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, jeremydenk.net.
. 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
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