by Colette Bancroft
Times Book Editor
It's a silver season for the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa.
The Straz released Sunday a schedule for its 2012-13 season — the center's 25th — packed with returning favorites and new acts. The center will celebrate its first quarter-century with a 25th Anniversary Gala on Dec. 1, a black-tie evening with live and silent auctions, dinner on Ferguson Hall stage and a special performance by Tony-winning actor, singer and songwriter Idina Menzel, star of Broadway's Wicked and the original production of Rent.
But the celebration will last all season in the Straz's five venues with music, theater, dance, comedy and more.
The center also recently announced a tease to the 2013-14 season: The smash Broadway hit The Book of Mormon will be ringing Tampa Bay's doorbell.
The exuberantly irreverent musical about a pair of hapless Mormon missionaries has won nine Tony awards, including best musical, and a host of other awards. The Book of Mormon will be part of the 2013-14 Best of Broadway Tampa Bay season. Tampa dates will be released later for the musical, which has book, music and lyrics by Trey Parker and Matt Stone (of South Park fame) and Robert Lopez (Tony winner for Avenue Q).
Strike the right notes
In the 2012-13 season, the Straz continues its musical tradition of presenting a wide range of performers, with highlights like the youthful old-time string band Carolina Chocolate Drops, featured on the soundtrack of The Hunger Games.
The fall lineup begins with eclectic singer-songwriter Andrew Bird (Oct. 9); followed by Toast of Tampa Show Chorus (Oct. 20); Quiet Callings: An Evening of Improvisation and Inspiration featuring Fred Johnson, Daniel Kelly and visual artist Marc Lavasseur (Oct. 26-28); perennial holiday favorite Mannheim Steamroller (Nov. 17), Tampa Bay Symphony (Nov. 18, Feb. 25 and May 13); the New Directions Veterans Choir (Jan. 13); Israeli vocalist Dudu Fisher (Jan. 15); Hasidic Jewish reggae musician Matisyahu (presented at Tampa Theatre, Feb. 23); Carolina Chocolate Drops (Feb. 15); Grateful Dead tribute band Dark Star Orchestra (Feb. 21); violin virtuoso Hilary Hahn (Feb. 27); flamenco guitarist Jesse Cook (Feb. 28); the Creole Choir of Cuba (March 3); Led Zeppelin tribute band Get the Led Out (March 16); The Four Bitchin' Babes with Mid Life Vices: A Guilt Free Musical Revue (April 4); tabla genius Zakir Hussain with santoor master Shivkumar Sharma (April 5); the Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour featuring Dee Dee Bridgewater, Christian McBride, Ambrose Akinmusire, Chris Potter, Benny Green and Lewis Nash (April 13); Experience the Beatles With RAIN (April 27) and James Gavin's Stormy Weather: the Lena Horne Project, starring Mary Wilson (May 2).
Laugh out loud
With comics such as Jerry Seinfeld and Lewis Black, the season offers plenty of reasons to laugh. Standup acts include Paula Poundstone (Oct. 6); Mike Epps (Nov. 3); Cheech and Chong (Nov. 10); Louis C.K. (Nov. 29); Brian Regan (Feb. 15); Jeff Dunham (presented at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, Feb. 22); the diverse Royal Comedy Tour (March 24); Jerry Seinfeld (March 30); Lewis Black (April 18) and the Pumps and Punchlines tour (April 26).
Comedy will be key in Dixie's Tupperware Party (Dec. 4-9); Mike Birbiglia in My Girlfriend's Boyfriend (Jan. 24); Andrea Caban's one-woman show Questions My Mother Can't Answer (Feb. 21-March 3); and the return of Menopause the Musical (June 19-23).
On their toes
Dance performances will begin with the Straz Center's own Next Generation Ballet in The Nutcracker, The Great Imperial Ballet (Dec. 22-23), followed by Momix in Botanica (Jan. 17); Spanish repertory company Ballet Flamenco de Andalucia (March 13); and, in a mixed repertory program, Dance Theatre of Harlem (April 21).
The Patel Conservatory at the Straz offers more than 100 classes and camps for young performing artists. Its Youth Theater will present Kiss Me, Kate (Nov. 8-10 and 15-17); Dig It! (Feb. 28-March 2 and March 7-9); The Music Man, Jr. (April 11-13 and 18-20); and The Good Doctor (April 11-13 and 18-20). The conservatory's Youth Orchestra will present its annual fall and spring concerts (Dec. 10 and May 20), as will the Vocal Arts Choirs (Dec. 11 and April 30). Patel Conservatory students celebrate Rock School Blowout on Dec. 1 and April 6. Students from the Patel Conservatory Youth Ballet will be featured in the Next Generation Ballet's The Nutcracker, The Great Imperial Ballet (Dec. 22-23), On the Edge (April 18) and Cinderella (May 19). The Patel Conservatory will hold its third annual Spotlight Awards on May 23.
The little ones can find fun at the Straz, too. The Wee Folk series (ages 2-4) offers Animal Safari Stories (Feb. 10) and Shana Banana's Bananimagination (March 24). Included in the Kid Time series (ages 3-8) are The True Story of the Three Little Pigs (Oct. 6), The Gruffalo (Jan. 12), Anver the Eccentric: Exceptions to Gravity (April 7) and Next Generation Ballet's Cinderella (May 19).
The third season of the National Geographic Live! series includes Secret Edens with underwater photographer David Doubilet (Jan. 22); Polar Extreme! with polar explorer Borge Ousland (March 4); and Birds of Paradise with field biologist and wildlife photojournalist Tim Laman (April 23).
Speakers on the schedule are journalist Anderson Cooper (Sept. 23) and Cesar Millan of The Dog Whisperer (June 15). Special events include the Opera Tampa Gala (Feb. 9); Miss Tampa Scholarship Pageant (March 3); and Taste the Best of Tampa Bay (April 20).