The Manatee Players may be cutting back from eight mainstage shows to seven in the coming 2019-20 season, but that doesn’t mean they’re not going big. With shows including Titanic and West Side Story on the schedule, the community theater is still laying out plenty of challenges for itself.
Titanic, for example, which tells the story of that doomed ship and its passengers, has only been produced once before in the area (at the Players Centre in Sarasota), partly because of the technical and design demands of reproducing the famous sinking. But having swept the 1997 Tony Awards, including winning both Best Musical and Best Score (music and lyrics are by Maury Yeston, book by Peter Stone), it’s worth the effort.
That musical actually closes the mainstage season at the Manatee Performing Arts Center, May 7-24, but there’s a full line-up of musicals before it, starting with the Leonard Bernstein-Stephen Sondheim musical based on Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story (onstage Aug. 8-25). It’s a chance to see the show live again, before director Steven Spielberg tackles a remake of the original movie version, set to start filming this summer.
Iconic rocker Buddy Holly is the subject of the next musical in the line-up, Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, which offers plenty of his hits including “Peggy Sue,” “Not Fade Away” and “That’ll Be the Day,” Oct. 24 through Nov. 10. That’s followed by a holiday hit: It’s a Wonderful Life—A Musical, a version of the classic Frank Capra movie offering a book and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick (Fiddler on the Roof) and music by Joe Raposo, running Dec. 5-22.
Roald Dahl’s Matilda, the Musical, about a young girl with special powers and indifferent parents, is next up, running Jan. 16 through Feb. 2. The Manatee Players will partner with the county’s spring training team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, on a new production of Damn Yankees (Feb. 20 to March 8, just in time for the 2020 spring training season. (The Pirates will replace the Washington Senators team in this one.)
You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, onstage April 2-19, marks the 50th anniversary of the musical celebrating Charles Schultz’s comic strip characters, Charlie, Lucy, Sally, Snoopy, Linus and more.
In its Studio Series at the smaller Bradenton Kiwanis Theater (a partnership with nonprofit agencies through the Action Through Acting program), the theater is tackling the area’s first production of the musical Grey Gardens, a Tony-winning Broadway show about the strange lives of two Jacqueline Kennedy relatives, Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter Edie (running Sept. 5-22). Also on the schedule here: Tuesdays with Morrie, based on the Mitch Albom best-seller (Oct. 10-27); Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and Then Some!), with three performers covering a wide swatch of holiday books and shows (Dec. 5-22); the premiere of Goat Song Revel by Dan Borengasser, a play derived from the story of the Biblical Job (Feb. 6-23); John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt: A Parable (March 19 to April 5); and Mark St. Germain’s Dancing Lessons (April 30 through May 17) about a man with Asperger’s syndrome who hires an injured Broadway dancer to teach him some steps.
For tickets and more info, call 748-5875 or visit manateeperformingartscenter.com.