Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall Announces a Full Season Lineup

Faces both familiar and new take to the stage for concerts, film screenings and more.

By Kay Kipling August 27, 2023

The company of Hamilton

The long-awaited arrival of megahit musical Hamilton is still the really big news for the coming Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall 2023-24 season. But executive director Mary Bensel has fleshed out the already announced Broadway and dance season with a full lineup of other concerts and shows, with tickets going on sale to the public Sept. 9 at 10 a.m. (Those who are already subscribers or e-club members get first dibs, Sept. 7 and 8.)

First off, Bensel says, “It’s really fun to be kicking off the season with a screening of the Rocky Horror Picture Show,” welcoming the cult film’s star, Barry Bostwick, on Sept. 30. “I’ve had a secret crush on Barry for years.”

She also has positive things to say about comedian Sebastian Maniscalco (performing two shows on Oct. 22): “He’s the funniest man I ever met.”

Bensel goes on to express personal excitement at the appearance of actor William Shatner, introducing a screening of the 1982 movie Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan on Nov. 11. “I’m a real sci-fi nut and Star Trek fan, and it’s going to be fabulous to have Captain James T. Kirk on the stage of the Van Wezel,” she says. Trekkies will no doubt agree.

Bensel is also a big fan of Christmas, as the holiday lineup at the hall demonstrates. “We have some old favorites that come every year,” she says, including Mannheim Steamroller, Dave Koz & Friends (“I love that a Jewish man puts together one of the most successful Christmas tours”), and a Celtic Angels Christmas. Sarah Brightman returns with A Christmas Symphony, Dec. 14; international ensemble Il Divo returns with a holiday show Dec. 20; and singer Marie Osmond arrives “complete with a symphony” for her Christmas spectacular, Dec. 13. Also entertaining during the holidays are Irish singer Daniel O’Donnell (Dec. 15); The Illusionists, offering Magic of the Holidays (Dec. 16); and the Cirque Musica Holiday Wonderland, Dec. 23.

Singer Nick Carter performs Oct. 20.

Among some other shows Bensel is excited about: the hall debut of singer Nick Carter, a longtime Backstreet Boys member, Oct. 20 (“All the women in the office are excited about that,” she says); Kenny Wayne Shepherd, bringing in some blues on Feb. 8; and An Intimate Evening with David Foster and Katharine McPhee, for Valentine’s Day 2024. “It wouldn’t be a season without David Foster and Katharine McPhee,” Bensel says.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd plays the blues, Feb. 8, 2024.

The hall will also see the return of such veterans as Paul Anka, Frankie Valli and Johnny Mathis. “With the passing of Tony Bennett recently, I think you can’t miss seeing some of these icons,” she adds.

Kristin Chenoweth headlines the annual gala, March 22, 2024.

Image: John Russo

Bensel also praises singer-actress Kristin Chenoweth, who will headline the Sarasota Performing Arts Center Foundation’s annual gala, March 22. “She’s one of the nicest, most talented people in the universe,” says Bensel, “and her being here for the gala is perfect, because it raises funds for education. She’s devoted to education, and has her own school.”

But for many the heart of the season will remain the Broadway lineup, which includes seven Sarasota premieres. “If we don’t do well with Hamilton, I will be stunned and go into retirement immediately,” Bensel jokes. “I’m also really hopeful that Hadestown repeats the success it’s had on Broadway. And if Ain't Too Proud [a show centering on the Temptations] doesn’t do well, I’ll also be stunned. The Temptations themselves always sell well here, but with this show you’ll see all that choreography done by people in their 20s and 30s.”

Bensel acknowledges that the Van Wezel, like other performing arts venues, is still not filling houses at pre-pandemic levels. “Our subscriptions are up,” she says, “but not to the highest level we ever were. And people used to buy subscriptions way in advance, which allowed us to be experimental. We don’t have that luxury anymore. I hope people come back to the theater, because if we’re going to be able to move forward and build a new hall, we have to have the audience come back. We can’t wait for the shows to start.”

A complete list of the season’s performances is available at, where you can also purchase tickets. Patrons can also stop by the box office or call (941) 263-6799.

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