Season Preview

Here's What's Coming to Sarasota in 2018-2019

Carol Burnett! The Lion King! Jerry Lee Lewis! Gaugin at Selby Gardens! And much, much more.

By Kay Kipling October 29, 2018 Published in the November 2018 issue of Sarasota Magazine

Venice Theatre, Nov. 2-25

Silence: The Musical

If you’ve had nightmares ever since watching the 1991 horror movie The Silence of the Lambs, this musical parody may finally put them to rest. With songs like “Are You About a Size 14?” and “Bill’s Death (In the Dark with a Maniac)” the show changes the mood from frightening to fun, as a chorus of floppy-eared lambs narrates and Hannibal Lecter warbles about the life he’d like to lead outside the prison walls. Not for the easily offended, but fans of director Kelly Woodland’s penchant for bringing some pretty weird stuff to VT’s Stage II should find it an exhilarating ride. 488-1115,

Manatee Players, Nov. 29-Dec. 16

Elf, the Musical

You may remember the 2003 holiday movie hit Elf starring Will Ferrell as Buddy, one of Santa’s elves who discovers that he’s actually human and goes on a quest to find his biological father. (Oh, yeah, he wants to save Christmas and Santa Claus from “bah, humbug” nonbelievers, too.) The musical stage version, which hit Broadway a few years back, receives its area premiere Nov. 29-Dec. 16 at the Manatee Performing Arts Center and should spread a little holiday cheer of its own this season. Manatee Players veterans Jason Moore (Buddy) and Eldred Brown (Santa) star under the direction of Kyle Ann Lacertosa. 748-5875,

London-based photographer Todd Antony documents dekotora, a Japanese subculture of decorating trucks.

Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates (SANCA) | Nov. 2-Jan. 31

The Fence Sarasota 2018 

Nathan Benderson Park will become the latest site to host this open-air exhibition of photographs shot by people from around the world—the largest public photo exhibition in North America. (Other cities that also welcome the show: Brooklyn, Boston, Atlanta, Santa Fe, Denver, Calgary and Durham, North Carolina.) The artists’ works span the categories of Creatures, Home, People, Streets, Nature, Food and Play; a jury of 75 photography and art professionals, assembled by New York-based nonprofit United Photo Industries, decides which images make the final cut. It’s a free event; take a peek at before you go to see it in person.

Florida Studio Theatre | Dec. 12-Feb. 24

Straight White Men

Coming to town right after its Broadway run, this play by Young Jean Lee (the first on Broadway written by an Asian-American woman, BTW), about three adult brothers celebrating Christmas Eve with their father—and dealing with their individual existential crises—might seem less experimental at first than most of Lee’s work, which includes titles like Untitled Feminist Show and Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals. But while the family dynamic and the exploration of white male privilege appears straightforward, there is the pre-curtain introduction to the evening by two oddly costumed “Persons in Charge” of indeterminate gender and some welcoming rap music, too. So, there’s that. 366-9000, 

Marcelo Gomes

Sarasota Ballet | Dec. 14-15

Victorian Winters

The dance company continues its association with former American Ballet Theatre principal Marcelo Gomes in three performances this season, the first of them in George Balanchine’s famed Diamonds, the glittering closing piece from the choreographer’s Jewels ballet. The winter program, Dec. 14 and 15 (Gomes dances the evening of Dec. 15) at the Van Wezel, is accompanied by a full orchestra and also includes the Sarasota Ballet’s popular production of Sir Frederick Ashton’s skating-party-themed Les Patineurs (which they’ve performed to praise at the Kennedy Center and New York City Center Theater) and another Ashton work, Enigma Variations, marking its 50th anniversary this year, which utilizes composer Edward Elgar’s score to present an imaginary gathering of Elgar and friends. 359-0099,

The cast of On Your Feet!

Image: Courtesy Photo 

Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall | Dec. 26-30

On Your Feet!

Really, who can resist the call of pop smashes like “Turn the Beat Around,” “Get On Your Feet” and “Conga”? “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You” with this Sarasota premiere of the Broadway musical about hitmakers Emilio and Gloria Estefan, who pioneered that Latin-Cuban-Miami sound we all moved to in the 1980s and ’90s. Beyond the songs and the dancing lies the true story of the Estefans’ romance and family ties, including, naturally, some heartbreak along with the hits. 953-3368,

Asolo Rep | Jan. 16-March 31

A Doll’s House, Part 2

The time seems right for Lucas Hnath’s acclaimed “sequel” to the Henrik Ibsen classic about house wife Nora Helmer, who shockingly walked out on her home and family back in 1879. Fifteen years later, she returns to seek a divorce from the priggish Torvald, having become a successful feminist novelist. Perhaps not surprisingly, not everyone is happy to see her. On Broadway, the play was nominated for eight Tonys and snagged one for Laurie Metcalf as Nora. Here, Peter Amster directs the cast in what promises to be a funny, provocative re-imagining of Nora’s story. 351-8000,

