CHIT-CHAT: PATTON OSWALT
Fans of comedy know Patton Oswalt as an original talent and one of the most influential comics working today. He will riff on obsessive-compulsive disorder in one moment and comic book heroes the next, drawing on literature or video games with equal ease.
Millions of children who don't know his name would probably recognize Oswalt's voice, at least when molded into that character of Remy the rat in Disney's Ratatouille, one of two dozen voiceover roles he has played for animated movies or television....
AT THE IMPROV: ROB SCHNEIDER
Saturday Night Live alum Rob Schneider headlines at the Tampa Improv Comedy Club this weekend, part of the comedian's return to standup that began a couple of years ago after a 20-year absence.
Schneider broke out of the club circuit in 1990 when SNL's Lorne Michaels warmed to the comedian's oddball, self-deprecating schtick. He stayed on as a cast member for four years, earning a recent Rolling Stone ranking of No. 44 out of SNL's all-time cast of 141....
Cecil the lion had a name and we were outraged. The Chick-Fil-A cow has none, and we laugh.
To bestow a name is to recognize that person or animal or thing. Names elevate.
That is the central premise behind Sylvia, A.R. Gurney's play at Stageworks Theatre. The two-act play directed by Karla Hartley is enjoying a return engagement, after a popular run three years ago with the same cast....
MARK YOUR CALENDARS: SANTA KOZ IS COMING TO TOWN
Ruth Eckerd Hall has opened ticket sales for a Dave Koz holiday concert. One of the most prolific and accomplished saxophonists in jazz, Koz has been nominated for nine Grammy awards and topped Billboard's contemporary jazz albums charts seven times.
This year's Dave Koz Christmas Tour features Dutch saxophone star Candy Dulfer and R&B virtuoso guitarist Jonathan Butler, both of whom have appeared with Koz before. The tour's newcomer is Bill Medley, who co-founded the Righteous Brothers with Bobby Hatfield....
TAMPA — Cirque du Soleil's Varekai begins quietly, with lavishly costumed forest creatures traipsing out of their hiding places, creeping or crawling with the assurance of ballet dancers.
The two hours passed quickly at the Amalie Arena on opening night (with one 20-minute intermission), the story line of Icarus falling into an enchanted world traced delicately and without artifice. The characters frame Cirque's amazing array of performers from a melting pot of countries and backgrounds....
BARK, BARK: 'SYLVIA' IS BACK
As Sylvia, the canine title character in a 2012 production at Stageworks Theatre, Kari Goetz had chances to wander through the audience on all fours.
It was "a wonderful opportunity to root around in people's purses and sniff wallets," said Goetz, who has taught improv as a social tool at the business school of the University of South Florida. Patrons loved it, some even offering her their wine....
In this culture, big-name comedians have enormous cachet. Richard Pryor shocked audiences and made them think. Some people revere Louis C.K. the way they would a favorite pastor, and sometimes he sounds a lot like one.
Such unique brands create wealth and supersede death. No one else will ever be George Carlin or Joan Rivers or Robin Williams.
But further down the scale live the working comics....
ST. PETERSBURG — True to the spirit of fun that has followed incoming director Michael Francis, the Florida Orchestra has announced a concert celebrating the musical score of a popular video game.
The orchestra will perform Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy at 8 p.m. Feb. 6 at St. Petersburg's Mahaffey Theater. Composed by Nobuo Uematsu, Distant Worlds signals with sweeping tones a new age of home entertainment, in which customers clamor for sound systems that make them feel every rumble, roar and note....
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 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....
BEST FOOT FORWARD: BALLET STUDENTS' NIGHT TO SHINE
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....
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....
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....
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....
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....
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....