It’s a full season coming up at Sarasota’s Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, and executive director Mary Bensel couldn’t be happier.
“My heart is full to be able to announce our 2021-22 season,” said Bensel in a press release unveiling the lineup. “The past 17 months have been some of the most challenging ones I’ve ever seen for our industry.”
Mostly shuttered for live performances since the Covid-19 pandemic began, with just a few exceptions, the hall has worked to reopen safely, with changes to safety protocols and the use of fogging sanitization technology shown to inactivate the virus. As a result, the hall currently plans to offer single tickets on sale Saturday, Sept. 11, at 10 a.m.
Bensel had already announced the hall’s Broadway season, which includes such shows as Come From Away in November, Anastasia in March 2022, An Officer and a Gentleman in April and Jersey Boys in January. Now the full schedule of performances is available at vanwezel.org, and it provides some area debuts and premieres as well as some returning favorites.
The hall officially kicks off the season Oct. 29 with the Jimmy Buffett musical Escape to Margaritaville. That’s followed Nov. 3 by the family show Disney Princess—The Concert, a Sarasota premiere that brings together actresses who have portrayed princess characters like Belle, Jasmine, Anna and Anastasia onstage.
More upcoming highlights: a Sarasota premiere for singer-songwriter Bruce Hornsby, Nov. 11; a Mannheim Steamroller Christmas by Chip Davis, Nov. 20; multiple Grammy nominee singer Martina McBride with The Joy of Christmas 2021, on Dec. 4; the Sarasota premiere of rockers George Thorogood and the Destroyers (Dec. 7) and Jefferson Starship (Dec. 31), along with soprano Sarah Brightman in A Christmas Symphony (Dec. 14); and the long-delayed Sarasota premiere of vocal ensemble Il divo, originally scheduled to perform to honor the hall’s 50th anniversary two seasons ago.
There are familiar faces in the lineup, such as comedian Jay Leno (Jan. 15), songstress Bernadette Peters (Jan. 23), and multiple Tony winner Audra McDonald (Feb. 11). Music, film TV and Broadway star Harry Connick Jr. will headline the annual Van Wezel Foundation Inspiration Gala, on Jan. 27. And there’s also a number of tribute concerts, paying homage to the talents of Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Simon and Garfunkel, ABBA, the Beatles (with the concert Rain), along with some original stars of the past few decades like Paul Anka, Johnny Mathis and Engelbert Humperdinck. There’s even a live version of the classic game show The Price Is Right, which will give eligible individuals the chance to “come on down” and play games familiar from the TV edition.
There’s lots more on tap, so for a complete show schedule and the latest updates on safety practices that will be in effect, visit vanwezel.org. Tickets will be available at the box office and by phone, (941) 263-6799, as well.