TAMPA — Charles Gounod's Faust sets the table early. The world-weary philosopher immortalized in a dramatic poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is in his study, lamenting his state of affairs. He's willing to give away everything he has to be young again, even his soul.
Mephistopheles steps out of the shadows with a bow. "Je voici," he says, only in a mellifluous bass.
With that, the St. Petersburg Opera Company begins its season. It's an extremely careful production, congruent from casting to execution and seemingly aligned with the original intent of Gounod and librettists Jules Barbier and Michel Carre. There are several such moments and scenes throughout, signalling that we're in good hands with this opera. ...
For those who saw Taylor Trensch grow up in Tampa, his rise from promising student to star is heartwarming and entirely predictable. In January, Trensch, 28, will be moving into the title role of Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway, one of the hottest tickets in theater.
The 2007 Blake High graduate is as nimble with roles as he is on his feet, and is currently playing Barnaby Tucker in the revival of Hello, Dolly. His position as an established performer at the highest levels doesn't surprise Eric Davis, who taught Trensch at Blake for three years....
NEW TOUR: ON YOUR FEET!
Gloria Estefan launched a stellar career on talent and heart, becoming a role model.
"I remember my mother playing Gloria's CDs in the car," said Christie Prades, the Cuban-American actor who is playing Estefan in On Your Feet! The musical is as lively as they come.
Estefan and husband Emilio met extensively with Prades to help her prepare for the role. Prades, of Miami, also worked on the Broadway show that wrapped in August....
CLEARWATER — Since establishing itself in the 1980s as a key player in the Tampa Bay performing arts scene, Ruth Eckerd Hall has staked out a niche with popular music, jazz and hit musicals. That formula appears to be working.
The venue Thursday announced record-breaking ticket sales for the second consecutive year, or $18.4 million for the year ending Sept. 30, 2017. That's up more than $1.5 million from 2015-16, the previous record....
STOMPIN' POPS: SWING IS THE THING
The Florida Orchestra opens its pops season with some of the most ebullient tunes from the swing era. With Swing Is the Thing, conductor and arranger Jeff Tyzik will lead the orchestra in the danceable tunes that would influence the development of pop music, jazz and blues.
The production revs up with dancers, singers and clarinet virtuoso Dave Bennett. Though Bennett is just 33 and swing peaked in the mid 1940s, he's considered one of the foremost interpreters of Benny Goodman, et al. The concert will allow the genre to pay it forward, tracing swing's influence into the 1950s and 1960s with tunes from Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy to Tuxedo Junction to Rock Around the Clock....
ST. PETERSBURG — Freefall Theatre only lost a week opening its season, despite suffering the worst damage of any local theater from Hurricane Irma, putting on an incredibly bold and imaginative retelling of the Jack London novel. It is impossible to sit in the low, comfortable seats of Freefall's auditorium, not built as a theater space, and not feel a surge of admiration before the world premiere of White Fang starts....
TAMPA — A tympanist smashes a pair of mallets onto a drumhead, and the chorus erupts.
With that dramatic stroke, which opens the Carmina Burana, the Florida Orchestra kicked off its 50th season at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. That the orchestra, along with the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay, performed Carl Orff's iconic 1936 paean to passion subsumed by an indifferent wheel of fate is hardly unusual; that happens every few years....
50TH ANNIVERSARY: FLORIDA ORCHESTRA
The Florida Orchestra opens its 50th season with Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, one of the most explosive pieces of classical music being played today. (The Buccaneers often use it to rev up the crowd.)
"It's a spectacular way to open the 50th anniversary, one of the most iconic pieces of all," music director Michael Francis said....
ST. PETERSBURG — In total silence, one of the world's foremost acousticians bent over a sound board and slid a button forward. Then he listened as a swooping noise came out of a huge portable speaker on the stage of the Mahaffey Theater, from low to high, like a signal from space.
Rick Talaske, 65, was testing a new, $1.8 million acoustic "shell" his Chicago firm designed for the Florida Orchestra. To the audience, the eight panels stretching high above the stage might look like a rear wall. ...
ST. PETERSBURG -- Tickets for the Dec. 9 performance of the rock musician Sting at the Mahaffey Theater have sold out, the Florida Orchestra announced Monday. Contact the orchestra, (727) 362-5424, for more information about its fundraising gala.
TAMPA — Stageworks opens its season with something fun, which is a commodity we could always use more of.
The Marvelous Wonderettes repackages pop hits of the 1950s and 1960s in a more straight-forward way than Mamma Mia! repurposed Abba. And it feels lighter and freer without the extra baggage of a standard storyline. There is a plot, sort of, but its elements hang like ornaments and tinsel on a Christmas tree — casually strung, without worry or self-consciousness. If that's the result of laborious workshopping that grew the show, based on a book by Roger Bean, from one act to two and an off-Broadway run, the angst doesn't show....
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Florida Orchestra is releasing tickets to the Dec. 9 fundraising gala today featuring rock musician Sting. Only a few seats are left, however. The remaining tickets cost $450 and include entrance to the concert only, not a pre-concert reception or post-concert dinner, the orchestra said. A few sponsored tables are left, starting at $25,000. The concert starts at 7 p.m. Dec. 9 and the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg. (727) 362-5424....
Playwright Marco Ramirez described the set for The Royale this way: "A heavy bag, some stools, and some chalk dust. That's the whole set."
The play opens in half-light as an announcer introduces two fighters. As each name is called, fans clap rhythmically. They sit on wooden bleachers on either side of the stage, beneath windows resembling stained glass, perhaps conveying a quasi-religious experience of boxing fans. American Stage has also added an even more visually striking dimension — nine rows of huge flashbulbs at the rear of the stage....
SPELLBOUND: Harry Potter IN CONCERT
Fantasy becomes reality. Harry Potter apparates this weekend at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in the form of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in Concert. The long anticipated concert — an event, really — brings a screening of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone as the Florida Orchestra plays the entire John Williams score live. ...
The Florida Orchestra began 50 years ago with a mixture of nervousness and pride, dreams of artistic excellence and an accompanying surge for the arts on both sides of Tampa Bay.
The decades since have seen improvements as the orchestra has survived through a series of financial crises. In recent years it has emerged in the black, with several new musicians and a music director who has lifted morale. It has become a leader of performing arts in the Tampa Bay area, a crown jewel in the state. Still, the orchestra struggles with paying musicians competitively, a problem it has carried since the very start....