On Stage – where actors play

We here at EU have the solemn (and often fun) duty of getting our readers out of the house and out into the world. This spring there are lots of great venues helping us in our duty. Because whether you like grooving to retro tunes, rocking out, taking in a musical or simply laughing at life, there’s a show on this list that will get you out of the house. Some venues, such as the community theatres, take advantage of our great pool of talented locals. Others bring in acts from around the country and the globe that we would never see otherwise. Each venue has their own particular flair, so if you’re interested in a show and you haven’t been to a venue, we invite you to have the experience: explore your world and be entertained!

THEATRE_Pictures-5Alhambra Theatre and Dining 12000 Beach Blvd, 641-1212, www.alhambrajax.com The Alhambra Dinner Theatre has been supporting professional actors since its inception in 1967. It was revitalized in 2009 with a remodel and changes in the dinner menus. It’s the best all-inclusive evening of dining and theatrical entertainment here in Jacksonville.

Craig Smith, owner of the Alhambra, says that “saying this season is a thrill for us is an understatement.” This season, they’ve added “a concert series of five shows including Elvis [Feb 5-9], The Beatles [Mar 20-24] and Branson on the Road [May 1-4].” It’s called Alhambra After Dark.

Whatever your tastes, says Smith, “There is something for everyone this season. From the shows to the culinary experience, we are riding a wave of our highest attendance in our history, and we’re going to keep getting better.” I Oughta Be II Oughta Be In Picturesn Pictures (Feb 12-March 16) is by Neil Simon, so laughs are guaranteed.

Herb’s teenaged-daughter, whom he never knew about, shows up on his doorstep asking him to use his connections as a Hollywood screenwriter to break into the biz. Richard Karn from TV’s Home Improvement, stars in this one! It also marks the 30th year of Tod Booth directing at the Alhambra. This was the first show he directed back in 1984. On a more serious note, there’s The Color Purple (Mar 26-April 27). This is the musical version of the film and novel of the same name.

The Alhambra brings in a little star power with actress Barbara Eden in the month of May with Social Security (May 7-June 8). In this comedy, when a mother-in-law comes to visit, it’s all politeness and smiles, until her daughter and son-in-law find out: it’s a visit without an end! Shrek the Musical (Jun 11-Jul 27) is sure to be a summer hit for kids and adults. Follow the adventures of a misanthropic ogre and his loudmouth donkey friend, as they go on a quest to evict fairy tale creatures from the ogre’s swamp.

THEATRE_Lily-TomlinFlorida Theatre 128 E Forsyth St, 355-5661, floridatheatre.com The historic Florida Theatre was recently named one of the Top 100 Theatres for 2013 by Pollstar Magazine, as determined by ticket sales.

Florida Theatre President Numa Saisselin says, “Our own experience in 2013 mirrors Pollstar’s analysis. Our focus going into 2014 is on increasing the level of activity at the Florida Theatre, booking more shows, and serving more audience members.” As you will see below, the Florida Theatre has a wide variety of acts, both musical and otherwise booked for the beginning of 2014. In February, enjoy Irish folk music by the Irish Rovers (Feb 15). Then, get a taste of South African sounds with Ladysmith Black Mambazo (Mar 22).

A short-haired Michael Bolton (Mar 14) looks pretty hot these days. He can still sing, and he’ll be showing it all off here in Jacksonville. No word on if he’ll be playing the sax! Don’t miss Pink Martini and The von Trapps (March 21). Pink Martini’s dozen or so musicians draw inspiration from classical, jazz, old-fashioned pop and music from around the world. They will bring special guests the von Trapps, the great grandchildren of Captain and Maria Von Trapp whom the Sound of Music was based upon. If classic oldies are your thing, then it’s possible you’ll spend most of the month of February at the Florida Theatre.

