Monday, June 18, 2018
Features and More

Musical tour takes 'Elf' off the shelf, into the Straz Center

Christmas comes early when the musical Elf opens this week in Tampa. It's adapted from the popular 2003 movie starring Will Ferrell as Buddy, an orphan who grows up as one of Santa's elves at the North Pole before setting out to look for his father in New York City.

"There's a kind of self-awareness and modern sensibility to the film that I think people find appealing," said Bob Martin, who, with Thomas Meehan, wrote the musical's book. "It's not as saccharine as many Christmas shows. That's something that attracted me to the adaptation because we wanted to make a Christmas show that appealed to adults as well. There's a real sweetness to the character. But the comedy grows out of the context in which we see him, which is a very cynical, urban landscape where nobody believes in Christmas anymore and everyone thinks Buddy is crazy."

Martin was an interesting choice to work on Elf. Primarily a comedian and writer for Toronto's Second City and Canadian television (Slings & Arrows, the brilliant spoof of a nonprofit theater company), he played Man in Chair in Drowsy Chaperone and was co-creator of that loving, hilarious homage to musicals of the 1930s.

"I would say that holiday shows played absolutely no part in my theatrical life," Martin readily acknowledged in a phone interview from Toronto. "I saw the Radio City Christmas show and White Christmas. And The Nutcracker as a kid. Those were probably the only holiday shows I saw before Elf. I haven't seen every Christmas show that's come along. It's kind of freeing."

What Christmas shows has Martin enjoyed? "On television, The Office Christmas special — the British Office — is one of the best things I've ever seen," he said. "It's kind of squirmingly embarrassing and then you're really transported at the end. It's incredibly touching."

Another production of Elf is playing on Broadway, where it opens today. The score by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin (The Wedding Singer) is essentially the same, but with different directors (Casey Nicholaw in New York, Sam Scalamoni on the road) the approach to the material is different. Jordan Gelber plays Buddy in New York, while Matt Kopec plays him on tour.

"How the central character is portrayed dictates the tone of the show," Martin said. "The tour is light, family-friendly fare. It still has an edge to the humor, so I think adults will be entertained. Matt Kopec is really engaging and charming, like a children's literature character come to life onstage. We're trying something a little different with the Broadway version. Our Buddy, Jordan Gelber, is much more of a frat boy. The tour is extremely sweet. Broadway is a little more sly. I think the humor can work both ways."

Elf opens Tuesday and runs through Nov. 25 at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. There's no performance on Thanksgiving, and a matinee is added Friday. $38.50-$75.50. There is a $20 discount for select tickets for shows on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday with a donation of a nonperishable food item to Metropolitan Ministries. (813) 229-7827 or toll-free 1-800-955-1045; strazcenter.org.

Pops music director piles up positions

Now Jeff Tyzik has six pops music directorships. The latest orchestra to name Tyzik to that position was the Detroit Symphony this month. In June, he was named principal pops conductor of the Florida Orchestra, and in October he was announced as the Seattle Symphony's principal pops conductor. He was already pops conductor of the Rochester Philharmonic, Oregon Symphony and Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

Next weekend, Tyzik makes his first appearance of the season with the Florida Orchestra, leading three concerts of movie music, including selections from Casablanca, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Star Wars.

Opera Tampa festival schedule may be dicey

Opera Tampa announced its Florida Opera Festival this month, and there is much to like about the lineup, which features productions of Puccini's La Boheme and Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera in February and March. But the scheduling at the Straz Center, the company's home, could be a problem, with performances on Saturday and Sunday afternoons for the two operas plus the "POPera!" concert. Opening performances for the three are on Thursday nights.

The audience for Sunday matinees is well established for Opera Tampa, but Saturday matinees have not been tried by the company. And for opera singers, back-to-back performances are to be avoided. For example, St. Petersburg Opera performances are on Friday night, Sunday afternoon and Tuesday night.

Daniel Lipton, in his first season as Opera Tampa artistic director, may rethink the scheduling.

"I hope we can go with another form for following years," Lipton said in an interview this month when he announced casting for the festival. "For the soloists especially, they need more time to relax between performances. The voice is the most delicate of instruments."

