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Tampa Bay: The best of art, stage, food, music and laughs in 2014

We've packed up the holiday displays and put away the noisemakers from New Year's Eve, so now we are looking down the road to what 2014 will bring us. There's a lot in store for us in the world of entertainment and things to do. Here's what the entertainment and lifestyle writers of the Tampa Bay Times are looking forward to.

1. Music festivals

The festival wars are escalating — and for Tampa Bay music fans, that's a great thing.

After successful one-day events in 2011 and 2012, Tampa's Gasparilla Music Festival will expand to two days in 2014, filling Curtis Hixon Park with even more of the friendly vibe, local flavor and diverse music that have turned this into one of the city's signature feel-good events. Expanding is a gamble, but one that organizers are hedging by booking their biggest headliner to date, alt-rock oddballs the Flaming Lips. After drawing 10,000 people last year, would anyone bet against them?

While the plucky locals behind GMF are growing slowly and carefully, concert promotions behemoth Live Nation is doubling down on its plot to dominate the local festival circuit. After launching three huge new fests in 2013 — the blues-based Sunshine, the pop-rocky Funshine and the indie-leaning Coastline — Live Nation will mix things up a bit this year, starting with Funshine. Last year's fest at the Florida State Fairgrounds was an odd mix of attractions — Train! Carnival rides! Food trucks! Ted Nugent! — that felt a little unfocused, like it was trying to be all things to all people. Live Nation later admitted it could have done a few things better. So in 2014, Funshine will get a new name, tweaked format and a lineup that skews a bit younger and hipper when it arrives in early May. The lineup rumors we've heard are pretty impressive, and if everything comes together as Live Nation hopes it will, this will be one of the musical highlights of 2014, no question.

Jay Cridlin

2. Bollywood Oscars

The difference between the Bollywood Oscars and Hollywood's Oscars? Bollywood knows how to make musical numbers entertaining. Search YouTube for "IIFA" — the International Indian Film Academy — for a glimpse at the choreographed razzle-dazzle awaiting Tampa in April. IIFA is bringing its celebration of Bollywood cinema to the United States for the first time, a four-day spectacle of concerts and exhibits culminating in awards for the most internationally popular movies most of us haven't seen. Previous stops wowed audiences in cities like London, Johannesburg, Toronto, Amsterdam and Bangkok, so it's a big deal. The awards ceremony will be televised worldwide from Raymond James Stadium on April 26, and the closing night crowd is expected to top 35,000. After Super Bowls and conventions, be assured this will be a party the likes of which Tampa Bay has never seen.

Steve Persall

3. Restaurants

For Tampa restaurants, 2013 went out in a blaze of glory in December, with Ferrell Alvarez and Ty Rodriguez's Rooster & the Till opening in Seminole Heights and Elevage debuting at the red-hot Epicurean Hotel in South Tampa. The new year promises equally newsworthy openings, all on the Hillsborough County side (hear that, Pinellas?). Greg and Michelle Baker's long-awaited second restaurant, Fodder and Shine, will also open in Seminole Heights, although construction seems slow to start in earnest. Ybor City's best-known restaurateur, Richard Gonzmart of the Columbia, teams with Keith Sedita (formerly with OSI and Carmel Café), to launch Ulele Native-Inspired Food and Spirits this spring at the site of a Tampa Heights steam-powered pump house that dates to 1902. And in late spring, Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon will partner with 717 South owner Michael Stewart on Ava, a new Italian restaurant to open in the Post SoHo apartment complex at Swann and S Howard avenues, its wine list drawn from Maddon's extensive vino knowledge.

Laura Reiley

4. Classical music

The versatile Florida Orchestra goes from Beethoven to Bond and beyond. It starts off the year with an all-Beethoven concert (Jan. 10-12), including Piano Concerto No. 3, Egmont Overture; and Symphony No. 6, Pastorale. Then it's a quick switch to the music of Bond, ranging from Diamonds Are Forever to Goldfinger to Skyfall (Jan. 17-19). Add another switcheroo as they accompany the Charlie Chaplin movie The Gold Rush screened at the Tampa Theatre (Feb. 28) and the Palladium (March 1). Away from the orchestra, there's perhaps the most famous violin virtuoso, Itzhak Perlman, coming to the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa on Feb. 1.

Kelly Smith

5. Beer

If you thought beer was big in 2013, just wait till this year, when even more new beer bars will open their doors, along with more than a few new breweries. In Tampa, Angry Chair Brewing will bring its quirky, bold-flavored beers to Seminole Heights, while Coppertail Brewing Co. will open its full-scale production brewery in Ybor City. Opening in the spring is Ulele, a new restaurant with small brewhouse for beers to be served on site.

