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Andrew Meacham, Times Staff Writer

Andrew Meacham

Andrew Meacham is the performing arts critic for the the Tampa Bay Times, covering the growing local venues for theater, orchestra, opera and dance. Andrew previously served as the Epilogue obituaries writer for the Times. He grew up in St. Petersburg, graduated from Eckerd College and holds a master's degree in journalism from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

Phone: (727) 892-2248

Email: ameacham@tampabay.com

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  1. 'Abduction from the Seraglio' by St. Petersburg Opera shows off Mozart's genius

    Stage

    ST. PETERSBURG — A nearly full house turned out on Friday for the St. Petersburg Opera's first production of 2016, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's The Abduction from the Seraglio.

    As with all things Palladium, the former church with excellent acoustics had to find a way to use its orchestra without a pit. Maestro Mark Sforzini has always managed to do so in the past, with fewer musicians than he might ordinarily use, somehow making more with less....

    The cast of Mozart's "The Abduction from the Seraglio" includes (from left) Alexandra Batsios as Konstanze, Wesley Morgan as Belmonte, Marielle Murphy as Blonde,and Scott Joiner as Pedrillo. The show starts at 2 p.m. Sunday and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Palladium Theater. [St. Petersburg Opera Co.]
  2. The maestro, the money and the unfinished 'Great Gatsby' opera

    Human Interest

    Mark Sforzini's unfinished opera is about a complicated relationship.

    Daisy Buchanan — you've heard of her — is an irrepressible teen. She is drawn to Jay Gatsby — you've heard of him — an enigmatic, though problematic, wealthy older man.

    Sforzini labored over Daisy, his operatic prequel to The Great Gatsby, for more than a year. It was commissioned by a man he trusted. Then, one day, the checks stopped coming. The opera stopped cold....

    Mark Sforzini of Auburn, Ala., does his thing on the MGM Grand Hotel stage in Las Vegas for a segment of the Dinah television show. At age 10, he won the World Hula Hoop championship. Always striving to achieve, the young Sforzini was also a state diving champion.
  3. Stage planner: St. Pete Opera opens, Katt Williams comes to Tampa, Florida Orchestra does 'Final Fantasy'

    Stage

     

    OF NOTE: ST. PETE OPERA OPENS

     

    The Abduction from the Seraglio, regarded by the St. Petersburg Opera as an under-appreciated gem, is the opening production for the company this weekend.

    Mozart debuted the opera in 1782 in Vienna as Die Entführung aus dem Serail, earning him the emperor's now infamous advice, as depicted in the movie, Amadeus: "There are simply too many notes. … Cut a few and it will be perfect."...

    The cast of Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio includes, from left, Alexandra Batsios as Konstanze, Wesley Morgan as Belmonte, Marielle Murphy as Blonde and Scott Joiner as Pedrillo.
  4. Stage Planner: Graphic novel come to the stage, orchestra fetes U2 and Feinstein

    Stage

    HIGH STAKES: INTERGALACTIC NEMESIS

    Actor, writer and director Jason Neulander was out of work in 2009, trying to stay afloat in Austin, Texas. He had founded an avant-garde theater company there and left it years later. Things looked bleak.

    "The economy had collapsed," said Neulander, 46. "I was begging for a job."

    The struggling artist had one last card to play. Years earlier, Neulander and his group of friends had concocted a radio play about a daring reporter and her assistant who were uncovering menacing aliens about to take over the planet. ...

     The Tenors have performed at the White House and for the Queen of England.
  5. Review: 'Jitney' presents African-American experience in a universal light

    Stage

    ST. PETERSBURG — All but one of August Wilson's "Century Cycle" plays are set in Pittsburgh's Hill District, where the playwright grew up. All 10 of the plays, one for each decade of the 20th century, are populated with African-American characters.

