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Ruth Eckerd Hall's 2008-09 schedule

Associated Press (2004)

Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick

Associated Press (2004)

Theater, dance, classical music

CLEARWATER — Ruth Eckerd Hall has strayed from its nonprofit roots to become more commercial and pop-oriented, but it still manages to present its share of theater, dance and classical music. Here are five dates to mark on the calendar in 2008-09.

. Carol Burnett, Jan. 15. Before she was a TV comedy star, Burnett was a peerless musical theater performer, making her Broadway debut as Winnifred the Woebegone in Once Upon a Mattress. They're billing this performance as a conversation with her. You couldn't ask for better company.

. Joshua Bell, violin, and Jeremy Denk, piano, Jan. 20. Bell is the star violinist of his generation — as well as a good sport, subject of a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper story in which he played his priceless Strad for tips at a Washington metro station and few people noticed. Denk drolly chronicles "the glamorous life and thoughts of a concert pianist'' on his popular blog,

. Tovah Feldshuh in Golda's Balcony, Feb. 8. Israel celebrated its 60th anniversary this year. A slice of its history is encapsulated in William Gibson's play on the indomitable Israeli prime minister from Milwaukee, Golda Meir. With Feldshuh starring, it was the longest-running one-woman show in Broadway history, with 493 performances.

. Orpheus Chamber Orchestra with Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, violin soloist, March 26. Orpheus, a conductorless ensemble, and Salerno-Sonnenberg play Haydn (Symphony No. 6), Piazzolla (Four Seasons of Buenos Aires), Brahms and a new work by Melinda Wagner.

. Legally Blonde, April 7-12. Here's a musical, based on the hit movie of the same name, designed to get young people (especially girls) interested in theater. It aired on MTV last fall and continues to do good business on Broadway. Becky Gulsvig stars as pink-clad Elle Woods, a sorority sister from California who follows her ex-boyfriend to Harvard Law.

John Fleming, Times performing arts critic

Pop music

For those about to rock . . . just be patient. Ruth Eckerd's pop concert schedule (or lack thereof) over the next nine months will eventually fill out just fine. The Kelly Clarksons of the world tend to book their dates later than most theatrical tours. But while we're waiting for the heavy-hitters to sign on, there are already five can't-missers coming to Clearwater.

. Peter Frampton, Oct. 24. I can say with 100 percent accuracy that Frampton's guitar solo in Show Me the Way is the most joyously bubbly 29 seconds in the pop canon. No contest.

. The Black Crowes, Nov. 10. Here's proof that Ruth Eckerd is one of the most daring venues in the area. You can expect plenty of soulful Southern rock from the shaggy Robinson boys, currently touring behind new album Warpaint. You can also expect a serious contact high.

. Vince Gill, Nov. 15. Did you know that Mark Knopfler once asked the fast-picking Gill to join Dire Straits as a full-time member? The country star has since become a hero to players and fans of all genres. This one is being billed as an "acoustic" show, but you'd better believe Gill will make that sucker sing.

. A BEATLES CELEBRATION: SGT. PEPPER'S AT 40, NOV. 21. The concert event of the year? Could be. Safety Harbor's own Robin Zander and his classic-rocking mates in Cheap Trick have already staged their ambitious Beatles tribute in Los Angeles and New York (with original Sgt. Pepper's engineer Geoff Emerick working the soundboard). The reviews have been glowing, and the special guests showing up have been groovy (Aimee Mann, Joan Osborne, Gomez's Ian Ball). I've heard some of the possible surprises for our local stop and . . . just make sure you have a ticket.

. Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Feb. 6. I've never seen the original Jersey Boys in concert, so here's my chance. I wasn't a big fan until I heard Brian Wilson gush that the Beach Boys wouldn't have existed without Frankie's crew. Can you imagine? That's when I started to listen. "Oh, what a night . . ."

