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Stage planner: 'Book of Mormon' returns, PostSecret on stage, plus 'Rita Hayworth: The Heat Is On'

STILL A PAGE TURNER: THE BOOK OF MORMON

One of the most popular musicals in recent memory is back. The Book of Mormon, winner of nine Tony awards including best musical, opens Tuesday at Ruth Eckerd Hall. The musical, which has been described as both crass and ground breaking, is a send-up of religious zealotry that has offended some and delighted many. The show runs through Feb. 21 at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 N McMullen Booth Road, Clearwater. Tickets start at $38. (727) 791-7400. rutheckerdhall.com.

TRUE CONFESSIONS: POSTSECRET

Frank Warren, shown right, never set out to be an actor or an author. Nor did he ever wake up one day and decide to be a motivational speaker. He has had no training in counseling or therapy. Warren, 52, had a small business and a vivid dream that inspired him to start handing out self-addressed post cards to strangers on the streets of Paris. He asked them to respond, telling him something true about themselves they had not shared with anyone else.

That experiment, now known as PostSecret, has since produced more than 1 million post cards, all mailed to Warren at his home in Germantown, Md. Warren has since authored books and appeared on national television to talk about what he learned from ordinary people who felt safe in confiding in him. PostSecret: The Show, a multimedia theatrical experience, comes to the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $25-$45.

"I feel like this whole project is something I accidentally passed into, something that was waiting for me," Warren said in a recent interview.

LIVING THE LEGEND: RITA HAYWORTH

Not long ago, fans of another show she was doing in New York approached actress Quinn Lemley, shown right, with a compliment.

"They said, 'Do you know you look like Rita Hayworth?'" said Lemley, who had always been intrigued by late movie star's enigmatic style and story.

Lemley looked more deeply into the mirror, and saw a show. Rita Hayworth: The Heat Is On stars Lemley as the red-headed triple threat nicknamed "the love goddess." The show, at the Largo Cultural Center this weekend, allows her to channel a Hollywood legend known for her elegant moves on the dance floor and a brand of seduction all her own. Lemley starred in a similar show in November at the Largo Cultural Center, Burlesque to Broadway. The Hayworth show promises to be bigger still, and comes with a 12-piece band and sterling reviews.

She researched the role, gained a three-dimensional understanding of the woman born in 1918 as Margarita Carmen Cansino, a child performer who was controlled by her father and later by Columbia Pictures president Harry Cohn. Despite her shyness, the star of hit movies like Gilda, Pal Joey and Cover Girl was an iconic sex symbol whose picture was glued onto an atomic bomb tested in 1946.

Lemley grew up in Columbus, Ind., studied opera as a teenager and earned a scholarship to the to the Interlochen Arts Academy. She lives in New York with her partner of 10 years and a shih tzu-maltese.

She is awe of Hayworth's style, perhaps best captured by the sultry flip of her hair in Gilda, which she called "the most powerful reveal any star has ever had on screen."

Despite the resemblance, Lemley said, Rita Hayworth: The Heat Is On is no celebrity impersonation.

"I am not imitating Rita Hayworth; I embody her," she said. The evening balances musical numbers from the star's career such as Zip, Bewitched and Put the Blame on Mame, with stories as told by the goddess herself. The show starts at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Largo Cultural Center, 105 Central Park Drive, Largo. $34.50-$49.50. (727) 587-6793. largoarts.com.

DINNER THEATRE: TOO MANY COOKS

I like to think of myself as an adventurous eater, and that has led to some unusual choices in life. Once was enough for boiled tripe, for example, also for pig brain omelettes. Chocolate covered ants, on the other hand, aren't so bad.

In that spirit, it's been too long since checking out a dinner theater. Too Many Cooks has a couple more weeks left in its run at the Early Bird Dinner Theatre. The show by Marcia Kash and Douglas E. Hughes is set in 1932 on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.

The stock market has crashed but bootlegging is going strong. A father and his daughter, Irving Bubbalow and Honey, have sunk all their savings into a gourmet restaurant. But at the grand opening, singing chef Francois LaPlouffe is a no-show.

The owners are forced to avail themselves of the services of Frank Plunkett, an unemployed chef, who masquerades as LaPlouffe. Some gangsters show up looking for a shipment in the restaurant's basement. A mysterious Canadian Mountie, a suspicious immigration officer and the tangled web of deceit all factor in. Seatings at 11 a.m. Thursday and Saturday, 4 p.m. Friday-Sunday. The show runs through Feb. 28 at the Early Bird Dinner Theatre, 13355 49th St. N, Clearwater. $36 (cash or check only). (727) 446-5898. earlybirddinnertheater.com.

Stage planner: 'Book of Mormon' returns, PostSecret on stage, plus 'Rita Hayworth: The Heat Is On' 02/10/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 10, 2016 11:23am]
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