JoAnna Ford

Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe | Jan. 23-March 3

The Amen Corner

Goodman Theatre resident director Chuck Smith returns to WBTT from Chicago to stage this production of James Baldwin’s play about Harlem pastor Sister Margaret Alexander, whose life is turned upside down when her estranged jazz musician husband shows up and distracts their son from the godly path. Baldwin, who preached for a time himself in his youth, drew from his life for the story, which became a musical in the 1980s. Smith has successfully directed here before, with Knock Me a Kiss, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Piano Lesson and The Mountaintop among his credits. JoAnna Marie Ford is set to star as Margaret, with Joel King as the husband and Ian Fermy as the son. 366-1505,

Joel King

Florida Studio Theatre | Jan. 23-March 17

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Simon Stephens’ play derived from the Mark Haddon novel, about teenage would-be detective Christopher Boone’s investigation of the death of a neighbor’s dog, won a slew of Olivier Awards when it debuted in Britain, and earned the 2015 Tony for Best Play stateside, too. Stephens (whose play Heisenberg was onstage at FST last season) received critical plaudits for the creative way he transferred the workings of Christopher’s mind (he’s on the autism spectrum) to the stage, and the visual effects of the original production drew audiences in, too. We’ll see how FST decides to present its version. 366-9000,

Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall| Jan. 27

Jerry Lee Lewis

Let’s be honest: If any of us had had to predict which member of the original Million Dollar Quartet of the 1950s—Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis—would still be alive and performing today, it might not have been the hard-living Jerry Lee, whose personal travails could fill more than one Hollywood movie. (Great Balls of Fire, which starred Dennis Quaid as “the Killer” back in 1989, was just a start.)  But at 82, Lewis, hailed as rock ’n’ roll’s “first great wild man,” is indeed still punching the piano ivories with his trademark style and delivering fan favorites like “Whole Lotta Shakin” and “Crazy Arms” from his long rock/country/blues career. You gotta hand it to him. 953-3368,

Asolo Rep | Feb. 6-April 13


Lynn Nottage’s 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner for drama is a timely and poignant look at the lives of Tracey and Cynthia, working-class best friends, one white, one black, beset by the threat of their factory closing in the hard-hit Rust Belt town of Reading, Pennsylvania. Nottage (who also won a Pulitzer for 2009’s Ruined) spent weeks interviewing real residents of Reading before writing Sweat; it’s brought to life here by Nicole Watson (who also staged The Great Society for Asolo), a rare case where a play by an African-American female playwright is being helmed by an African-American female director. 351-8000, 

Selby Gardens | Feb. 10-June 2019

Gauguin: Voyage to Paradise 

Sarasota’s botanical paradise has had hits on its hands with two previous exhibits tying together living plant displays with work by prominent artists—Marc Chagall in 2017 and Andy Warhol this past spring. Now self-proclaimed “savage” artist Paul Gauguin gets his turn, with this exhibit featuring evocative woodcuts from his encounters in Polynesia, plus works in other media, in the gardens’ Museum of Botany & the Arts. Staff horticulturists will work to create complementary gasp-worthy displays of tropical plants in the conservatory and beyond. Four Gauguin pieces were originally announced for the show, but there will be more; stay tuned. 366-5731, 

Carol Burnett 

Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall | Feb. 14

Carol Burnett

The comedy legend, winner of Emmys, Grammys, Golden Globes, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Mark Twain Prize, has lost none of her humor or warmth over the years since she entertained us all with her long-running prime-time variety hour, The Carol Burnett Show. She’ll talk about those days, share video clips of some of the biggest laugh-getting scenes, and, of course, answer questions from the audience, as she always did at the start of her program, when she guests at the Van Wezel. At 85, she can still do that famous Tarzan yell, too. 953-3368,

Sarasota Ballet | March 8 and 9

Poetry and Liberty 

Marcelo Gomes dances with the company again, performing the main male principal role of The Poet in Sir Frederick Ashton’s Apparitions, set to music by Franz Liszt. This is a company premiere, not performed anywhere since 1987, and the Sarasota staff did research at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum on the original’s sets and costumes in order to build this production from scratch. It’s part of the centennial celebrations for Dame Margot Fonteyn, on whom the ballet was created. Also on the program: Balanchine’s Stars and Stripes (music by John Phillip Sousa), a spirited patriotic offering chosen by British-born artistic director Iain Webb (who proudly became an American citizen this past March). 359-0099,

Hand balancer Roman Khaperskiy

Feb. 15-March 10

Circus Sarasota

In a lot of ways, this year’s edition of the circus, under the Big Top at Nathan Benderson Park, is a family affair. Ringmaster Joseph Bauer Jr. returns in that role as well as atop the Wheel of Destiny, while his daughter, Ambra Andrine, follows in mother Sylvia Zerbini’s footsteps with an equestrian performance. Pedro Carrillo pays tribute to his wire walker father (also Pedro) with his own high wire act. And siblings Giuseppe and Emanuel Curatola dazzle with hand-to-hand acrobatics. Also entertaining the crowds: juggling master Victor Krachinov, spinning Cyr Wheel performer Valerie Inertie, the comedy canine troupe of Hans Klose, hand balancer Roman Khaperskiy, teeterboard act Sons Company, and comic Cesar Dias. 355-9805,