Madeira Beach will get its first brewery, by way of Mad Beach Craft Brewing Co. The long-awaited St. Pete Brewing Co. is expected to open its doors in downtown St. Pete. In May, Lakeland's Brew Hub will officially open to the public, serving beers brewed in partnership with clients looking to expand their reach and production capacity. Two Florida breweries — Tampa's Cigar City Brewing and Orlando's Orange Blossom Pilsner — have signed on, and this means more Florida beer for everyone.

The third annual Tampa Bay Beer Week returns, and last year's Beer Week featured more than 200 events at nearly every local beer bar, brewery, and beer-friendly restaurant imaginable. The new year is shaping up to be even bigger. Though no official events have been announced, you can expect more events than you can possibly choose from during the first week of March.

Justin Grant

6. Trader Joe's

Hallelujah, it has finally happened. After months of being coy and playing with our tender hearts, Trader Joe's announced it will open a store on Fourth Street at 28th Avenue N in St. Petersburg after opening a first Tampa Bay area store at 3808 W Swann Ave. in Tampa. For those of us who would commit crimes in the name of Trader Joe's paneer tikka masala or the triple ginger cookies, this means an end to weekend runs to Sarasota. For the uninitiated (maybe there are a couple of you still out there), TJ's has achieved cult status by offering 4,000 items, most of them store-brand, where a normal grocery store might have 50,000. The key is, those 4,000 have been tweaked and refined by staff "product developers" who rack up the frequent flyer miles to bring flavors from Peru to Bangladesh deliciously to the American market. Oh, plus there's Two Buck Chuck (sadly, the Charles Shaw wines have been "upchucked" to about $3.50, but that's still a mad deal).

Laura Reiley

7. Comedy

The year ahead in comedy has some real benchmarks. One of Jay Leno's first stops after he wraps up his Tonight Show gig will be at Clearwater's Capitol Theatre on Feb. 9. That show sold out so quickly that a second one was added down the road for March 29. Former talk show host Rosie O'Donnell is working out material to resurrect her standup career, which will bring her to the Improv in Centro Ybor Feb. 7-9. We also have tried-and-true veterans like Bob Newhart (March 1, Capitol Theatre), Garrison Keillor (Jan. 12 at Straz Center) and Joan Rivers (March 14, Capitol) who never stop working and never let us down. On the more edgy front, Amy Schumer brings her Back Door Tour to the Straz Center on Feb. 19, and don't let her all-American looks fool you. Girl has a filthy mind. And finally, Food Network star Alton Brown brings his quirky love of science, food (and food cannons) to his live show at the Straz Center March 1 with his Edible Inevitable Tour.

Sharon Kennedy Wynne

8. AirFest

MacDill Air Force Base's popular AirFest will be back in 2014 after a one-year hiatus caused by congressional budget fights. The free on-base event, which always draws large crowds, is getting a new name — the MacDill AFB presents Tampa Bay AirFest — which organizers said better reflects the event's regional draw. The March 22-23 event will feature the Air Force Thunderbirds flight demonstration team. New this year will be more civilian aerial demonstrations and airplanes, including cargo, fighter and specialty aircraft, which will be displayed on the ground.

Sharon Kennedy Wynne

9. Broadway musicals

It's going to be a good year for Broadway musical fanatics, as the Straz Center's buzzworthy theater season continues in 2014. The wildly popular Book of Mormon kicked things off in 2013, but the bulk of the Tampa performing arts center's blockbuster shows are still to come. First up this month is The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, which won a Tony Award for best revival of a musical after opening in early 2012 on Broadway with an acclaimed cast including five-time Tony winner Audra McDonald as Bess and David Alan Grier as Sporting Life. The revival coming to the Straz is a stripped-down version (thank goodness) of the original four-hour opera, and it runs Jan. 14-19. After that comes Once, also a 2012 Tony Award winner for best new musical. Based on the 2006 Irish film of the same name about a Dublin street musician and a woman he meets, it's known for the Oscar-winning song Falling Slowly, which became a huge hit and has since been covered by singers including Josh Groban. Once runs Feb. 11-16 at the Straz. That's followed in March by Andrew Lloyd Webber's rock opera Evita, about the life of Argentinian political leader Eva Peron, which went from Broadway musical (in the '70s with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin) to a movie (yes, the one with Madonna) to a 2012 revival that's touring the country.

Michelle Stark

10. Theme parks

It's like an arms race every year as the Florida theme parks push out more rides and fan favorites. Busch Gardens will be adding a stomach-flipping drop ride that will plunge 335 feet, called Falcon's Fury, scheduled to open in May. Universal will expand its Harry Potter offerings this summer to include Diagon Alley and the Hogwarts Express train. And Disney will complete its makeover of Fantasyland with a new ride, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Aquatica, SeaWorld's water park, will open a new water thrill ride that will be more than 100 feet tall.

