Hermitage Artist Retreat CEO Andy Sandberg Makes a Brief Return to the Stage
“One Night Only.” That’s not just a song from the Broadway musical Dreamgirls; it’s also the promise Hermitage Artist Retreat artistic director and CEO Andy Sandberg makes about his return to the stage as a performer, for a benefit concert to raise funds for hurricane damage repair at the Manasota Key retreat property.
Of course, promises can be broken, but right now Sandberg says that if you want to hear him sing, you’d better grab a ticket to the March 20 concert at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. (Tickets start at $25 and range all the way up to $250 for VIP tickets, which include a reception.)
“I have not performed professionally in over a decade, except as an emergency understudy in a show I directed off-Broadway,” says Sandberg, whose stage credits include playing Tony in West Side Story, Leo Frank in Parade, Freddy in My Fair Lady and Huck in Big River. “So this concert is probably the only time people in town can hear me as a performer.”
Sandberg started in theater back in high school, but while he loved acting, “I didn’t love everything about the journey,” is how he explains it. He says he was always drawn not just to the acting side of things, but wanted to write, produce and direct as well. While attending Yale as an undergraduate, he knew he wanted to wear all those hats. “I never wanted to pick a lane,” he says, “and probably never will. I never wanted to go to grad school and study in just one area and be limited to that.”
Once out of college and over time, “Acting started taking a back seat to writing and producing,” he says. “For me, what is interesting in working on a historical drama one week and a contemporary pop musical the next.” That’s part of what makes his Hermitage job so appealing, he says, because he gets to welcome and work with artists creating all kinds of theatrical, musical and visual arts projects during their stays at the retreat.
He's also found time to further his love of writing while away from the stage, most recently penning two Hallmark Channel movies, Haul Out the Holly and Five More Minutes. Before coming to the Hermitage, Sandberg’s works were also seen on and off Broadway and in London’s West End.
Sandberg says he doesn’t think he’ll be nervous about returning to the spotlight, but just in case he has a few singing, acting friends joining him during the benefit concert—artists he’s met or worked with in various ways over his career. That includes Broadway veterans Jeannette Bayardelle (who received a 2022 Tony nomination for her role in Bob Dylan and Conor McPherson’s Girl From the North Country and has also starred in Hair and The Color Purple; she’s currently appearing in the Public Theater production of The Harder They Come); Laura Bell Bundy (who originated the roles of Tina in Ruthless, Amber in Broadway’s Hairspray and Elle Woods in Legally Blonde: The Musical); Jay Armstrong Johnson (currently appearing on Broadway in the revival of Parade); and Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer (who just wrapped up her Broadway run as Delia in Beetlejuice). Also appearing is actor-singer-writer-director and Hermitage alumna Ann Morrison, who’s based in Sarasota and worked with Sandberg on Broadway in LoveMusik, where he was an assistant director. Hermitage Fellow and 2023 Grammy Award nominee Rona Siddiqui serves as music director for the concert.
According to Sandberg, each of these artists is “moving mountains in their schedules to take part in this special event.” He also jokes that he’s absolutely ready to be upstaged by all of them.
The March 20 concert (which is also in celebration of the Hermitage’s 20th anniversary) will mostly focus on Broadway music, he says. “But there may be some pop and crossover songs. It’s 90 minutes long, and there won’t be any presentations or fund-raising pitches.” But audiences should know that money raised will all go to repair Hurricane Ian damage that included collapsed lanais, blown-out doors and windows, damp floorboards and destroyed landscaping. Plus there are still tarps on roofs, although all buildings at the retreat except the kayak shed survived.
The evening starts at 7:30 p.m.; for tickets, drop by the Van Wezel box office, visit hermitageartistretreat.org or vanwezel.org, or call (941) 263-6799.