Darlene Love (Feb 13) brings her iconic 1960s rock-n-roll, mid-month. The Beach Boys (Feb 17) will be singing and playing the Cali-rock that made them famous. From Motown, there’s the Temptations and the Four Tops (Feb 20). Getting a little more psychedelic is Dave Mason’s Traffic Jam (Feb 23). His guitar work has been part of landmark albums, including songs such as ‘All Along the Watchtower’ and ‘Listen to What the Man Said.’

Buddy Guy and Johnny Lang (Feb 12) team up to bring Jacksonville some awesome blues stylin’. Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes (Feb 28) will offer a rollicking night of rock, classic R&B, and soul from one of the most popular live acts in the country. Rock-n-roll hair bands might be more your speed, and if so, you’ll find some of that too, though it’ll be in March. George Thorogood and the Destroyers (Mar 19) will tear it up with their well-known tunes ‘Bad to the Bone,’ ‘One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer,’ and ‘Move it On Over,’ among others.

Those of you love Led Zeppelin, and who haven’t seen what a great tribute band can do, need to see Get the Led Out (Mar 27). Country music aficionados can swing from old-school Merle Haggard (Feb 1), Kenny Loggins (Feb 14) to the more up-coming Jennifer Nettles (Feb 25) from Sugarland and Scotty McCreery (Mar 9) of Season 10 on American Idol.

While we love music, there’s nothing so intense as a good one-man theatrical production. Before A Bronx Tale (Mar 8) was a feature film, it was a one-man show off-Broadway. See it on stage with the original actor and writer Chazz Palminteri at the Florida Theatre. Several comics will be gracing the Florida Theatre’s stage this season.

Early in February, there’s Lily Tomlin (Feb 6). Later that month, the deceptively sweet-looking Amy Schumer (Feb 22), will drop her own brand of somewhat raunchy humor, during her “Back Door Tour.” Comic-politico legend Bill Maher (Mar 16) will visit the stage. If you like cleaner humor, bereft of swearwords, try Brian Regan (Mar 23), who has racked up the most visits for a comic on Letterman. Colin Mochrie & Brad Sherwood: The Two Man Group (Apr 11) shouldn’t be missed. These masters of improv are the TV stars of Whose Line Is It Anyway? Paula Poundstone (Apr 12) rose to prominence in the 80s and 90s. You’re most likely to know her today from the NPR Show Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me.

PAG_ST-AUG-AMPH_Carlos-SantSt. Augustine Amphitheatre1340 A1A S, St Augustine, 904-471-1965, www.staugamphitheatre.com The St. Augustine Amphitheatre was built in 1965 and for 32 years was home to Pulitzer-prize winner Dr. Paul Green’s The Cross & Sword. In 2002, refurbishing began on the St. Augustine Amphitheatre and after five years of construction, the Amphitheatre is a state of the art performing arts venue with the capacity to hold up to 4100 concert goers. The St. Augustine Amphitheatre will kick off this spring with the Steve Miller Band (March 8), Post to Post Links II error: No post found with slug "The Moody Blues" (March 22), Darius Rucker (April 19) and Carlos Santana (April 27).


Ponte Vedra Concert Hall 1050 A1A North, 209-0346, www.pvconcerthall.com The Ponte Vedra Concert Hall (PVCH), a multi-purpose performing arts facility located in the heart of Ponte Vedra Beach, is a converted former baptist church. The venue can be used as a 450 person theatre style layout, or up to a 900 person standing room only concert hall.

PAG_PVCH_Blind-Boys-of-AlabPVHC will host the Florida Chamber Music Project which will present Schubert (Feb 9), Mozart & Prokofiev (May 4) and Piazzolla & Dvorak (June 8). Tommy Emmanuel (Feb 20 & 21) will bring his distinctive “fingerstyle” playing to PVCH. Also coming in February, Mason Jennings (Feb 16), Delbert McClinton (Feb 22), and an Intimate Evening with Art Garfunkel (Feb 28) This unique show will include an acoustic performance with songs, anecdotes and prose. Dark Star Orchestra (Feb 23) recreates the sound of the Greatful Dead and often sounds more like the Dead than the Dead.