Sharon Kennedy Wynne

11. Big concerts

When those British scamps in One Direction play Raymond James Stadium on Oct. 3, will the young ladies who love them now still love them then? After all, the shelf life of a boy band is not unlike the durability of an open jar of mayonnaise. That's one of the looming questions leading into the 2014 concert season, which is already filling up with big, bold names. Other things to ponder: Will Billy Joel's Jan. 17 gig at the Tampa Bay Times Forum be the last time we see the Piano Man, now 64, in these parts? How about a possible farewell show from 80-year-old Willie Nelson (Ruth Eckerd Hall, Jan. 29)? What's the cooler don't-miss show: Arctic Monkeys (Feb. 1) at Jannus Live or the Avett Brothers at the USF Sun Dome (March 29)? And finally, when Miley Cyrus plays the Times Forum on March 20, will booty-bumping and tongue-wagging be weaned from her repertoire, as the pop star is already trying to focus more on her talent than her tuchus? Only time, and twerking, will tell.

Sean Daly

12. Local theater

The Duck Dynasty dustup is just the latest reality TV controversy. Who knows what will happen to fuel our intense interest in regular-people-turned-celebrities before the world premiere of American Monkey at St. Petersburg's FreeFall Theatre on March 15? Written by Mihkel Raud, an Estonian artist and critic and one of the judges of that country's version of American Idol, American Monkey promises to be a frenetically funny look at reality TV. It's easily the show we are most looking forward to on local stages in 2014. American Stage in St. Petersburg has a pocketful of good theater to offer including August Wilson's 2 Trains Running, the seventh play in the company's ambitious undertaking of Wilson's 10-play century cycle, opening Jan. 24. This year's musical in the park will be The Wiz (April 11-May 4), which promises a lot of fun under the stars. Back in the Third Street N theater, fun of a different, and more though-provoking, sort will be on stage in God of Carnage. The Tony-Award winning play opening July 18 delves into the morays of modern day parenting, before and after rum. The genre is "Southern Gothic" and the setting is Disney World, among other familiar Florida locales, for The Sugar Bean Sisters, which opens June 12 at Stageworks in Tampa. It's weird, like Florida, and we really want to see it because it includes remembrances of an alien aircraft in a sugarcane field. Opera continues to grow in the Tampa Bay Area and St. Petersburg Opera will stage West Side Story June 27 to July 6. Let's get ready to rumble in High C.

Janet K. Keeler

13. Art

When it comes to art, we like to see works of originality, so why does the idea of phonies intrigue us so much? The Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota must know we like a good underbelly story and has scheduled "Intent to Deceive: Fakes and Forgeries in the Art World" for a show from May 23-Aug. 2. We will be the first in line. He's no fake, but Andy Warhol created his own controversies and his name is now synonymous with pop art. Warhol: Art. Fame. Mortality" opens at the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg on Jan. 18 and runs through April 27. The more than 100 pieces will include those iconic soup can images, plus a series of acrylic and silkscreen images of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Lines? Expect long ones. There hasn't been a Warhol show this big in this part of the state ever. Collaboration is a good thing and the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg and the Tampa Museum of Art are joining forces for a show of young Chinese artists from June through September. Forget Ming Dynasty vases; this work will be contemporary and maybe even electronic. Between the two venues will be 10,000 square feet of exhibition space for the show originating here. Coinciding with this hands-across-the-bay exhibition will be a summer show at University of South Florida's Contemporary Art Museum of works by Beijing-based artists Jia Aili and Qiu Zhijie with new paintings by Aili and a site-specific installation by Zhijie.

Janet K. Keeler

14. Lebowski Fest

Contrary to the beautiful Hebrew tradition, from Moses to Sandy Koufax, a merry band of bowlers will roll on Shabbos when Lebowski Fest returns to Tampa. This woozy two-day celebration of all things Dude, devoted to Joel and Ethan Coens' stoner noir The Big Lebowski, begins Jan. 31 at the Orpheum Theater in Ybor City. Live music at 8 p.m. will be provided by Moonmen from Mars and Folkin' Up the '80s (in a nod to the Coens' latest, Inside Llewyn Davis), followed by a screening of The Big Lebowski with audience involvement encouraged. (Nobody will tell you to shut the whatever up, Donny.) Advance tickets are $16. On Feb. 1 the fun shifts to University Lanes for a bowling and costume party with White Russians as the drink of choice. (Or a good sarsaparilla for designated drivers.) Tickets are $25 in advance. Ticket to both events are available at lebowskifest.com. Get your tickets early, and proud we'll be of all of you.

Steve Persall

Tampa Bay: The best of art, stage, food, music and laughs in 2014 01/02/14 [Last modified: Thursday, January 2, 2014 11:29am]
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