Stage Planner: Florida Orchestra kicks off with Beethoven's Ninth, St. Pete Opera with 'Il Trovatore'09/28/16Stage
GRAND BEGINNINGS: BEETHOVEN'S NINTH
Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 is one of the grandest orchestral compositions ever, and possibly also the composer's best. It broke rules, extending the usual orchestra size and symphony length (more than an hour) and adding a chorus, at a time when many viewed singers as superfluous.
Now closing in on 50 years since it debuted as the Florida Gulf Coast Symphony, the Florida Orchestra opens its season Friday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts with the masterpiece known best for its Ode to Joy theme....
TAMPA — One day around 1995, George Levy walked into the office of Mayor Dick Greco with an idea.
"How do you like this?" he asked Greco, then handed him a drawing of penny sliced in half.
The image would become the signature in a grass roots campaign to persuade Hillsborough County voters to approve a half-cent Community Investment Tax for schools, libraries, roads, police and fire equipment, and other infrastructure. It also would fund a new pro football stadium....
TAMPA -- Everywhere else, the evening rush hour was dragging everything living and breathing gradually under foot.
But between Airsides A and C on Wednesday, the shuttle walls cut off half of that ambient noise, and several dozen people lounging or standing there weren't making any.
They were all watching a trio from the Florida Orchestra play a half-hour concert, one of several "pop-up" performances musicians have been doing this week. Alison Heydt, Fred Gratta and Samantha Bennett played classical numbers and popular favorites, including Stranger in Paradise....
As a conductor of the Florida Orchestra, Michael Francis spends time on the details. He is the border collie nipping at the herd, the proofreader who preserves accuracy to the text, the timekeeper.
As music director, he revels in the big ideas. Francis, 40, opens the Florida Orchestra's latest season Sept. 30, and he is always looking for ways to connect his latest inspiration with a concert....
A new professional opera company focusing on new or little known work holds its second concert Thursday. At a time when established opera companies tend to rely on proven war horses or eternal favorites, Sunshine City Opera is already offering a change of pace.
"My intention is to more or less avoid all of the big pieces everybody knows, which some might say is risky but I personally think is incredibly exciting," said Erin Huelskamp, who serves as its artistic director and choreographer. "People have heard all of those pieces multiple times. That's not to say they won't continue to go, because they're beautiful, wonderful pieces. But they might also be interested in what else is out there, and what's new."...
Stage planner: The Illusionists do the impossible , 'Unelectable You' rolls with political realities09/21/16Stage
NOW YOU SEE IT: THE ILLUSIONISTS
The Illusionists are blowing through Tampa like superheroes, each endowed with special powers. The Anti-Conjuror (Dan Sperry), a Goth apparition with black fingernails and lipstick, multiplies birds and nearly beheads himself with dental floss. The Escapologist (Andrew Basso) will risk drowning while locked upside down in a glass tank, and this time his luck might run out. The Manipulator (Yu Ho-Jin), said to be a current world champion in sleight of hand, makes cards change color and disappear as audiences follow along on high-definition footage of his hands....
TAMPA — The explosions set off fire alarms through downtown Tampa.
The arsonist was David Copperfield, who spent three weeks perfecting a 30-foot fireball in the parking lot of the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts for a television special. The magician had hired the special effects man from Lethal Weapon to design the blast.
Mike Chamoun, the Straz's point man for all things backstage, watched apprehensively. ...
NEW BLOOD: SUNSHINE CITY OPERA
Sunshine City Opera, a new company, debuts this weekend, focused on new or rarely heard works. The company, founded by composer Erin Huelskamp, top, will present an hour's sampling of its vision at the Studio@620.
Work includes performances by mezzo soprano Thea Lobo, middle left; soprano Katherine Stenzel, middle right, and pianist and music director Eunmi Ko, bottom. Performers will sing from Yalil Guerra's Amor; Ingrid Stolzel's haunting Grand is the Seen; and Huelskamp's The Ten-Block Walk, which tells a story....
TAMPA — A poet bulldozes his way into a couple's modest home, pretending to need lodging. Around the same time, the woman's husband is renting the same room to a barber, who like the poet, has appeared out of nowhere.
