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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


  1. Cirque du Soleil returns to Tampa with high-flying 'Varekai'



    Icarus falls from the sky with a barrage of drums and smashing cymbals, violent keyboards and screaming thunder.

    The central unfolding of Cirque du Soleil's Varekai, playing this weekend at the Amalie Arena, holds nothing back. The impetuous young man must spin and stretch and dive within a net that ensnares him as he plunges to the ground, as little bells and wind chimes signal both danger and the thin threads of hope....

    Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai follows the fall of Icarus into the pit of a volcano, where he interacts with strange and magical creatures.
  2. Stage Planner: A Sarasota ballet gala, yes; tickets for 'Mame,' no



    The Sarasota Cuban Ballet School, which has turned heads since opening three years ago, is rewarding some of its best dancers Saturday in a special performance. "On Stage," the school's annual gala event, brings a few student dancers to perform at the Sarasota Opera House alongside guest performers from Havana's Cuban National Ballet School....

    Francisco Serrano, son of the Sarasota Cuban Ballet School’s founders, won the International Student Ballet Competition in Havana in 2014. He will perform at Saturday’s gala.
  3. At 20, Clearwater native Vinny Ortega is running a theater company in New York



    As directors met for the first time to kick off a theater festival in June, an organizer approached a fresh-faced teenager in their midst.

    In so many words, the man asked Vinny Ortega, of Clearwater, what he was doing there.

    "Is your director here?" the stranger asked. "Are you an intern?"

    Ortega, then 19, replied that he was the director of Hopeless, a one-act play about inner-city adolescents, as well as its playwright....

    Vinny Ortega is a 2013 Gibbs High School grad who is using theater to change the world. 

courtesy of Vinny Ortega

Clearwater native Vinny Ortega performs in No Entiendo, a play he co-wrote about a teenage immigrant from Mexico.
  4. Idina Menzel brings the best of Broadway to Clearwater


    CLEARWATER -- A near-capacity crowd filled Ruth Eckerd Hall on Tuesday to see one of Broadway's most recognizable names. A fair number of the 1,858 in attendance were girls in their teens and younger, but a lot of silver heads dotted the crowd as well for a show scheduled to start at 8 p.m.

    With the star attraction more than a half-hour late, the crowd broke into rhythmic clapping. Menzel finally made her entrance at 8:37. Her opening number, Defying Gravity, brought audience members roaring to their feet, an indication of goodwill that would only grow stronger over the next two hours. Menzel, 44, delivered the powerhouse vocals that got her nominated for Tony awards in the musicals Rent, Wicked and If/Then (winning in 2004 for Wicked), and drove Let It Go from the Disney movie Frozen to the top 10....

    Idina Menzel more than delivered her trademark powerhouse vocals for 1,858 fans at Ruth Eckerd Hall on Tuesday.
  5. Stage Planner: Local comics test their chops, playwrights write short


    COMEDY time: show your stuff

    Call it summer and winter madness. The second Tampa Bay Comedy Tournament at Side Splitters Comedy Club is well under way and likely won't conclude until January or February. The 64-comic format is modeled after the NCAA basketball tournament and pits local performers against each other in an elimination process designed to bring out the best....

    Side Splitters Comedy Club in Tampa.
  6. Idina Menzel combines stellar pipes with down-to-earth charm



    Since launching her world tour a couple of months ago, Idina Menzel has turned crowded stadiums into her living room.

    She has been known to take off her shoes and go barefoot, then curl up at the edge of the stage to tell a story. The Broadway superstar makes her concerts feel like hanging out with a friend.

    Look for Menzel to do the same Tuesday at Ruth Eckerd Hall, where she is likely to mix hits from her roles in Wicked (Defying Gravity) and the movie Frozen (Let It Go) with anecdotes from nearly 20 years in the spotlight....

    The cast of the film Rent, front row from left, Adam Pascal, Rosario Dawson, second row from left, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Tracie Thoms, Idina Menzel, and Taye Diggs, third row from left, Jesse Martin, and Anthony Rapp, pose for a photo on a film set in San Francisco in 2005.
  7. Review: Gritty realism doesn't quite flesh out in Stageworks' 'The Motherf----- With the Hat'


    TAMPA — Try not to be put off by the title.

    Calling his play The Motherf----- With the Hat might just be playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis' way of signaling a gritty tone to his one-act set in the Washington Heights area of Manhattan. Saturday's performance, directed by Karla Hartley and midway through Stageworks Theatre's three-week run, delivered on the "gritty" part, although in an uneven way....

    The Motherf----- With the Hat focuses on ex-convict Jackie (Jesse Carolan-Rodriguez) and his attempts to go straight while tied to a tempestuous romantic relationship with Veronica (Jessy Quinones) and neighborhood loyalties in New York’s Washington Heights.
Courtesy of Caroline Jett
  8. Review: 'Mame,' Freefall's season closer, is an inventive stunner


    ST. PETERSBURG — There are times when a theatrical production exceeds expectations. Perhaps the leads turned in especially memorable performances, or the combination of design and execution just worked out in a memorable way.

