8PM with a third matinee performance on Sunday at 2:30PM. Guest conductor Larry Rachleff will lead the Sarasota Orchestra and feature violin soloist Benjamin Beilman. On Monday, the quartet 98 Degrees At Christmas will hold their Sarasota premiere performance in a 31-city tour to promote their holiday album, Let it Snow, at the Van Wezel starting at 8PM. The group has sold more than 10 million records.

There are other events this weekend worth checking into. Visit St. Armands Circle for Porches in the Park or the concert Messiah at the Church of the Palms in Sarasota, both on Saturday. These events promote life in our little paradise of land in Sarasota and the barrier islands. To date this year I have closed on over $90 million in residential sales, surpassing the personal record I set for myself in 2016 of $77 million. Last week I listed a wonderful residence in building V of Grand Bay, a good value for panoramic views Sarasota Bay and downtown. Please contact me at (941) 387-1840 for an exclusive showing or if you have a property to sell or buy. Enjoy the holidays.

Address List Price Media Slideshow
3080 Grand Bay Blvd, #515 $599,000   Photo Slideshow

 

Call us at (941) 387-1840 for an exclusive showing

 

Van Wezel shares its 2017-18 schedule

by Roger Pettingell

Award-winning performances on schedule

Variety of dance, musicals, orchestra and concerts on tap for 2017-18

Aerial view of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall
Aerial view of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

While urban planners figure out the future of the big purple building that sits on the 60 acres of land in the Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 cultural park, that famous building known as the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall has announced its schedule of events for the 2017-18 performance season. Many of the favorite acts return, including the Jersey Boys for three nights April 10-12. Once again they are bringing in new acts that will excite those who love ballet, symphony orchestras, chorus ensembles, well-known single acts and plays. This place has it all coming up with 45 shows on the schedule within the next year. As in past years I suspect they will be adding more world-renown shows to the schedule so you may want to sign up for their announcements as a Van Wezel E-mail club member.

Concerts by the Stars

We can start with some of the single acts since that is the next big performance coming up when the legendary Frankie Valli with his Four Seasons perform May 20. Frankie Vallie has been an iconic star since 1962 and still draws in fans for sold out shows. The Four Seasons’ fame is popularized by the Jersey Boys, their success is still strong during these decades of musical high-pitch vocals.

Next up is Idina Menzel on May 27, another vocal genius that rivals the likes of Barbra Streisand. She typically sells out too. Diana Ross of the Supremes is up on stage, June 23. The singing group has 12 number-one singles, she by herself has 31 top-10 selling singles. On to 2018, January 16, with the return performance of four-time Grammy Award winner Renée Fleming. Her range is opera to classical jazz, garnering her awards for Best Classical Vocal Solo artist.

Tributes to the Best in Music

Tributes to stars that are no longer with us are on the schedule. Buddy, is the musical story December 5 of Buddy Holly, from his rise to fame to his death and “The Day the Music Died.” A Night with Janis Joplin on January 8 is an outpouring of her famous hits by an ensemble that is an incredible recreation of her talents and the influences of others that Janis Joplin idolized.

Friday Fest ‘17

If you like musical bands, there are local favorites and national talents on the stage. In a series of local favorites labeled as Friday Fest ‘17, there are three Friday concerts on the third of each summer month and one on the fourth Friday beginning with Doug Deming & The Jewel Tones on June 16. This group transferred their talents from Detroit to become a home-town favorite in Sarasota. Considered the best band by voters in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune balloting, Kettle of Fish takes the stage, July 21. The only fourth Friday Fest ’17 concert will be August 25 with the Jah Movement Reggae Band. Expect plenty of love for lead vocalist, Shantel Norman, as she performs in front of her home-town fans on her birthday night. Reverend Barry & the Funktastic Soul completes the Friday Fest ’17 party on September 15. They will be accompanied by The Hellacious Horns who will bring to life some of the genre songs from the 60s and 70s.