    A keen sense of place and nine rich, accessible characters make Jitney, set in 1977 and the eighth play in the cycle (but one of the first Wilson wrote), entertaining and worthwhile. American Stage is one of the few theaters in the country to commit to producing all 10 plays, itself an unprecedented project. Wilson completed the last of the cycle plays, Radio Golf, in 2005, the same year he died at age 60. ...

    Photo by Chad Jacobs. Kim Sullivan plays Turnbo, an Iago-like master of manipulation, in Jitney.
  6. Review: 'Disney's The Lion King' a marvel of design and engineering

    Stage

    TAMPA — Somehow, I got this far in life without having seen any version of The Lion King, either the 1994 Disney movie or the enormously popular musical that followed.

    Though I wrote about it as the season's jewel at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts with nearly a monthlong run, I was thinking about a pricey stone, a rock on someone's hand that meant little to me. The Lion King was a kids movie, and the musical, Tony or no, promised to be an extravaganza of costuming, puppetry and props — a 3-D movie on the stage....

    Patrick R. Brown pulls off the role of Scar with malicious finesse in the touring Broadway production of Disney’s The Lion King, now at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts.
  7. Pianist trills, 'lion's roar' surprises at 'Mozart & More'

    Stage

    TAMPA — Several Florida Orchestra concerts this year have offered contrasting works that together make a point. Michael Francis debuted as music director with Rachmaninoff and Aaron Copland, and just recently paired a Strauss waltz with the discordant Charivari of H.K. Gruber.

    With Mozart & More, which opened Friday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, Francis and the orchestra sandwiched a piano concerto and a symphony by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart between Igor Stravinsky's Dumbarton Oaks concerto and a percussion composition by John Cage relying mostly on makeshift or primitive instruments. ...

    Swiss-born American pianist Gilles Vonsattel has won numerous prizes in international competitions. [Courtesy of Gilles Vonsattel]
  8. Review: Asolo's romantic comedy 'Living on Love' hits just the right notes

    Stage

    SARASOTA — Let's start with the sensual pleasures of Living on Love, which turns a lavish New York penthouse into a battleground between an aging opera star and her equally egotistical husband, a famous conductor.

    The curtain at Asolo Repertory Theatre opens to a winding staircase lined with paintings, a chandelier and candelabras, piano and fireplace, and blood-red walls bathed in a rosy light. The set drew immediate applause from the audience on opening night....

    Rebecca Caine, Karl Hamilton and Josh James in Asolo Repertory Theatre's Living on Love.
  9. Review: Freefall's 'Our Town' a serious and artistically rendered production

    Stage

    ST. PETERSBURG — Our Town is one of the most produced plays in the United States. Set in the mythical Grovers Corners at the turn of the century, Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer winning play invokes exuberant young lovers, crickets in the moonlight and a train in the distance, invoking places far away from here.

    It has a ice cream shop and a Main Street, a town drunk and a spinster who cries at weddings. It is, in other words, ready made for any theater that wants to serve up a wistful slice of small-town Americana. That wouldn't be a terrible way to do it, and countless productions have. A brilliant script helps them get away with it; Wilder's writing resonates with depth right down to the town's recent cemetery inhabitants who can still talk....

    Kelly Pekar, left, plays Mrs. Gibbs and Trenell Mooring plays Mrs. Webb, who are neighbors in Our Town’s mythical Grovers Corners at Freefall Theatre in St. Petersburg.
  10. Stage planner: 'Jitney' opens at American Stage, 'Lion King' sets up at the Straz

    Stage

    WORTH THE FARE: 'JITNEY'

    In his 20s, trying to survive as actor in New York, Kim Sullivan did what any dedicated-to-a-fault artist would do: He drove a cab.

    That experience and many others help Sullivan play the role of Turnbo in August Wilson's Jitney, which opens this weekend at American Stage.

    "What gets anybody is the constant sitting behind the wheel," said Sullivan, 63. While a student at Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin High, Sullivan was discovered by Tony-winning director Lloyd Richards (who also mentored August Wilson) and awarded a scholarship to New York University....