    Mame, a musical based on the best-selling 1955 novel Auntie Mame, by Patrick Dennis, has been performed repeatedly in prominent venues since opening on Broadway in 1966 starring Angela Lansbury. ...

    Matthew McGee plays Mame Dennis and Nick Lerew plays her nephew Patrick at Freefall.
  9. Stage Planner: A Stageworks play, a string quartet and a staged reading


    What do you think qualifies as entertainment? Maybe it's an escape into romance, the blend of highly skilled musicians giving it their best. Or maybe your tastes run to something edgier, to be taken into a world of wrenching drama played out on a stage. You wouldn't want to live in either place all the time, but it's fun to visit. This weekend you can catch performances on either end of that emotional spectrum. Here is a look at what's in store. ...

    La Catrina String Quartet combines Latin American music with a unique balance of American and European classical traditions.
  10. Review: Frivolity and substance drive 'One Slight Hitch' at American Stage


    ST. PETERSBURG — We often assess theatrical works, and even make choices about which ones to see, by the adjectives attached to them: a light or dark comedy, a wrenching or uplifting drama.

    As much as we might allow such thumbnail phrases to push us to click "Add to Cart" and buy tickets, we secretly hope the show will outdo its description and be more than the same warhorse you saw 20 years ago but with a different cast....

    One Slight Hitch, a comedy by Lewis Black, follows a family in chaos on the day of daughter Courtney’s wedding as her former boyfriend shows up.
  11. Jobsite's 'Occupation' rich in ideas, weak in execution


    There's a lot to like about Occupation, the apocalyptic satire with which Jobsite Theater closes its season, starting with its premise.

    In the year 2017, the United States has sold Florida to China. The deal reduces the national debt by $5 trillion, but Floridians must leave the state within 18 months.

    That's certainly a fresh and irreverent take on global politics. Playwright Ken Ferrigni has said he created Occupation as a way to make the war in Afghanistan seem more immediate. On the way to doing that, the play crackled with witty one-liners touching on war, religion and popular culture....

    In Occupation, the year is 2017 and Florida has been sold to China.  J. Elijah Cho (left) plays Deng Zedong, a womanizing playboy and the proconsul to the Florida region. Emily Belvo plays Maria “Mei Mei” Burruss, Deng’s American sidekick.
  12. Stage Planner: Freefall, American Stage seasons close with a light touch



    SHOW BUSINESS: a little laughter at the end


    Two local theaters are finishing their seasons on an upbeat note with shows opening this week. Here's a look at what's in store.




    The St. Petersburg theater likes to push the envelope, and has done so again by casting a man in the title role of Mame Dennis, a snappily independent 1920s flapper who challenges convention and overcomes obstacles. Matthew McGee, known for his character Patti in the cabaret act the Scott and Patti Show, says Mame is not a campy extension of the drag show....

    Matthew McGee, who plays the title role in Mame, says the production is not a campy extension of the drag show.
  13. Matthew McGee transforms into his dream part for Freefall's 'Mame'



    Matthew McGee is worried. He's going on stage in an hour, sitting in a cramped dressing room at Freefall Theatre. Tubes of makeup and brushes clutter a table before a mirror.

    McGee, 40, is playing the title role in Mame, a character who has been played at different times by Angela Lansbury, Rosalind Russell and Lucille Ball. Now it's his turn and the pressure is on....

    Matthew McGee is widely known on the local theater scene. “Matthew is a very transformational actor, and our audiences have seen that across the board,” says Eric Davis, Freefall Theatre’s artistic director.
  14. In the satire 'Occupation' at Jobsite Theater, U.S. sells Florida to China



    It's 2017, the national debt has skyrocketed, and the government has been forced to take drastic measures.

    Sell Florida to China for $5 trillion.

    Occupation, a satirical play by Florida State University/Asolo Conservatory 2008 graduate Ken Ferrigni, has been shown in New York and Los Angeles. On Friday and for the first time, this quintessentially quirky Florida can finally be seen in the Sunshine State, thanks to Jobsite Theater....

    Nathan Jokela and Katie Castonguay as Gare and Kell Cartwright in Jobsite Theater’s Occupation.
  15. Stage Planner: Get tickets now for seasons at the Straz, Stageworks and more


    SHOW BUSINESS: Make some dates

    Theater might be coasting a bit for the summer, but the new season lineups offer something for everybody. We've got musicals and experimental plays, Broadway legends and Shakespeare coming. Advance tickets are available for many, so if you want to be sure to catch the Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker Dec. 26 (Mahaffey Theater), for example, you can do that now. Here's a sampling from some recently announced fall seasons....

    Ashley Danewitz plays Anninna, left, and Elizabeth de Trejo is Violette in La Traviata.