March brings Iron & Wine (Mar 1) and Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter Marc Cohn (Mar 23). Be sure to catch the Carolina Chocolate Drops (Mar 6). Their 2010 Nonesuch debut, Genuine Negro Jig garnered a Best Traditional Folk Album Grammy last year.

In April you can catch Steve Hackett (Apr 2) who was lead guitarist with Genesis, Jesse Cook (Apr 3) and The Zombies (Apr 13). Another not to be missed act is Blind Boys of Alabama (April 11). The Blind Boys of Alabama harmonized throughout the turbulent twentieth century and well into the twenty-first: from Jim Crow through Civil Rights and into the Obama era. They’ve won five Grammys, been honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009, four Gospel Music Awards, and had multiple invitations to sing at the White House.

Thrasher-Horne Center for the Arts 283 College Dr, Orange Park, 276-6815, www.thcenter.org The Thrasher-Horne Center for the Arts enriches the community by bringing quality shows of all kinds to Clay County. Dance lovers will want to catch the Moscow Festival Ballet (Feb 23) and Michael Londra’s Celtic Fire (Mar 14). Back by popular demand are The Bronx Wanderers (Mar 28). These Jersey boys sing the doo-wop hits of the 1950s and 60s. Five guys take their love of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and Dion & the Bellmonts to a whole new level. For something almost completely unexpected, there’s Tom Wopat, of Dukes of Hazard fame. He’s actually been releasing albums since the the 1980s. He’s touched on rock, made the country charts, swung back to swing, and today he’s recorded an album that harkens back to the Mad Men era, with jazzy 1960s backing. See Tom Wopat: I’ve Got Your Number (Apr 12) to hear Wopat’s smooth vintage-style vocals. Whether you’ve seen the movie or not, Driving Miss Daisy (Feb 16) will be great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. For those who don’t know, it’s the story of an unlikely friendship between an older white woman and her black chauffeur during the civil rights era. In somewhat zanier territory is Church Basement Ladies: A Mighty Fortress is Our Basement (Mar 8). The comedic musical is family-friendly fun. It follows a community’s growth, ups and downs through the ladies who make it all happen. It’s the fourth installment in the popular series. For some classic musical theatre, though, you can’t go wrong with The Fantasticks (Apr 4). If you haven’t seen it and don’t know the delightful plot, let me just say: it’s a musical reverse Romeo and Juliet.

Atlantic Beach Experimental Theatre 716 Ocean Blvd, Atlantic Beach, 249-7177, www.abettheatre.com

At the Atlantic Beach Experimental Theatre, every seat is a good one. For more than 20 years, ABET has brought theatre to the beaches. Their upcoming season features the life of a film icon, a local playwright, and an intriguing drama about the nature of artistic expression.
Mae West was too hot to handle. Censors in the 1930s attempted to whitewash her films because the sassy sexpot pushed the envelope. ABET’s Dirty Blonde (Jan 31-Feb15) explores this icon with humor and music, featuring songs from the films I’m No Angel and She Done Him Wrong, both Mae West movies released in 1933, pre-Hays Code. Artistic director Celia Frank, says Lee Hamby’s “costumes and staging are spectacular, as are the three amazing performers.”

Hometown theatre hero Ian Mairs wrote and will be directing the comedy Bay at the Moon (May 9-25). The play has been seen here on the First Coast before and is a proven success. (It premiered in 1994 at Players By the Sea.) It follows a squabbling North Florida family’s eccentricities and down-home tribulations.

If drama’s more your speed, try Red (Mar 14-29). At its heart, this play is about the definition of art. It tells the tale of the artist Mark Rothko’s commission to paint a series for the Four Seasons restaurant and the internal conflict that came from it. Artistic director Celia Franks says this show is “not to be missed.”

