STAGE CENTER: MATILDA THE MUSICAL
Matilda the Musical, a fanciful journey into the mind of a precocious and gifted child, has won recognition for concepts and story, acting and musical score. But underlying the power audiences have felt is the set, the basic concept that frames everything else. Matilda, based on the book by Roald Dahl, opens Tuesday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. The show owes success partly to Rob Howell, who won a Tony in 2012 for set and costume design.
Most people remember their first day of school. It is an amazing and sometimes frightening experience. Matilda is a young girl with magical powers, dissed by her stepfather as ugly and beset by authority figures, particularly at school. The whole point of the set, Howell said, is to portray the world as Matilda sees it.
One of the most engaging features is the array of wooden blocks representing letters of the alphabet. For a few months, Howell flirted with the idea of setting the school scenes with desks and blackboards before settling on letters.
"Blackboards can't think and neither can desks," Howell said. "But letters can."
Just ask any Scrabble player. "You hold one of those tiles in your hands and your mind races with the possibilities of it," he said.
He designed costumes with the same childlike view. A character Matilda sees as greedy wears green plaid. The imperious schoolteacher, Miss Trunchbull, is "athletic," Howell said. "So we amplified (her appearance) just shy of grotesque. The costuming of all the adults around her is deliberately amplified so that the audience is seeing what Matilda sees."
The show runs through Feb. 28 at 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. $50-$120. (813) 229-7827. strazcenter.org.
FLORIDA OPERA FESTIVAL: COSI FAN TUTTE
Cosi Fan Tutte, Mozart's comic opera, starts with a taunt. A bachelor believes that two of his buddies, military officers engaged to be married, are both kidding themselves about their fiances' fidelity. The bachelor, Don Alfonso (played by Won Cho) dares his friends (Cody Austin as Ferrando and Gabriel Preisser as Guglielmo) to put future brides' loyalty to the test by disguising themselves as foreign suitors. Cecilia Violetta Lopez, Leigh Remy and Sarah Nordin round out the cast of this opening of Opera Tampa's Florida Opera Festival at the Straz. The opera starts at 8 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Sunday. $69.50-$79.50. (813) 229-7827. strazcenter.org. The other operas on the docket for the season are La Traviata (March 11 and 13) and Don Giovanni (April 8 and 10).
To read more about opera season, click here.
VIRTUOSO RETURNS: BEETHOVEN CONCERTO
Pianist Shai Wosner won crowds over in 2014 when he stepped in to a Florida Orchestra concert at the last minute for an ill Peter Serkin. Wosner is back to lead Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4. The program, conducted by Michael Francis, also features Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring Ballet Suite and Symphony No. 6 by Vaughan Williams.
The concert starts at 8 p.m. Friday at the Straz, 8 p.m. Saturday at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater. $15-$50. (727) 892-5798. floridaorchestra.org.
VALENTINE SPIRIT: TAMPA BAY SYMPHONY
Local audiences might know Mark Sforzini best as the maestro of the St. Petersburg Opera. But Sforzini also directs and conducts the Tampa Bay Symphony. Coming up, the symphony will perform one of his own compositions, Theme and Variations on a Slavic Folk Song. The program also features pianist Grigorios Zamparas in Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 and Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 5. The concert's theme is "Romantic Masterpieces." Concerts start at 4 p.m. Sunday at the St. Petersburg College Arts Auditorium, 2465 Drew St., Clearwater; 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Palladium Theatre, 253 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg; and 4 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Straz's Ferguson Hall. $20. (727) 827-8087. tampabaysymphony.org.