Doo Wop Music

Also with songs from that era, the Doo Wop Spectacular hits the stage November 4 featuring best hit songs from the Shirelles. Original lead singer Shirley Alston Reeves joins in on the fun with their hits and other songs from the Golden Age of Rock & Roll. Cleveland Still and the Dubs, The Coasters and The Boomerz round out a spectacular night of music.

Symphonies from Around the Globe

The winter months are filled with plays, musicals, operas and symphonies starting with the Salute To Vienna on New Year’s Eve that combines opera, ballroom dance and ballet with the rich sound of a Sarasota symphony. The China National Symphony Orchestra comes to the Van Wezel February 22 with their blend of Western and Asian compositions. On March 11 the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba will ease relations between two countries with inspired classical Cuban and Latin American works.

Chamber music is highlighted when the Academy of St. Martin In The Fields, led by violin virtuoso Joshua Bell, visit the Van Wezel March 24. This show combines small ensembles with full, rich, orchestra classics. World renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble embraces Sarasota with the world through classical renditions, April 19.

Tango, Dance and Ballet

Ringo Starr and his All-Starr band at the 45th anniversary of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota Florida
Ringo and his All-Starr Band - Pictured is Ringo Starr and Gregg Bissonette on drums, and Richard Page and Todd Rundgren on guitars at the 45th Anniversary of the Van Wezel, February 24, 2015.

The Van Wezel has been busy scheduling dance arrangements. Tango Fire starts 2018 out right January 12 when the troupe The Tango Fire Company of Buenos Aires introduces the Argentine Tango to the Sarasota audience. Balletboyz perform February 1 with their duet ballet movements to two works, Serpent and Fallen. The following week on February 7, Shaping Sound under the choreography direction of Travis Wall, will bring their new production to the Sarasota stage, After the Curtain, a story of a man who fights to find his creative voice after the death of his love. Romeo & Juliet & Carmen, two full length ballets are brought to life February 27 by the Moscow Festival Ballet. Dance to the Movies March 12 showcases the talents of Dancing With The Stars Celebrity Pros and So You Think You Can Dance top finalists to bring back classic movie dances. An odd-ball, but truly amazing way to portray light and shadows in one performance is the stage show by the Mummenschanz troupe, You & Me, at the Van Wezel, April 26.

If you like Musicals

Spectacles of musicals and performances, so good they could not be contained in one night, round out the 2017-18 schedule at the Van Wezel. A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder was the 2014 Tony Award® for Best Musical, a story January 6 and 7 that outlines the hilarious plot of Monty Navarro to claim an entire inheritance by eliminating eight relatives. The tantalizing antics of Sally Bowles in Cabaret plays two nights at the Van Wezel, January 30 and 31. Circus 1903 combines magical illusionists with amazing puppeteers to bring back the feeling one must have had at the circus in the turn of the 20th century. Dorothy, Toto, a wizard, witches and a cast of well-known supporting characters take to the stage to celebrate the original film, The Wizard of Oz, March 6 and 7. There will be eight shows of Motown, The Musical, spread out over six days with matinees on Saturday and Sunday, March 27 through April 1. This show celebrates the best music that had a historic significance in the country. Broadway performers and their lives come together in humorous and touching ways for A Chorus Line, April 24 and 25.

A show in a category of its own, Peter Pan on March 26 is a sensory perception portrayal of the original story of Peter and Wendy. The show is a combination of holograms seen through 3D glasses, large-screen video and dance performances for the audience to participate along with the characters in Never Never Land.

Start Your Night at Mattison's Bayside

Mattison's Bayside
Mattison's Bayside is a popular gathering place

At this time tickets can be purchased for four of the upcoming shows through the Van Wezel website box office. If history has taught me one thing, I would not wait for some of these popular shows, especially if you are looking for multiple seats together. Some shows sell out of their 1,736 seats that are available. Also, make plans before each show to treat yourself to fine dining at Mattison's Bayside in the grand foyer of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

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