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Andrew Meacham, Times Performing Arts Critic

Andrew Meacham

Andrew Meacham is the performing arts critic for the Tampa Bay Times, covering the growing local venues for theater, orchestra, opera and dance. Andrew previously served as the Epilogue obituaries writer for the Times. He grew up in St. Petersburg, graduated from Eckerd College and holds a master's degree in journalism from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

Phone: (727) 892-2248


  1. Though life gives and takes, 85-year-old piano phenom never loses control

    Human Interest

    CLEARWATER — It's Joseph Schwartz's 85th birthday.

    On this weekday in April, he's in the living room where a black Steinway takes up most of the space. Sounds bounce off the terrazzo floor, to a sliding glass door and small swimming pool on the other side. The floor amplifies every mutterance from Cookie and Mia, Bichon mixes studying the room from a cage, and every spoken word....

    Pianist Howard Schwartz performs in New York City in 1970. He is a graduate of The Juilliard School of Music.
  2. Stage Planner: Culture clash in 'The King and I', a bittersweet 'End of the Rainbow' at Freefall



    The name stops short of household status. But I challenge anyone to listen to Laura Michelle Kelly sing and make the case that her instrument is anything other than top-shelf.

    Or go see The King and I, opening Tuesday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, and decide for yourself. An Olivier award winner (in 2005 for Mary Poppins), Kelly plays Anna Leonowens in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical....

    Melissa Minyard plays Judy Garland during a comeback in 1968 in Freefall Theatre’s production of End of the Rainbow.
  3. Review: American Stage's park venue well suited for a peppy production of 'Hairspray'


    ST. PETERSBURG — What do you want in a park production? Hopefully something fun, big and loud.

    Even if that's not necessarily what you thought you wanted, Hairspray, American Stage's latest outdoor musical in Demens Landing, will convince you it is. The sheer force of talent in this lineup overcomes all obstacles — and there were a few — in a way that felt congruent and part of a package to be recommended....

    The ensemble cast of Hairspray poses for a portrait on the set of Hairspray in Demens Landing Park on April 12, 2017. The annual American Stage in the Park performance runs through May 14th. EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times
  4. Stage Planner: Rocktopia at the Straz, Ella Fitzgerald Florida Orchestra tribute, opera 'couples therapy'



    Arrangers with a classical flair have loved toying with rock music since the inception of the genre. George Martin's orchestration of Beatles songs (In My Life and Eleanor Rigby) comes to mind. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra released an Elvis album. There are even orchestral arrangements of Rock Around the Clock.

    Rocktopia Live has taken that concept a step further. Billed as a fusion of classical music and classic rock, the event is heavy on musicianship, of course, and adds five vocalists and a choir performing Queen, Mozart, Journey, Handel, U2, Tchaikovsky, Heart, Beethoven, Styx, Foreigner, Rachmaninoff, Pink Floyd, Aaron Copland, the Who and more....

    Carmen Bradford, who has sung with the Count Basie and Doc Severinsen orchestras, handles the vocals in the Florida Orchestra’s tribute to Ella Fitzgerald. Courtesy of Carmen Bradford.
  5. American Stage cranks up the volume with 'Hairspray' in the park


    American Stage is the Park has always been our biggest outdoor theater event. This year, it might also be the loudest.

    Artistic staff are planning a concertlike experience. Scenes in the park may start with a television studio in 1962 Baltimore, just like the Broadway musical. But square that or cube that with lights and amplifiers, and you'll start to get a sense of what American Stage is going for here....

    Allyson Pace is Tracy; Matthew McGee plays Edna, Tracy’s mother; and Thomas Mothershed is Wilbur, Tracy’s father, in American Stage in the Park’s  production of Hairspray.
[EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  6. Freefall Theatre season lineup: 'White Fang,' 'The Glass Menagerie,' 'The Little Prince' and more


    ST. PETERSBURG — Freefall Theatre's 10th season will feature a couple of adaptations, a Tennessee Williams classic, a musical about musicals and a children's book with mythological implications.