Sean Daly, Times pop music critic

The schedule Here are highlights from Ruth Eckerd Hall's 2008-09 season. Performance times and ticket prices vary; please call the hall at (727) 791-7400, or go to the Web site,, for ticket information and the complete season, including the Adults at Leisure afternoon series and the Awesome Family Fun children's series.


Nunsense, Nov. 30

The Pajama Game, Dec. 6

Avenue Q, Dec. 26-28

Putnam County Spelling Bee, Jan. 10

Tovah Feldshuh in Golda's Balcony, Feb. 8

Hairspray, Feb. 12-13

Love Letters, with Barbara Eden and Hal Linden, Feb. 28

Jesus Christ Superstar, with Ted Neeley, March 28

Dame Edna, Farewell Tour, March 30-31

The Rat Pack Is Back! April 5

Legally Blonde, The Musical, April 7-12

The Drowsy Chaperone, May 10


Dixie's Tupperware Party, Nov. 25-29

Late Nite Catechism, Feb. 3-7

The Awesome '80s Prom, March 31-April 5

REH On the Road

at Tampa Theater

Phoebe Snow, Dec. 10

Arlo Guthrie, March 7


Flavor of Jazz, starring Spyro Gyra, Oct. 7

Peter Frampton, Oct. 24

Michael W. Smith and Steven Curtis Chapman, Nov. 7

The Black Crowes, Nov. 10

Vince Gill, Nov. 15

A Beatles Celebration: Sgt. Pepper's at 40, Nov. 21

Gallagher, Nov. 22

Dave Koz & Friends — A Smooth Jazz Christmas,

Nov. 29

John Tesh Christmas Concert, with the Clearwater Chorus, Dec. 5

Bowzer's Holiday Doo Wop Party, featuring Johnny Maestro & the Brooklyn Bridge, Dec. 13

A Peter White Christmas, with Mindi Abair & Rick Braun, Dec. 17

NBC's Last Comic Standing Tour, Dec. 29

Linda Eder in Concert, Jan. 9

Carol Burnett, Jan. 15

'70s Soul Jam, featuring the Stylistics, Heatwave, Harold Melvin's Bluenotes, the Main Ingredient, featuring Cuba Gooding Sr. Hosted by Jimmie "JJ" Walker, Jan. 16

Roy Clark, Jan. 18

Dick Fox's Golden Boys, starring Frankie Avalon, Fabian & Bobby Rydell, Jan. 25

Engelbert Humperdinck, Feb. 4

Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons, Feb. 6-7

Bernadette Peters, Feb. 9

Natalie Cole, Feb. 14

Bobby Vinton, Feb. 15

The Temptations & the Four Tops, Feb. 19

Jerry Lewis, Feb. 21

Doo Wop Reunion IX, March 7

Michael Amante, Tribute to Pavarotti, March 8

Rodney Carrington, March 27

Regis Philbin & Don Rickles, April 23

Chris Botti, April 28

World Stage Arts

The Nutcracker, by Moscow Classical Ballet with the Florida Orchestra, Dec. 20-21

A Christmas Carol, by Nebraska Theatre Caravan, Dec. 23

Salute To Vienna, with the Strauss Symphony of America and the Viennese International Ballet, Dec. 31

Joshua Bell, Jan. 20

Aida by Teatro Lirico D'Europa, Jan. 24

Munich Symphony Orchestra with Philippe Entremont, Feb. 10

The work of Alvin Ailey and Katherine Dunham, performed by Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, Feb. 18

Paddy Moloney with the Chieftains, March 4

Kodo Drummers, March 6

Boston Pops, with conductor Keith Lockhart, March 16

Cavalleria Rusticana/I Pagliacci, by Teatro Lirico D'Europa, March 21

Moiseev Russian Classical Ballet & Orchestra perform Giselle, March 25

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra with Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, March 26

Ruth Eckerd Hall's 2008-09 schedule 07/12/08 [Last modified: Monday, July 14, 2008 7:20pm]
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