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A varied, lively season in store at Ruth Eckerd Hall

Highlights of the theater season include a six-day run of the The Book of Mormon (Feb. 16-21), the Tony award-winning musical that has been called both crass and ground-breaking.

JOAN MARCUS | Special to the Times (2013)

Highlights of the theater season include a six-day run of the The Book of Mormon (Feb. 16-21), the Tony award-winning musical that has been called both crass and ground-breaking.

CLEARWATER — The season starting this month at Ruth Eckerd Hall offers nine Broadway plays, 18 comedians and more than 80 popular concerts, plus dance and classical music.

The hall broke records last year with $15.9 million in gross ticket sales, and has booked even more events at Ruth Eckerd Hall and the adjacent renovated Murray Theatre on McMullen Booth Road, as well as the Capitol Theatre in downtown Clearwater.

Highlights of the theater season include a six-day run of the The Book of Mormon (Feb. 16-21), the Tony award-winning musical that has been called both crass and ground-breaking.

The one-day engagements are all musicals, including The Producers (Dec. 29), Ragtime (Jan. 9), 42nd Street (Jan. 23) and Annie (Feb. 6). The Emmy- and Tony-winning actor and singer Kristin Chenoweth (Feb. 26) has earned rave reviews since launching her solo concert tour in 2013.

The Broadway season finishes out with musicals that started out as movies, Saturday Night Fever (March 18) and Woody Allen's Bullets Over Broadway (March 20).

The holiday season picks up in earnest in December with a production of Dickens' A Christmas Carol (Dec. 20) and Tampa Ballet Theatre's The Nutcracker (Dec. 23). For actual Christmas carols, you could do a lot worse than the Ten Tenors (Dec. 30). The Australian opera stars are not to be confused with the Tenors (Jan. 31, Capitol Theatre), a Canadian vocal group that has performed at the Emmy Awards and the lighting of the Christmas tree at the White House.

The hall celebrates New Year's Eve with a Salute to Vienna (Dec. 31), a lineup of Strauss, selections from operettas such as Die Fledermaus and Merry Widow and dancers from the Kiev-Aniko Ballet of Ukraine.

You can always count on the Florida Orchestra to pick up the holiday mood, starting with Handel's Messiah (Dec. 6) and the Holiday Pops (Dec. 13). The orchestra includes Ruth Eckerd in most of its concert rounds, including Halloween Pops on Broadway (Nov. 1), the Bells and Pictures at an Exhibition (Nov. 8); as well as Brahms' Violin Concerto (Nov. 15) and a collaboration with jazz singer and saxophonist Curtis Stigers (Curtis Stigers Celebrates Sinatra, Nov. 22).

On Feb. 22, an all-star Broadway cast performs Neil Berg's 108 Years of Broadway, songs from musicals including Jersey Boys, Wicked, Mamma Mia! and many more. Crossover tenor Michael Amante, whose work Tony Bennett praised as the "most beautiful singing I have heard in years," appears at the Capitol Theatre Feb. 27.

Ruth Eckerd's season also includes some world-class movement. The Moscow Festival Ballet presents Cinderella on Feb. 27, and the trick-cycling, precision tumbling, somersaulting Peking Acrobats take the stage March 21.

Pilobolus Dance Theatre (March 21) got its name from a fungus, the spores of which "accelerate 0-45 mph in the first millimeter of their flight and adhere to wherever they land," the company's website explains. "The name was apt, and stuck." The spark for Pilobolus started in 1971, with three Dartmouth students enrolled in a dance class and their teacher. Their free-form style of expressive movement has since livened up the Oscars, the Olympic games and the Broadway stage.

The popular concert lineup at Ruth Eckerd includes acts touching on the performing arts. So You Think You Can Dance returns to Ruth Eckerd for its Season 12 tour, which features the Fox show's top 10 finalists: Team Stage's Gaby Diaz, Edson Juarez, Jim Nowakowski, Hailee Payne and Derek Piquette; and Team Street's Megan "Megz" Alfonso, Eddie "Neptune" Eskridge, Virgil Gadson, Jessica "JJ" Rabone and Jana "Jaja" Vankova.

Pokemon: Symphonic Evolutions, orchestral music inspired by the video game, comes to the stage Dec. 3, and ABBA the Concert: A Tribute to ABBA (April 16) evokes the Swedish pop group that inspired Mamma Mia!, one of Broadway's longest-running musicals.

Contact Andrew Meacham at ameacham@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

A varied, lively season in store at Ruth Eckerd Hall 10/08/15 [Last modified: Thursday, October 8, 2015 6:27pm]
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