    The season's theme, "On Second Glance — Familiar Stories, New Perspectives," will encompass familiar tales presented in a new light and some hidden gems.

    "These are all stories from our past that we're looking at in the context of our modern world," producing artistic director Eric Davis told patrons at Freefall's fundraising event last week at the Museum of Fine Arts. ...

    Freefall Theatre 
co-founding artistic director Eric Davis recently announced the theater’s new season, which starts in September.
  7. Stage Planner: Jobsite looks ahead, 'Sex and the City' looks back


    BRECHT TO 1984: JOBSITE 2017-2018

    This season Jobsite Theater continued its relationship with playwright Israel Horovitz, above, and took Shakespeare into the schools as an extension of As You Like It. In 2017-2018, the resident theater company of the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts will reach into that well again with The Tempest (Jan. 19-Feb. 18) and Man in Snow (March 9-April 1), one of Horovitz's newer plays. That story follows a father who tries to cope with the loss of his son by visiting Mount McKinley, which he had climbed 25 years earlier. This time he's playing tour guide to Japanese honeymooners who are seeking ultimate romance....

    Jobsite Theater extends a collaboration with playwright Israel Horovitz, opening his Man in Snow March 9, 2018.
  8. Review: Opera Tampa ends season with a passionate 'Tosca,' announces next year's lineup


    TAMPA — In choosing Tosca to conclude its 22nd season, Opera Tampa is not so much making a statement as blowing a kiss.

    That affection is for opera itself, a relatively new concept in which a dream team of composers, librettists and singers produce unforgettable theater. Since its 1900 premiere in Rome, the popular Puccini opera has thrilled audiences with its overt embrace of darkness, the worst of humanity running roughshod over the best....

    Lisa Houben plays the title role in Puccini’s Tosca, Opera Tampa’s final production of the 2017 season, and Mark Walters plays the police captain Scarpia.
  9. Stage planner: 'Kinky Boots' returns, 'Voodoo MacBeth,' Opera Tampa's 'Tosca'



    Performing in 6-inch stilettos takes its toll. But if anyone knows how to slip into that role it's Timothy Ware, right, who plays the pivotal role of Lola in Kinky Boots at Ruth Eckerd Hall next week.

    "It can be very taxing on the body," said Ware, an understudy in the original Broadway cast who now has the job full-time. A native of Montgomery, Ala., Ware can also appreciate the heartwarming show about a drag queen who helps save a shoe factory in northern England....

    Soprano Lisa Houben plays the title role in Puccini’s Tosca at Opera Tampa, at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. April 7 and 9.
  10. Review: 'The Mountaintop' reconstructs Martin Luther King Jr.'s stay at the Lorraine Motel in 1968


    TAMPA — It starts off with rain on the roof.

    The Heather is a small theater in West Tampa, in an office park behind a Popeye's restaurant. It's intimate, the which lends itself to all kinds of advantages, and rain on the roof is one of them.

    A weary Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. enters a dinged-up room in the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, the day's events involving a sanitation strike still on his mind, a sermon he has to give looming larger. It's April 3, 1968....

    Naima Tabernuro plays a motel maid, Camae, and Darren Constantine plays Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Katori Hall's The Mountaintop, which runs April 7-22 at the Heather Theatre in Tampa. The two-character play is set in the Lorraine Motel in Memphis on April 3, 1968, the night before Dr. King was assassinated. Courtesy of Heather Theatre.
  11. Review: Florida Orchestra concert lets lesser-known works shine


    TAMPA — This weekend's Florida Orchestra concert takes a different path, showcasing less celebrated works by Maurice Ravel, Ludwig van Beethoven and Sergei Rachmaninoff.

    In another novel turn, Ignat Solzhenitsyn conducted and soloed for Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 2. The son of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, novelist and outspoken critic of the Soviet Union, has a distinguished career in both conducting and performance....

  12. 'Squeeze My Cans,' one woman's Scientology story, packs an emotional punch


    TAMPA -- Cathy Schenkelberg’s autobiographical play about her two decades in the Church of Scientology played to a full house on Saturday at Stageworks Theatre. Squeeze My Cans is as powerful a solo show as you are likely to see. Whether we’re talking about structure, humor, talent or social relevance, it connects on all levels.

