What’s happening on Tampa Bay stages: ‘Man of La Mancha,’ Big Jay Oakerson, Rock of Ages

Plus, St. Pete Opera announces its 2019-20 season and a photographer displays the 30 years of live performances he captured.
Published June 5
Updated June 5

MOVING PICTURES: Live on Stage/Changing Identities

Photographer James Lennon has been capturing live performances of local musicians, dancers and actors for 30 years in a project called On Stage. He has shot the Florida Orchestra, jazz shows at the Palladium and “numerous incarnations of Paul Wilborn.” His fourth exhibition of the project Live on Stage” is on display now at the University of Tampa’s Scarfone/Hartley Gallery. Lennon is married to dancer Susan Taylor Lennon, who will perform Changing Identities: A Moving Memoir after the opening reception and again a few times in June. The exhibition remains on display through July 7. Reception from 5-7:30 p.m. Friday, performance at 8. Free. For more showtimes, visit ut.edu/scarfonehartleygallery.

DON QUIXOTE: Man of La Mancha

The musical based on Miguel de Cervantes’ epic novel Don Quixote takes a clever approach of including Cervantes himself in the story. Presented by Mad Theatre, the play-within-a-play sees Cervantes imprisoned and put on trial by his fellow prisoners, who want the contents of a trunk he has. He persuades them to let him put on a play and casts the prisoners as the characters in his unfinished masterpiece. Comedy, heartbreak and musical favorites including Dulcinea, I Really Like Him and Little Bird made it a Broadway smash. $26 and up. Opens Thursday and runs through June 23. Shimberg Playhouse at David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. For showtimes, visit strazcenter.org.

LOVE HURTS: St. Pete Opera’s Season

Love is a tricky emotion and the perfect topic for opera. Indeed, St. Petersburg Opera Company’s 14th season is themed “The Things We Do for Love.” It includes three full-length operas, an expanded holiday show and a new Independence Day show. Returning as well are the popular Mornings and Cocktails with Maestro Mark Sforzini events and the Creative Collaborations project. All performances are at the Palladium, 253 Fifth Ave. N, unless otherwise noted. stpeteopera.org.

Here’s a peek at the season:

The Merry Widow (Oct. 18, 20, 22): A glamorous widow worth a fortune only has eyes for one of her prospective suitors, spurring misunderstandings, jealous rages, comic relief and a scheming ambassador in Franz Lehar’s operetta. Sung in English with supertitles.

Pinocchio (Nov. 16, 22, 23): The entire family will enjoy the moralistic fairy tale brought to life with music by Verdi, Mozart, Offenbach and Donizetti, with easy-to-understand lyrics in English.

Holiday Sparkle (Dec. 12-15, 19-22): Seasonal cheer abounds with holiday favorites from soloists, a chorus and the orchestra.

Rigoletto (Jan. 24, 26, 28): Expect trickery, tragedy, revenge and redemption in Verdi’s opera about a manipulative duke who attempts to seduce the court jester’s daughter. Sung in Italian with English supertitles.

La Fille du Regiment (May 29, 31; June 2, 5 and 7, 2020): Donizetti’s masterpiece set during the Napoleonic Wars is full of twists and secrets. Sung in French with English supertitles.

Pops Spectacular (July 3-5, 2020): Celebrate Independence Day with a concert of patriotic and popular tunes.

Broadway Cabaret (Jan. 18, May 23): Performers from the season’s operas perform selections from the Great White Way.

STILL MOTORIN’: Rock of Ages

The title has proved prophetic: Rock of Ages may really be one for the ages. Since debuting in 2005, the hair-metal musical (which, fun fact, starred Chris Hardwick as the original Stacee Jaxx) ran for more than 2,300 performances on Broadway, spawned a movie starring Tom Cruise and likely inspired a bunch more jukebox musicals. And as the huge success of the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody showed, sometimes people just want to sit in a loud theater and hear some awesome rock songs. (We will not, at this time, be accepting arguments that Whitesnake’s Here I Go Again isn’t awesome.) $25 and up. Opens Tuesday and runs through June 15. Straz Center, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. strazcenter.org.

HEAVY HITTER: Big Jay Oakerson

The least important thing to know about Big Jay Oakerson is that he’s big. That’s true, but it’s not as important as his vicious comedy chops, finely honed in clubs up and down the East Coast and on various podcasts and Sirius XM shows. He’s a tough but self-aware former bouncer who has worked with the likes of Dave Attell, Colin Quinn and Louie C.K., and he can get into it with audiences when need be. You never want to cross a big guy, and that goes double for a guy like Big Jay. $15 and up. 8 p.m. Thursday, 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday, 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. Saturday. Improv, 1600 E Eighth Ave., Ybor City. (813) 864-4000. improvtampa.com.