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Peak season also means top entertainment

by Roger Pettingell

Local theater and the Van Wezel shows

First in a four-part series of festivals, dance, plays and classical concerts

Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall
Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall - Concerts, performances and shows nearly every night in season.

Last week I discussed the homes that were activated for peak season, which is rapidly approaching us. That is the real estate market. The next three weeks in a series I will be discussing the entertainment in this area, a series that begins today with the long running theater plays and Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall performances scheduled. In following weeks the festivals, cultural and upcoming black tie events will each have their day in the sun spotlight.

Nearly every day, November through May, the Van Wezel has top quality entertainment. With the Quay project looming and this iconic structure mixed in with the discussion, there may only be a few years left for the Van Wezel as we know it. The city has long thought of the structure as a cultural and architectural landmark since it was opened on January 5, 1970. It sits on part of the 52-acre land destined to become a Bayfront park, entertainment, restaurant and housing venue.

Until then we can continue to enjoy performances from world renown comedians and concerts from some of the best touring bands. This year will mark the 50th season of classical orchestra performances and 50th season of Broadway shows, celebrated through subscriptions to each. Last year the Van Wezel experimented a little by bringing in a short run of the Lion King.

The annual events that are popular are returning once again this year, starting with Neil Berg’s 50 Years of Rock ‘N Roll. This full cast of rock musicians and singers bring back the golden age of Rock and Roll on November 1. Around the holidays the special shows abound each year. There are two shows on December 28 of Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker. Each year the Salute to Vienna New Year's Concert is a tradition, this year on January 2.

Book of Mormon
Book of Mormon Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

Back for a mini-run from January 7-12, The Book of Mormon returns to the Van Wezel with its musical comedy, the story of missionaries sent half-way around the world to spread their opposing views of the Lord’s message. From the creators of the show South Park, this sensational hit has been sold out in other performances so you may want to find out what all the fuss is about and order tickets for The Book of Mormon early.

The remainder of the schedule is filled in with comedians such as Steve Martin & Martin Short on January 23, returning by popular demand. Touring bands and tribute concerts to the greats are also on the schedule. This year they have scheduled a three-night run of the Waitress from January 24-26. Classical music is on stage with the Sarasota Orchestra November 8, The Great Performer Series with six concerts January 15 through March 30 and an Itzhak Perlman recital March 21. All these shows have the chance of selling out, order tickets soon online.

Local theater is thriving too, a continuation from the summer months. The quality of acting in Sarasota and Bradenton rivals some of the bigger cities. These are some of the reasons Sarasota and Bradenton were voted 1-2 respectively in American Style Magazine’s top arts destinations in the nation for populations of 100,000 or less.

The Underpants, a play written by comedian Steve Martin is currently running through October 20 at the Players Centre for the Performing Arts in Sarasota. Martin adapted the script from a 1911 German play by Carl Sternheim. This comedy “covers” unmentionables that exist under trousers.

Next up at the Players Centre for the Performing Arts, The Fantasticks is a Broadway musical to hit our stage October 23 through November 10. It tells the story of Luisa and Matt who fall in love on the urging of their fathers.

Venice Theatre celebrates 70 years in the 2019-2020 season. Now running is The Bikinis, songs from the Jersey shore in 1964, ending October 20. We all know that ABBA sang Mamma Mia and the Venice Theatre is bringing the musical set on a Greek island to the stage which runs from October 25 through December 1. Assisted Living the Musical is a comedy of the Home, for the Holidays starting November 29 and ending December 22. A Christmas Carol has been performed on the Venice stage for 20 years, a classic December 13-21.

Thursdays through Sundays, but not on Tuesdays, is the autobiographical story of journalist Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie which runs until October 27 at the Manatee Performing Arts Center in Bradenton. The story is actually about his former college professor Morrie Schwartz and his influence on the life of the journalist. The venue has two stages, Tuesdays with Morrie is on the smaller Kiwanis Theater with general admission festival seating.

On the larger Stone Hall stage beginning October 24 is Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story. In his short, three year span he helped shape the history of Rock N Roll before his tragic plane crash in 1959 that also killed Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper, and pilot Roger Peterson, The Day the Music Died. The music doesn’t die on stage until the last performance on November 10. Get your tickets for all the performances at the Manatee Performing Arts Center here.