'Art of Our Time' offers cutting-edge shows

New Stages: Narrative in Motion is a performance series at the Historic Asolo Theater, a 260-seat venue at the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota. Somewhat in line with the cutting-edge dance, music and theater at the annual Ringling International Arts Festival, the series is part of the museum's "Art of Our Time" season. The offerings:

Jan. 24-26: Word Becomes Flesh, hip-hop artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph's letters to an unborn son.

Feb. 7-9: Beyond Words, one-person show by mime Bill Bowers.

Feb. 21-23: Leo, acrobatics, dance and theater by Germany's Circle of Eleven.

March 7-9: Kate Weare Dance Company.

Tickets are $15-$25. (941) 360-7399; ringling.org.

John Fleming can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8716.

Comments
Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — In his vision for this weekend, Connor Coyle is standing in the ring at the Coliseum, and the referee is raising his gloved fist.He’s got a National Boxing Association middleweight championship belt around his waist, the first of sev...
Published: 06/15/18
With over 40 years between the birth of my two daughters, I am two different fathers

With over 40 years between the birth of my two daughters, I am two different fathers

Still shaken by Bobby Kennedy’s assassination six days earlier, I sat in the hospital waiting room mindlessly thumbing through a May 1968 Rolling Stone while my wife, Fran, gave birth to our daughter Elle. As was customary, when everyone had been fre...
Published: 06/15/18
Puerto Vallarta is a dreamy Mexican getaway within reach

Puerto Vallarta is a dreamy Mexican getaway within reach

LOREN ELLIOTT • Times CorrespondentPUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICOThe third-floor balcony attached to our rented apartment served as a peaceful refuge above Puerto Vallarta’s bustling central district streets. Below us, taxis honked, people crowded bus ...
Published: 06/15/18
How Tampa's Cole and Marmalade got famous, beat cancer and helped save more cats

How Tampa's Cole and Marmalade got famous, beat cancer and helped save more cats

Here's how to make your cat famous on the internet, according to the owners of some famous felines.
Published: 06/15/18
Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — In his vision for this weekend, Connor Coyle is standing in the ring at the Coliseum, and the referee is raising his gloved fist.He’s got a National Boxing Association middleweight championship belt around his waist, the first of sev...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/16/18
High-tech nighttime lagoon show coming to Universal Orlando this summer

High-tech nighttime lagoon show coming to Universal Orlando this summer

A gliding, wraith-like figure of a Dementor from the Harry Potter films enters Central Park, and the exteriors of the surrounding buildings immediately are covered in a layer of ice, a sign of their power to drain happiness out of the air around them...
Published: 06/14/18
Why this ballet dancer is skipping college in favor of her own St. Petersburg Ballet Conservatory

Why this ballet dancer is skipping college in favor of her own St. Petersburg Ballet Conservatory

GULFPORT — Brianna Melton is as serious a ballet student as they come.By her junior year at St. Petersburg High’s International Baccalaureate program, she had already spent four summers training with ballet companies across the country and had narrow...
Published: 06/14/18
Frito and Cheeto: How rescued seahorses found webcam fame

Frito and Cheeto: How rescued seahorses found webcam fame

Smile for the camera, Frito. The world is watching, and you have a story to tell. The tiny seahorse came to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium on Sunday with fishing line wrapped around her neck. By Wednesday, she became the CMA’s newest internet ...
Published: 06/13/18
Updated: 06/14/18
From soft serve to ice pops, 12 places to get frozen treats

From soft serve to ice pops, 12 places to get frozen treats

I know we have three more months or so of hot-as-dog-breath Tampa Bay summer, but let’s start things off on the right foot with some frozen treats. Ice cream is on my mind after a recent visit to Disney Springs, when I found love in a perfect scoop o...
Published: 06/13/18
He loves his Dad Shoes ... in all their lame, comfortable glory

He loves his Dad Shoes ... in all their lame, comfortable glory

Think of your father, and the first pair of shoes that come to mind. Grass-stained golf cleats. Crusty old mudders on the deck. Fraying, decaying Birkenstocks. Burgundy leather loafers, the slip-on kind, softened and flattened by the weight of so ma...
Published: 06/13/18