    The title is a sly reference to the handles of an “E-meter,” Scientology’s confessional device and the narrative engine that drives the story forward. It might also be taken as commentary on Schenkelberg’s emotional relationship with the church she entered in her early twenties, answering an auditor’s robotically phrased questions in increasingly revealing terms. ...

    Cathy Schenkelberg performs during a rehearsal at the Stageworks Theater in Tampa, Fla. on Tuesday, March 28, 2017.   Cathy Schenkelberg is a former Scientologist who spent more than two decades in the church and gave them more than $1 million. At one point she famously auditioned for a show not realizing that the real "audition" was to be Tom Cruise's girlfriend, whom she had called a spoiled baby. Constantly pressured for money, she stayed in the church because it seemed like a good religion. But over time, those pressures pushed her out. Only her meticulous record keeping allowed her to recover tens of thousands of dollars the church had collected as an advance deposit on courses and materials. An actor before getting into the church (and a highly successful voice-over actor while in it), Schenkelberg has put together a one-woman show about her experience. Squeeze My Cans -- A Midwest Girl's Journey Into Scientology and Back Out Again, has sold out runs in Chicago and Hollywod, Calif.
  13. Former Scientologist Cathy Schenkelberg confronts the church on stage in Tampa



    There are some things Cathy Schenkelberg can't forget, memories that bring back the shame. They burn like lava from that volcano, the famous one on the cover of Dianetics, the bible of the Church of Scientololgy.

    Her story of one of those moments takes place at a dinner in the mid-1990s: Schenkelberg and her daughter were at the church's Clearwater headquarters. It was the "celebrity's table," and Schenkelberg was a minor celebrity. She was one of the most prominent voice-over actors in the country, making nearly $400,000 a year in commercials. • A member since her early 20s, Schenkelberg said she had given increasing chunks of her income to the church, paying for courses in L. Ron Hubbard's way of thinking, expensive "auditing" sessions, and advanced several levels up the church hierarchy. The training, fellow members told her, would allow her to be free, to become truly herself. • There was always a price. More courses, more training, more everything. The price to sit at the celebrity table was $2,500. • "You're going to have to move," the maître d' said. "Somebody else wants the seat." • Then, she said, she saw Tom Cruise walking up to the table....

    Cathy Schenkelberg rehearses at the Stageworks Theater in Tampa on Tuesday. Schenkelberg is a former Scientologist who has put together a one-woman show about her experience. [CHARLIE KAIJO | Times]
  14. Stage planner: Ex-Scientologist takes to the stage, acrobatic singers perform aboard a tall ship



    For a sizable chunk of her life, Cathy Schenkelberg was a model Scientologist. She kept up with succession of expensive courses, bought with lucrative earnings as a voice-over actor for national retailers.

    Schenkelberg left the church several years ago. She will act out her story this weekend in a one-woman show. Squeeze My Cans — Surviving Scientology comes to Stageworks Theatre after sold-out runs in Chicago and Hollywood, Calif....

    Paul Kirby co-founded Caravan Stage Company in 1970. The stage for traveling theater, once a stagecoach, is now a 90-foot boat, the Amara Zee. Acrobatic performers from around the world live in local hotels and but share lunches and work as a community.
  15. Tall ship replica in St. Pete is the stage of a 'spectacle opera'



    If you're driving along Third Street S, or just happen to be taking in the view of Bayboro Harbor behind the University of South Florida St. Petersburg's library, you might have noticed a mysterious black ship tied off on the seawall. Glance inland, across tiny Poynter Park, and you'll see a towering scaffold. The ship looks like something out of Pirates of the Caribbean, or our long-lost Bounty....

    Members of the Caravan Stage Company who are also crew members of the Amara Zee, an 85-foot-long replica of a 19th century Thames River sailing barge, rehearse for upcoming performances April 4th through 8th. Audience members can watch from Poynter Park in St. Petersburg. The crew and ship have traveled the world. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times