Back in Sarasota Antigone is set at a time in ancient Thebes and the death of Antigone’s brother, condemned without a burial for his alleged treasonous actions as ordered by King Creon. Antigone faces the consequences and the moral dilemma for his defiance by performing the sacred burial ritual. It runs October 30 through November 17 at the Asolo Conservatory.

Florida Studio Theatre
Florida Studio Theatre - Bright Star has a long run

Another Steve Martin comedy Bright Star is brought to the Florida Studio Theatre stage for a long run, November 8 through January 3. This is banjo and bluegrass in the Blue Ridge Mountains, whose stories by Billie are rejected by the editor of the Asheville Southern Journal. It has a happy ending with published stories and along with it a love affair with Alice, the editor.

Holiday shows emphasize the spirit of the season

One of the first holiday shows is The Thanksgiving Play at the Urbanite Theatre, November 8 through December 15. It is a satire on the Native Americans, Pilgrims and the annual tradition we have celebrated for a few centuries. Political correctness is overcome by the awkward actions of the all-white Thanksgiving pageant organizers.

If you can’t get enough of the classic It’s a Wonderful Life, the Jimmy Stewart movie of George Bailey’s tragic life and its turnaround, follow this musical twist to the movie in Stone Hall of the Manatee Performing Arts Center. This is a “wonderful” adaptation for the entire family December 5-22.

Coinciding with It’s a Wonderful Life in Bradenton, Every Christmas Story Ever Told runs in the Kiwanis Theater. Three actors perform every play, song and tradition of Christmas. And they do it in one night with limited engagements December 5-22.

Another adaptation, Radio Show Christmas Carol, the original Dickens story of Ebenezer Scrooge and the three spirits who visit him to alter his perception of Christmas. This play is a narration by DraMature at the Carnegie Library in Palmetto, December 12-22. DraMature is the senior acting troupe of the Manatee Players and tickets can be purchased through the Manatee Performing Arts Center website.

Returning to the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe for six shows, but performed at the Sarasota Opera House, December 4-6 and December 18-20, is the popular A Motown Christmas. Created, adapted and directed by WBTT founder and artistic director Nate Jacobs, the revue blends traditional songs of Christmas with popular songs made famous by Motown greats.

There is plenty of holiday cheer at the Van Wezel starting with the Broadway musical Cirque Dreams Holidaze, two performances November 22-23. The popular and returning Dave Koz and Friends Christmas Tour features the Grammy nominated star and the musical talent that surrounds him for this one-night show November 29. The Celtic Angels Christmas on December 1 is Irish dancing, instrumentals and spectacular singing by five Celtic Angels. Dance to the Holidays is a first-time entry into the Christmas itinerary at the Van Wezel December 4. Under the Streetlamp: Hip to the Holidays is December 12 followed by The Ten Tenors – Home for the Holidays December 22. Ebenezer is back on stage for a Christmas Carol for one show the following night.

A new year and plenty to offer during the winter months

REALTALK interview with Nate Jacobs of the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe
Interview with Nate Jacobs of the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe in REALTALK™ #101.

The plays pick up after the holidays with Caroline, or Change at the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, January 8 through February 16. American race culture is questioned through this musical that portrays life in the South and the dead-end laundry job of Caroline Thibodeaux. The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe is featured in this REALTALK™ #101 video.

In Gulf View Drive, relatives ascend on a couple’s Siesta Key dream home shortly after moving cross country. The play runs January 10-26 at the Venice Theatre. Menopause The Musical coincides with the running January 10 through February 2. They are followed up by Yard Sale, a musical about junk February 7 to March 8 and Guys and Dolls, February 21 to March 22.

We had Underpants with Steve Martin, Into the Breeches, women get to wear the pants to portray Shakespearean plays, normally performed by men. But this is 1942 in the fictional Oberan Play House while the men were fighting overseas in World War II. This play opens February 12 and runs through March 21 in the Asolo Repertory Theatre of the FSU Center for the Performing Arts. Also get tickets for upcoming Asolo productions of The Sound of Music, Murder on the Orient Express, The Lifespan of a Fact and The Great Leap. These shows and many more can be found on our Upcoming Events page.

Please contact me at (941) 387-1840 for an exclusive showing of any of our new listings or reactivated listings, or if you have a property to sell or buy.

 

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

 

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.