1. Arts & Entertainment

More than 100 performers take the stage for 'Masquerade'

Over the years, the shows presented by former Broadway dancer John Leggio's Center for the Performing Arts students, faculty and guest artists have earned a reputation for being one of the most exciting, colorful, talent-filled and unusual in the area.

And, arguably, at $15 to $17 a ticket, the best bargain anywhere.

Masquerade, an Avant Garde production, opening Thursday and continuing through June 30 at Springstead Theatre in Spring Hill, promises to top them all.

"This show is the most artistic and unique production ever put on by the center," Leggio said.

With a cast of more than 100 dancers, singers and actors (ages 3 and up), Masquerade will be filled with "colorful, crazy, over-the-top costumes, masks and hats, great music, and some of the best work my staff and I have ever put together," said Leggio, who himself will portray a "quirky clown" who makes the show flow seamlessly for two action-packed hours.

Leggio, who spent his earlier career on Broadway, television and international tours, helped create the Epcot Millennium Parade and recently was choreographer and assistant director of the national tour of Cirque Dreams Holidaze by the noted Cirque Dreams company.

Fans of Jacque Brel, Cirque and French or European movies will recognize most of the songs, but each song will have that Cirque feel, as will the whole production, Leggio said.

"The opening number is something you don't want to miss," Leggio said. "It was created by Terry Beeman," an aerialist, director and choreographer based in Los Angeles. "I called on him to do what he does best. He set a perfect beginning to Masquerade," Leggio said.

The sets are by Tom Hansen, the award-winning set and lighting designer for the Show Palace Dinner Theatre. Hansen has created an onstage carousel, complete with horses, and puppets as tall as the stage.

Guest performer will be soprano Lisa Watson, who was recently seen in Forbidden Broadway at the Straz Center in Tampa. She was also in the All Night Strut and the Christmas Show at the Show Palace and has performed at the Salerno Theatre, Golden Apple Dinner Theatre, and with the Spanish Lyric Theatre.

She's doing "a glorious and haunting operatic rendition of Let Me Fall," (the version by Josh Groban from Cirque du Soleil), Leggio said.

"There is so much more that I don't want to give away before showtime," Leggio said, "but it is worth the (time) to see these talented kids and the unique work we are bringing to our community."