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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.


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Longboat and Sarasota infrastructure projects

by Roger Pettingell

Infrastructure projects for the future

Sarasota and Longboat Key proceeding with major construction projects

Intersection at corner of 14th Street and US41
14th Street roundabout - A temporary traffic light was added for traffic while a roundabout is constructed.

If you’ve been away from Sarasota for a few months you may be amazed at the new construction downtown. If you live here year round, your patience is needed so the necessary road and infrastructure is put in place to accommodate the BLVD and multi-year development of the old Quay property. The new Ritz-Carlton Grande is the first to start on that piece of land, with progress appearing before our eyes.

The latest boon in downtown development continues after the completion of the Westin – Vue Sarasota and Embassy Suites, and others in various stages of construction. All these extra hotel rooms and residences will significantly place a burden on the infrastructure. City planners are actively upgrading to accommodate the volume in traffic and services required. The progress is transforming Sarasota and most see it as a good thing.

The first road construction project at the corner of Ringling Boulevard at US41 had a turn lane installed and a new Hawk pedestrian crossing. It might be a little unsettling for the first time to know that you can legally drive through a flashing red light with no pedestrians in the crosswalk. This project completed mostly during nighttime hours had only a few inconvenienced.

It is an entire different project from Centennial Park to the Sarasota Bay Club where the major road expansion is underway. Drainage and utility services were restructured with the preliminary phase complete. The tie-in to the main services will take place within the next couple of weeks as reported by FDOT.

Intersection at corner of 10th Street and US41
10th Street roundabout - Traffic pattern changes and street widening is expected to be completed next year.

The US41 road expansion continues, with crews working mostly after 6 PM and before 6 AM. Sidewalks have been closed in areas and the main boat trailer entrance at 10th Street has been diverted to an area opposite of the Publix into Centennial Park. Even the northbound drivers can enter the park with access to the boat ramps. Drivers are urged to proceed with caution to account for the disruption of pedestrian and traffic patterns.

Roundabouts are considered a nuisance by some, or a blessing by others. The transportation experts have determined they will be required to keep a meaningful traffic flow when the construction projects are completed. The roundabouts at the two locations of 10th Street and 14th Street will coincide with the widening of US41 to six lanes, 10-foot sidewalks on the west and 6-foot sidewalks on the east between these two intersections. Parking for the Preserve is now across the street on the north side of 14th Street.

Phase I, or nine acres of the 53-acre parcel of Quay land labeled as The Bay, is planned to be completed in two years after its start, road construction in the area is expected to be completed next spring. The southern edge of The Bay will have its boundary at Boulevard of the Arts and extend through the existing Centennial Park to the new Sunset Boardwalk, a circular elevated structure that protrudes out into Sarasota Bay. The Bayside Lawn at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall forms the northern edge of Phase I. Discussion continues on the future of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. Also in the early plans is a design showing another roundabout at Boulevard of the Arts but it’s not listed with FDOT and still appears on the project maps.

Center statues for the roundabouts have been submitted by local artists. Two designs will be selected by the City Commission through a vetting process, down to the final six, with residents weighing in through social media. Landscaping is planned for the roundabouts and the Boulevard of the Arts intersection.

Fiber optic underground service
No overhead utility lines - That is the goal for Longboat Key as workers bury fiber-optic lines on the Gulf of Mexico Drive southern end in separate projects involving power, utilities and street lights

Longboat Key has started its infrastructure project to bury utility lines. The goal is to prevent outages from storms and install street lights along Gulf Of Mexico Drive. The new lights will also service cell phone users with built-in transmission relays. The $48 million project is expected to be completed 2022. Funds were approved by voters in two separate referendums. The budget is to be kept separate between the first vote for utilities along Gulf of Mexico Drive and funds for the neighborhoods.

That completion date may depend on weather, and final discussions on the height of the street lights. Research has heights of 32 to 46 feet along Gulf of Mexico Drive and 26 to 41 feet along side streets. The project involves replacing Longboat Key’s 281 poles. Some concern has also been raised to ensure that 5G technology is implemented for cell service. The newest technology will bring in faster data speeds and improve cell phone reception. The plan is to marry these projects to one that involves a fiber-optic backbone on Longboat Key currently underway. Longboat Key has developed a website to provide updates at You can also sign-up for updates through your email address.

No more overhead lines for cable, power and phone service. The projects have started to prevent outages, safety and aesthetically pleasing. These improvements can help sell homes. Please contact me at (941) 387-1840 if you have a property to sell or buy.


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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 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


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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


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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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