Festival continues through August 26

The history and theatre location changes date back to 1950 in Venice

Venice Little Theatre
Venice Theatre - The Venice Little Theatre shown here had a name change following renovations in 2008.

Although the Venice Cabaret Festival for 2018 has just started, there are 12 more different shows on 24 nights through August 26 at the Venice Theatre. A whole lot of entertainment is on its way from Sinatra, Rodgers & Hammerstein to burlesque and fairy tales in song. Now in its sixth year, the festival brings something for everyone, including some popular repeat performances from past years.

All the festival shows are at the Venice Theatre. The theatre has been in different locations over the years since its inception in November of 1950, the first of which was a WWII metal army barracks with chairs donated by a local funeral home. Other local organizations pitched in with labor and businesses donated construction material. And by Christmas of 1950 Venice Theatre opened its first performance, a successful production of The Torchbearers. Venice grew over the years through advanced interstate travel. In the 1970s the theatre moved to its current location on West Tampa Avenue through the acquisition of an abandoned military institute gymnasium.

Today the main stage has a capacity of 432 guests, while the cabaret Yvonne Pinkerton Theatre has seating for 90 guests. The theatre has grown in other ways over the years. An education and community outreach program was added in 1992. It has grown to be considered as the largest community theatre per capita in the United States and has won numerous awards by individuals for their dedicated contributions to the theatre, Yvonne Pinkerton and Geri Becker. Since its opening the theatre has received awards for best musical and best play while actors have received numerous awards from multiple organizations. See a list of their awards here.

Michelle Kasanofsky
Michelle Kasanofsky performs in three separate shows.

So the show must go on as it has over the last 68 years. Next up on the Cabaret Festival list is Better Late Than Never, this Thursday evening with a matinee Sunday. New York singer Carey Yaruss returns to the stage with a variety of song genres to explain her rise to becoming a mother in Florida. The theatre director, Michelle Kasanofsky accompanies Carey on piano.

But Michelle Kasanofsky does not take a break, she teams with her father George Mancini for a medley of movie tunes Friday and Saturday evenings in Cruising to the Movies. Veteran Venice Theatre drummer Joel Broome accompanies them but they have added a special segment with cruise ship music, an entertaining ensemble featuring Mikal Mancini and Khamor Lyons.

Joel Broome is highlighted in two shows, I Got Rhythm, Sunday evening with a repeat matinee performance on August 18. Joel is center stage with a supporting band to perform songs of his own composition along with familiar songs including recording great James Brown.

The matinee on Saturday features Francine Smetts as Franny Lonesome. This is a different kind of western love music with genres from jazz to western swing. A group of musicians perform with Francine, Dorian Boyd, Kim Kollar, Michelle Neal, Andrew Leach, Alana Opie and Rik Robertson. Another performance of Franny Lonesome is set for the evening of August 9.

The education program displays the talent of its young performers in two late night performances August 9 and 10. The SummerStock educational program is high-energy training for aspiring theatre performers. Director Brad Wages and musical director Peter Madpak are two professionals involved in the extensive training of these young actors. They have already one production in the festival, Into the Woods. Their upcoming performance of Fractured Fairy Tales split the young cast into two groups of performances each night. Storybook characters are portrayed through original songs recomposed from old-time favorites. Into the Woods moves to the main stage August 3 through 12.

John Lariviere Sinatra tribute
Sinatra Tribute - John Lariviere revives his songs.

Who doesn’t like the silver voice of Frank Sinatra. Venice audiences prove that they do, especially when John Lariviere pays tribute to the master in the Sinatra Songbook. This show was sold out two consecutive years. He also has credits in film, radio, TV and an Internet series. Tickets for his August 11 and 12 matinee performances are still available.

Interested in some history back to the 1800s? Want to revisit it as passionate revivals through song? Catch the protests of years past in Dorian and The Furniture presents “GO!” with one evening show on August 12. You can expect songs from contemporaries James Taylor and Indigo Girls. But back to history with a 19th century composition by Stephen Foster and others in between.

No two performances are the same in Not My Type, but they will have you laughing so you can enjoy both evening shows, August 16 and 19. The star of the show, Liz Pascone, is joined on stage by actors Jamie Lee Butrum, Alana Opie, David Walker, Dorian Boyd and anyone from the audience that is asked on-stage. The group of five will perform songs from familiar theatre characters singing other character’s songs. Should be fun, both nights.

And if those two shows didn’t fully satisfy your funny bone experience, catch the Summer Beach Party, presented by comedy and song group, Big Red Nose Burlesque. Comedy, burlesque, singing and dancing is combined for two nights of hilarious fun August 17 and 18. There are tributes to Donna Summer, Lady GaGa, Katy Perry and songs from the musical Grease.

Stephen Ditchfield takes to the stage for matinee performances on August 19 and 26 with his solo performance of songs in As Time Goes By. Stephen has been performing for large and small audiences for 30 years. His repertoire includes Broadway hits, big band and patriotic classics. In As Time Goes By he performs the songs as you remember them.

Kim Kollar and Bobby Eschenbach are accompanied by Michelle Kasanofsky on piano and Joel Broome on drums in Tony’s Girls for three cabaret festival shows. They perform Tony Award winning musicals and top nominated Broadway musicals. There are two evening shows August 23 and 24 and one final opportunity to catch this act on August 25 at the 2PM matinee.

Rodgers & Hammerstein by Kristofer Geddie
The 2018 festival concludes with a tribute to Rodgers & Hammerstein by Kristofer Geddie on August 26.

What better way to complete the festival than with award-winning songs from Rodgers & Hammerstein. The magical genius songbook of the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II duo is presented on-stage by Kristofer Geddie in Something Good. Kristofer shows his own talent in performing some of their best known songs on August 25 and 26.

The general seating cabaret style in the smaller Yvonne Pinkerton Theatre is a fun way to watch a performance in a relaxed atmosphere. The $17 tickets are now available online. Special thanks to Laurie Colton of the Venice Theatre for photos used in this article. Please contact me at (941) 387-1840 if you have a property to sell or buy.


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