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'Pump Boys and Dinettes' needs fuel to open Oct. 1 at Palladium

Highway 57 may be closed. North Carolina's Highway 57 is the setting for Pump Boys and Dinettes, the first production of the New American Theater, scheduled to open Oct. 1 at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg. But the company may have to cancel the country-fried musical because of lack of funding.

The company is about $10,000 short of its $55,000 goal. "It's very discouraging," producing artistic director Brian Becker said in a news release Tuesday. "We are so close to getting the show up, but time is running out and the donors are scarce."

New American Theater was formed in 2009 to stage musicals. A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline, Songs for a New World and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee are also on its debut 2010-11 season. In August, the company moved into office space in BayWalk in downtown St. Petersburg.

The company set a deadline of Friday to raise enough money for the show to go on. Information: newamericantheater.org.

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There was a meeting Tuesday for potential bidders to manage the Mahaffey Theater for the city of St. Petersburg. SMG, which has managed the theater since 2005, had its contract extended until May, but the city has asked for new proposals to be submitted by Oct. 28.

Representatives of five companies were at the meeting at City Hall: SMG of Philadelphia; Ruth Eckerd Hall of Clearwater; Big 3 Entertainment of St. Petersburg; Professional Facilities Management of Providence, R.I.; and Global Spectrum of Philadelphia. There was also a representative of the Florida Orchestra, the hall's major tenant.

The city-owned Mahaffey has never managed to develop a niche for itself in the Tampa Bay area arts and entertainment market, despite a handsome $20 million renovation completed in 2006. Several attempts at putting on a Broadway series have failed. In fiscal year 2010, the theater's operating deficit is projected at $945,000.

With the new Salvador Dali Museum opening soon, the Mahaffey will be sharing its neighborhood with a popular destination. The 2-acre lawn between the museum and theater has been dubbed the Center for the Arts Plaza. The city hopes to make a decision on a Mahaffey manager for the next five years by Feb. 17.

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WSMR-FM 89.1, the new classical radio station from Sarasota, isn't on the air yet. It was supposed to begin broadcasting a week ago, when WUSF 89.7 dropped classical music to go all news and talk, with nighttime jazz programming. The station blames "technical issues at the tower site" for the delay, according to a news release Tuesday. "Some changes had to be made at the site that require approval from the Federal Communications Commission. The approval is expected by the end of this week."

John Fleming can be reached at fleming@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8716. He blogs on Critics Circle at tampabay.com/blogs/critics.

'Pump Boys and Dinettes' needs fuel to open Oct. 1 at Palladium 09/21/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 21, 2010 9:04pm]

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