    Kim Sullivan plays Turnbo in the August Wilson play Jitney.
  11. Alan Cumming brings a musical act as unique as his story

    Stage

    TAMPA

    When a Broadway star gives a solo concert, expect a reprise of his hits, a few other covers and behind-the-scenes anecdotes.

    Alan Cumming doesn't do the expected, never has.

    The Tony-winning actor (Cabaret, 1998), now in his seventh season as Eli Gold in The Good Wife, performs Sunday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. The song list bounces from Annie Lennox to Adele, Billy Joel to Lady Gaga and Stephen Sondheim. Accompanied by cellist Eleanor Norton, the singer may also touch on Miley Cyrus or Avril Lavigne, and will almost certainly knock out The Ladies Who Lunch, with a hat tip to Elaine Stritch....

    Alan Cumming: “To me, sappy means sentiment, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”
  12. Florida Orchestra makes music from donkey jawbones and beer kegs

    Stage

    ST. PETERSBURG — The foliage obscured any address at the home of Kurt Grissom in Old Southeast, where the rehearsal was to take place.

    As I slowed and opened the car window, it became clear I wouldn't need the house number. It had to be the one emitting sounds like a 1940s jungle movie.

    Grissom and three other longtime percussionists for the Florida Orchestra were practicing Third Construction, a 12-minute piece they will perform this weekend at the orchestra's Mozart and More masterworks concerts. The musicians will make music on everything from animal bones to beer kegs....

    John Bannon, from left, Kurt Grissom, John Shaw and Dave Coash practice for their weekend performances of Third Construction. The four Florida Orchestra percussionists are using non-traditional items, such as beer kegs and a conch shell, for the 12-minute piece. [EVE EDELHEIT | Times] 
  13. It's an even bigger show backstage at 'Disney's The Lion King'

    Stage

    TAMPA — Life on the road is hard enough for any theater troupe. For a touring Broadway production, it's a huge machine.

    Disney's The Lion King, which opens Wednesday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, is bigger than most shows. About 40 semitrailer trucks carry the equipment and costumes around the country, two for the set alone. Each new venue creates a unique set of challenges, said Michael Morales, a Tampa native and stage manager for the production....

    The Lion King is the longest-running Broadway musical of the season at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts.
  14. Review: Tampa Rep's 'True West' a dark comedy that's a little tough to take

    Stage

    TAMPA — Two brothers, each trying to retreat from life in different ways, hole up in a dingy house on the edge of the desert.

    Austin, the Ivy League graduate, writes screenplays. His older brother Lee is a petty thief.

    Those contrasts drive the tension behind True West, Sam Shepard's one-act now under way at Tampa Repertory Theatre. As Lee confesses to his brother between gibes, "I've always wondered what it would be like to be you."...

    On alternating dates at Tampa Repertory Theatre, Jack Holloway plays drifter Lee, pictured, or his straight-laced brother Austin in Sam Shepard’s True West. In 2000 on Broadway, Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly won Tonys for alternating in the roles.
  15. Stage Planner: Freefall does 'Our Town,' Parsons Dance performance at the Straz

    Stage

    NOT MAYBERRY: FREEFALL DOES 'OUR TOWN'

    Every day of the year, someone is performing Our Town somewhere in the world. Freefall Theatre starts its run of the Thornton Wilder classic this weekend with Bob Devin Jones in the lead role.

    "Because it is such a seminal American play, it's a play that you do," said Eric Davis, Freefall's producing artistic director. "So it's on that list of the plays that we want to do but also that we must do, much like there are pieces of music that every orchestra must play."...

    Studio@620’s artistic director Bob Devin Jones in his office above the studio Thursday, June 12, 2014. Jones co-founded the studio 10 years ago with  David Ellis who is now artistic director emeritus.  CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times