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Palladium season opens with fundraiser

The Palladium Theater season gets under way with a new piano, a 9-foot Steinway model D, and a concert by the pianist who helped to choose it, jazz man par excellence Dick Hyman. "It'll be an evening of American jazz, from Fats Waller to Gershwin and across the spectrum," said Mark Spano, in his first season as executive director of the theater.

Venice resident Hyman, who has scored numerous Woody Allen films among many other musical achievements in his long career, helped to select the Palladium's grand piano at the Steinway factory in New York in July.

Tuesday's performance, rescheduled from last week because of the threat of Hurricane Ivan, is a gala intended, in part, to raise money to pay for the instrument, given to the theater in honor of its founder, Paul Stavros, who continues on the board of directors. The piano cost $80,000, and the fundraising is "pretty close, about two-thirds there," Spano said.

The piano is a key component in Spano's vision for the theater in the next few years. "This is first and foremost an acoustic venue," he said. "I want to see the choral music, the chamber music, the vocal music, jazz and the singer-songwriter migrate to the Palladium."

The 2004-05 season is flavored most strongly by Tampa Bay area community arts groups, such as the FloriMezzo chamber musicians, Sunstate Opera, the Pinellas Youth Symphony, the Dan McMillion Jazz Orchestra and Sonny LaRosa and America's Youngest Jazz Band.

David Matthews and three other organists from the area are on a series of Tuesday matinee concerts on the Skinner organ. Violinist Karen White, chancellor of the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg, plays a free concert Sept. 29 with soprano Kay Lowe and pianist James Johnson.

There are a number of higher-profile bookings, including the Cavani String Quartet (a co-presentation with the Mahaffey Theater at Bayfront Center) and comic Suzanne Westenhoefer. American Stage has a musical theater series at the venue, beginning with Martin Preston's Liberace tribute this month.

The Palladium schedule is substantially complete through December, with more bookings in 2005 to be announced. The Encore chamber music series will be announced in October. The theater is at 253 Fifth Avenue N, St. Petersburg. Call (727) 822-3590; www.palladiumtheater.com.

PALLADIUM 2004 - 05 SEASON

SEPTEMBER

Tuesday, Dick Hyman, piano, $30-$1,000

Thursday-Sept. 26, Liberace, the Legend Lives, Martin Preston, $25-$30

Sept. 27-28, Go Dog Go!, $5-$10 (Sept. 28 tickets $1)

Sept. 29, Karen White, violin; Kay Lowe, soprano; James Johnson, piano, free.

OCTOBER

Oct. 2, Sonny LaRosa and America's Youngest Jazz Band, $12-$15

Oct. 5, Sylvia Chai, organist, $5

Oct. 8, Cavani String Quartet, $25

Oct. 10, The Emperor's New Clothes, $7

Oct. 12, Esther McDonald, organist, $5

Oct. 15, Sunstate Opera in concert, $10-$15

Oct. 16, Alpha Kappa Alpha Akademy Night, youth showcase, $5

Oct. 17, University of South Florida Orchestra, $6

Oct. 19, Robert Shone, organist, $5

Oct. 21, Broadway & All That Jazz, singer Lottar Bergeest, $20

Oct. 22, WMNF Radio presents Iris DeMent and Pieta Brown, $17 advance, $20 door

Oct. 23, Everyone's Youth United Talent Expo Finals, $8-$15

Oct. 24, Dan McMillion Jazz Orchestra, $8-$15

Oct. 26, David Matthews, organist, $5

Oct. 27, The FloriMezzo Halloween Chamber Music Concert, $5-$12

Oct. 29-31, Nights of Frights, Palladium High School Theater Initiative, $5

NOVEMBER

Nov. 4-5, St. Petersburg Concert Ballet, TBA

Nov. 6, Suzanne Westenhoefer, comedian, $21.50-$26.50

Nov. 7, Fred Astaire Dance Studios presents Studio 54, $10-$15

Nov. 14, Pinellas Youth Symphony, $6 (free children and students)

Nov. 20, Pagliacci, $10-$18

Nov. 21, The Three Little Pigs, $7

DECEMBER

Dec. 1, Sing Out for AIDS, $10

Dec. 4-5, The Oft Told Story, TBA

Dec. 10-11, Home for the Holidays, $12-$15

Dec. 12, Amahl & The Night Visitors, John and Mary K. Wilson holiday program, $10-$15

FEBRUARY

Feb. 25, Lillette Jenkins-Wisner, pianist, $16-$20

MARCH

March 17, Woody Woodbury, comedian, $16-$20

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