This conflict propels The Underpants, a Steve Martin adaptation of the 1910 play Die Hose with which Jobsite Theater opens its season. The question is why these men want so badly to split shifts in a German civil servant's drab quarters — enough to split shifts, each paying for a half day....
ST. PETERSBURG — A galvanizing moment in Good People, a drama about a working class mother trying to survive, comes late in the play.
The genteel wife of a former boyfriend stares at Margie, of Boston's Southie district, and levels the ultimate accusation: "You're not a nice person."
The taut story line spends two quick hours unraveling euphemisms such as "nice," the difference between nice and good, and who embodies either trait. American Stage Theatre Company has opened the season, the first selected by producing artistic director Stephanie Gularte, with a grounded, coherent production that is both thought provoking and a pleasure to watch....
St. Petersburg native Ephraim Sykes, already a presence on the Broadway stage including the smash hit, Hamilton, will appear in the NBC musical Hairspray Live!, according to a report in the Associated Press.
Sykes, an original Hamilton cast member, will play Seaweed J. Stubbs in the NBC production. Fellow Broadway performer Shahadi Wright Joseph will play Seaweed's sister, Little Inez. Cast members already announced include Harvey Fierstein, Jennifer Hudson and Ariana Grande. ...
BOSTON STRONG: GOOD PEOPLE
American Stage Theater Company launches its season this weekend with Good People, a play by David Lindsay-Abaire that captures the rhythms of Southie as only a native Bostonian could.
The show starts off darkly, with Margie getting fired from her cashier's job. She's a paycheck away from broke, with an adult disabled daughter, Joyce, to support. Margie seeks help from her ex-boyfriend, a physician everyone suspects is Joyce's father. It doesn't go well. The show is funny; it's not a comedy....
The Tampa Bay Theatre Festival survived a storm threat over the Labor Day weekend and left participants with a post-conference buzz.
A standing-room crowd of more than 300 packed the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts' Jaeb Theater Friday, as Tampa native R. Anthony, a popular contestant on Season Five NBC's The Voice, opened the festival with an R&B number.
By the Sunday night awards party at Maestro's Restaurant, participants had sampled workshops (including a three-hour master class in acting by Harry Lennix, of NBC's The Blacklist and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), six full-length original plays, 14 short plays and 15 monologues.
"I was super nervous about the weather and how it would affect opening night," said Rory Lawrence, who founded the festival three years ago. Friday's main event was Between Calls, Lawrence's play about the bumpy relationships among co-workers at a call center. Lawrence trimmed the play, his first, by a third since writing it five years ago. At its funniest, the show highlights awkward attempts by black, white, Asian and Latino workers to find each other through a thicket of stereotypes.
Winners for annual competitions included Karleigh Chase for her full-length, one-woman show, Memoirs of a Painted Woman; and Ryan Bernier for his short play, The Fruitiest Man in All the Land. Kendra Treuberg Pepe won the monologue competition.
Conference crowds included high school seniors who had won free passes through Dr. K's Scholars, a program created by festival co-founder Kahlila Lawrence, a child psychologist and Rory's wife.
Though workshop attendance was down a bit from 2015, more people showed up to an opening night networking party than last year, where more local theaters had set up tables.
"There were a couple people there from two other festivals, the Atlanta Black Theatre Festival and the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem (N.C.), and they were simply amazed," Lawrence said. "Especially with this festival only being three years old."...
If catching the Florida Orchestra soon is on your priority list but can't quite grab the top spot, the orchestra has just made your life easier.
The orchestra is launching a round of free concerts in September, part of an emphatic community outreach under music director Michael Francis. During "TFO on the Go," Francis will lead the orchestra in performances for patients and staff of St. Joseph's-North Hospital, the Moffitt Cancer Center and Tampa General Hospital. Smaller chamber groups will appear at places like the Pinellas Park Boys and Girls Club, retirement homes and veterans centers....
TAMPA — Harry Lennix has a lot on his plate.
The soft-voiced actor, who plays assistant FBI counterterrorism director Harold Cooper on NBC's The Blacklist, also runs a film production company he founded, directs Shakespearean plays across the country and is active in civic groups.
So when his agent in 2015 passed along a request to lead a workshop at a theater festival in Tampa, Lennix was ready to say no....