Urbanite Theatre | March 8-April 21

In a Word

What’s in a word? As we all know, that depends on how it’s wielded and by whom. In the case of this regional premiere by Lauren Yee, common phrases take on unusual meanings in the mind of Fiona, who’s about to share her birthday dinner with her husband. She doesn’t feel like celebrating, though, because the date is also the two-year anniversary of the disappearance of the couple’s young son, and she’s still trying to discover what happened. Some surreal twists take place along the way in this lyrical, sometimes funny work, which has won several playwriting awards and which one reviewer called “an emotional mystery wrapped in word puzzles peeled away like the layers of an onion.” Urbanite’s co-artistic director Summer Wallace stars as Fiona. 321-1397, 

Sarasota Opera | March 9, 12, 14, 17, 20 and 23

Rita (Two Men and a Woman); Susanna’s Secret

Opera doesn’t always have to be tragic and filled with doomed love, early deaths and villains singing bass. (Although it can sometimes feel that way.) Case in point: the Sarasota Opera’s double bill of these two comic one-acts, the first by Gaetano Donizetti and the second by Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari. (Both star the trio of Elizabeth Tredent, Marco Nistico and William Davenport, above.) In Rita, innkeeper Peppe is terrified of his tyrannical wife, Rita, and things get more complicated when her first husband, believed drowned, returns to life. In Susanna’s Secret (last seen here way back in 1973, when the Sarasota Opera was still the Asolo Opera), the heroine’s husband smells tobacco on her clothes and tries his darnedest to catch her in an act of infidelity. We’re guessing all’s well that ends well in both. 328-1300,


Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall | March 14-31

The Lion King

There’s no doubt that the Sarasota premiere of Julie Taymor’s adaptation of the classic Disney movie about young cub Simba, true love Nala, villainous uncle Scar, and sidekicks Timon and Pumbaa will be the big theatrical event of the season, filling the Van Wezel stage with its beloved characters, colorful costumes, memorable Elton John-Tim Rice songs and remarkable choreography (by Garth Fagan) for 23 performances March 14-31. The winner of six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, has already entertained millions, and individual tickets go on sale Nov. 2, so what are you waiting for? Put this magazine down and run to the box office, the phone (953-3368) or your computer,

Players Centre for Performing Arts | march 28-April 14


When the Players announced as its last show of the season this Stephen Sondheim musical about a Ziegfeld-like troupe reunion at an about-to-be-destroyed theater, it seemed a fitting choice for the 89-year-old community theater’s final production in its North Tamiami Trail location. Now, that is not the case, as the organization continues to plan its future in Lakewood Ranch. (See page 87.) But even though the Players will stage more shows in its current home, Follies, which originally bowed in 1971, is a treat for performers and audiences alike, as its former showgirls deliver such standouts as “Broadway Baby,” “I’m Still Here” and “Losing My Mind.” Vintage Sondheim, vintage Players. 365-2494,

Sarasota Orchestra | April 5, 6, and 7

Masterworks 7

The orchestra’s artistic leader, Anu Tali, winds up her six-year tenure (and the company’s 70th anniversary season) on a high note, demonstrating what her musicians can do with Arnold Schoenberg’s wishful Friede auf Erden (Peace on Earth) and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 (Choral), with its uplifting “Ode to Joy.” They’ll be joined by vocal soloists Elizabeth Baldwin, Blythe Gaissert, Miles Mykkanen and Branch Fields, as well as an ensemble collaboration featuring voices from Choral Artists of Sarasota and Key Chorale. A theme of peace and joy is surely a fitting way to say farewell. 953-3434,

April 5-14

Sarasota Film Festival

What brand-new movies and hot stars will turn up at this year’s 21st annual festival, set for April 5-14? Let’s be honest; at this point in the season, your guess is as good as ours. Festival organizers won’t be announcing any news for several months yet, but you can count on the event presenting hundreds of movies in a wide range of genres, revealing interviews with filmmakers, and, of course, those parties. 364-9514,

Icon of Seated Shiva, 18th century, white marble


John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art | April 26-28

A Journey Through India

The museum turns its eyes to the east with a festival exploring the many cultures of India, through performance, dance, music, art and, of course, food. You can count on a big Bollywood party in the courtyard, as well as guest lectures, family art activities, complimentary yoga and more. Think of it as a lead-in to the museum’s Fabric of India exhibition, opening July 7, which will feature more than 200 objects displaying the skills of Indian textile makers over the centuries. A range of historical dress, carefully preserved fabrics and cutting-edge fashion reveals how the colorful fabrics of India have been interwoven with religion, politics and trade. 359-5700,

Filed under
Show Comments