Limelight Theatre
11 Old Mission Ave, St Augustine, 825-1164, www.limelight-theatre.org

Weekends in St. Augustine are a great way to get away from it all without having to drive more than an hour. Plan ahead and your weekend can include some theatre from the Limelight!

Touching and funny, Butterflies Are Free (through Feb 16) is a perfect romantic comedy for a date night or as a Valentine’s Day outing. It follows the story of Don Baker, a blind man who moves away from his somewhat overbearing mother. Meeting his colorful neighbor Jill brings Don into a world he’s not known before. Mother disapproves, of course!

Southern comedies always play well here in Jacksonville, so if you enjoy a little down-home humor, see The Miss Firecracker Contest (Mar 7-30). For Carnelle Scott redemption comes in the form of a beauty pageant: The Miss Firecracker Contest. She aims to win and leave her Mississippi town in a blaze of glory.

Other Desert Cities (Apr 18-May 11) will have its Florida community theatre premiere at the Limelight. This contemporary drama tells the story of a novelist, coming home to announce the pending release of her memoirs, which detail a family tragedy no one wants brought up.

Molly Salzbrunn, the Limelight’s Marketing Director says that their “22nd season’s line-up is filled with some great, well-loved shows and musicals.” They’re proud of “two Florida community theatre premieres on this season’s calendar: Spamalot, which we kicked off with in September, and Other Desert Cities which opens on the Matuza Main Stage in April.” In the summer, says Salzbrunn, they’re “also thrilled to have the popular musical Oliver [Jun 6-Jul 6] .” So mark your calendars for June!

Players by the Sea 106 6th St N, Jacksonville Beach, 249-0289, www.playersbythesea.org

Players by the Sea has supported emerging playwrights and cutting edge theater in the past. This season, they’ll be producing Angels in America (Mar 14-29), which explores the cost of gay closeting, among other themes. Angels might cover a somewhat controversial topic, but it has a great pedigree. It’s garnered so many awards that there isn’t space to include them all. Among those awards are the Pulitzer, Tony, and Emmy.

The Lyons (Apr 11-26) seems to feature a depressing central plot point (it’s about the patriarch of a family on his deathbed) but you can be sure you will be laughing by the play’s end. Sample dialogue: “I’m dying, Rita,” he rants. “I know, dear,” she answers, “Try to look on the positive side.”

There’s nothing like a farce though, for a fun night out at the theatre. The Fox and the Fairway (May 2-17) by Ken Ludwig fits the bill. He also penned the popular Moon Over Buffalo and Lend Me a Tenor. Hilarity will ensue. The plot revolves around a hapless golf club manager who has put himself in an untenable situation. If his club champ doesn’t win the tournament, he’ll lose everything. He finally finds a genius golfer to ease his troubles, only to find that the golfer’s game hinges on happiness. Throw in a roller-coaster romance and voila: you’ve got yourself one heck of a farce.

Theatre Jacksonville2032 San Marco Blvd, 396-4425, www.theatrejax.com

Theatre Jacksonville is an ingrained part of Jacksonville’s theatre history. The building itself has been in San Marco since 1938. Community theaters in the in the United States tend to be converted spaces, made from storefronts or former professional theatre spaces, but Theatre Jacksonville was built specially for Jacksonville’s first community theatre group, which was formed in 1919.

Two fairly intense dramas dominate their spring season: The Subject Was Roses (Feb 21-Mar 8), a post-WWII straight play and the musical Les Miserables (Jun 6-21). While everybody seems to know Les Mis, The Subject Was Roses isn’t as well-known. It centers around a vet coming home from the war and his parent’s dissolving marriage. Even though it’s a drama, the subject is handled with humor. Roses has won the Pulitzer, the Tony and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play.

For something less intense and more funny, you might try Hilda’s Yard (Apr 11-26). Although it’s set in the late 1950s, it tackles a subject that is both relevant and rife with comic possibility: adult kids moving back in with their parents. The heart-warming comedy highlights generation gaps and the love of family.

About Erin Thursby