It turns out that all those rumors flying around about Stage West Community Playhouse are true.
The daring and courageous (or is it crazy?) group in Spring Hill has announced an all-new and, egad, incredibly challenging change for the 2012-13 season, and it is a heart-stopper. Especially for those of us who think that composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim could, if he so desired, walk upon the waters.
No doubt noticing that musicals tend to fill the Main Stage auditorium (think SRO and extra shows for Chicago) and that plays do best in the smaller Forum (think full houses for Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks), the theater has scheduled four big (and I mean BIG) musicals in the large space and four plays in the smaller venue. This is a huge change from the former schedule of two musicals and three plays on the Main Stage and two plays and a small musical in the Forum.
(The fact that Hernando Symphony Orchestra is making Stage West its permanent home and will need the big auditorium for its concerts may also have something to do with the change. Or not.)
The four musicals the theater leaders have chosen are truly awe-inspiring: three Sondheim collaborations and the Mel Brooks knee-slapper The Producers.
Sondheim writes what are, arguably, the most difficult, complex music and lyrics in the business, with changing tempos, discordant sounds, pitch changes, high and low notes for the singers, merged and concurrent lyrics and melodies — everything but get-down rap and hip-hop. And that's probably coming next.
Stage West has chosen two of Sondheim's most difficult creations — the delightfully gruesome Sweeney Todd and the sorta operatic adult romance A Little Night Music — as well as one with his lyrics, Gypsy, all with sizable casts. Good thing that HSO is moving to Stage West, as all the musical ability available in the area is going to be needed for those shows.
Over in the Forum is a grand mix of drama, comedy and farce: William Inge's drama with a few chortles, Bus Stop, about an eclectic group of people riding out a snowstorm in a roadside diner; the new-to-us comedy/farce Beyond Therapy, about a relationship-challenged couple and their even more troubled therapists; the story of Helen Keller and her teacher/governess, Miracle Worker; and the wild farce, Love, Sex and the IRS, about same-sex roommates getting caught trying to file their taxes as a married couple (the play was written in 1979 and isn't about gays, but does have some hilarious cross-dressing).
All the shows open on a Thursday and continue for the next two weekends. All are at 8 p.m., except Sundays at 2 p.m.
Ticket prices for individual shows and packages haven't been set yet, and no dates have been set to start sales for current season ticket holders or newcomers. As the saying goes, "Watch this space." I'll let you know how much and when as soon as that info is available.
These are all excellent shows and are sure to attract singers and actors from far and near. The big question now is, "Where are all the directors, music directors, choral directors and musicians going to come from?"
One more thing . . .
Be sure to spend at least one day Jan. 21 or 22 at the Suncoast Arts Fest at the Shops of Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel. I've been going for the past few years, and it's my all-time favorite outdoor art event. I've found beautiful, affordable jewelry, fun gifts, lovely fiber art I can wear, and enjoyed beautiful fine art, photography, great musical groups, the sidewalk chalk artists and everything else at this show.
I've also discovered how many terrific restaurants, coffees bars, and yogurt shops there are in that gorgeous outdoor mall. And when I get tired of looking at and/or buying art and/or eating, I can duck into Chico's, Talbot's, Coldwater Creek, Pottery Barn, Barnes & Noble, a plethora of boutique shops, plus my favorite department stores for some serious shopping.
Art show hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Jan. 21 and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 22. Admission is free.