The Curtain Calls
Treasure Coast’s theater season promises world-class dance, drama, musicals and more
BY SUSAN BURGESS
Once again Treasure Coast theater-goers can expect a blockbuster season with shows that can transport them to a different place — one where the internet, the phone, the worries don’t intrude.
Shows can be magical. They can make you laugh, inspire you, walk you down memory lane, teach you things you never knew and sometimes make you wish you could see the whole thing twice.
After last year’s roaring success with two National Geographic shows, the Lyric Theatre in Stuart rushed to book two more for this year. These are shows that both teach and transport audiences to another place with National Geographic’s stunning photography and speakers offering personal insight you won’t get elsewhere.
Acclaimed photographer and National Geographic explorer Carlton Ward Jr. presents Hidden Wild: Secrets of the Everglades on Feb. 5. He uses his camera to tell the story of the little-known world surviving in the shadows of the beaches and theme parks that people associate with Florida. Ward continues to fight to protect an endangered wildlife corridor needed to keep the Everglades connected to the rest of America.
National Geographic’s View from Above will be presented on March 19 by astronaut Terry Virts, who spent 200 days in space as commander of the International Space Station. Audiences will have a chance to step back 220 miles from Earth and experience our planet in a new way through the amazing photos he took from the space station’s observation module. Audience members will also have a chance to ask questions. Don’t wait to buy tickets to these two sell-out shows.
In keeping with the Lyric’s goals of “providing a flavor for every taste,” as executive director Kia Fontaine says, an extremely special blues man named Taj Mahal will appear in January. “Other artists credit him with helping them define their own unique sound as artists,” she says.
StepCrew and its cast of 11 combine three styles of percussive dance, featuring the world’s top talents in Irish, tap and Ottawa Valley step dancing. The company takes the audience on a journey from a house party in the back kitchen of an old Irish cottage to a lamp-lit street in New York City to a French Canadian lumber camp in Quebec, using nothing more than their talented feet.
Riverside Theatre in Vero Beach has a spectacular season coming up with plays ranging from huge Broadway hits to a musical romp to a Pulitzer Prize-winning drama. “I try to find a balance in the materials so there is a variety of styles and a blend between the most recent and traditional of plays,” says Allen D. Cornell, producing artistic director and CEO of Riverside.
Lost in Yonkers at Riverside is about two brothers who are sent to live with their stern German grandmother after their mother dies. “This will be the first time we’ve produced a Neil Simon play on the Stark Stage and with his passing I thought it appropriate to produce one of his works that stands above the rest,” Cornell says. “He found a beautiful balance between comedy and drama, and this play holds up and is still relevant to audiences today.”
Riverside’s La Cage aux Folles, one of Broadway’s all-time biggest hits and winner of multiple Tony awards, is filled with madcap merriment and compassion. The 39 Steps is a play filled with non-stop laughs and four actors playing — wait for it — 150 characters. “If there is an overarching theme, it is in giving our audiences divergent kinds of experiences,” Cornell says. “For example, The 39 Steps is improvisational and highly theatrical where four actors portray a plethora of characters.”
Riverside auditions professional actors and produces its own shows from scratch making it one of a few regional theaters in Florida to do so.
In Fort Pierce, the historic 1923 Sunrise Theatre, often considered the heart of downtown, is off and running in its 14th season since its restoration was finished. This year its “Family Adventure Series” offers shows that will be enjoyed by both children and adults. Starting with the holidays, the series includes Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical; The State Ballet Theatre of Odessa dancing The Nutcracker; Jack Hanna’s Into The Wild Live; Catapult — Amazing Magic of Shadow Dance; Dinosaur World Live; and My Little Pony.
Into the Wild Live with famed animal expert Jack Hanna features about 15 animals that will appear on stage. Fans will enjoy Jack’s stories — from brushing a hippo’s teeth to eating with wombats — and see footage of his worldwide adventures from the jungles of Rwanda to the savannas of Australia. He inspires audiences with his passion and dedication to wildlife conservation.
Catapult is likely to leave you in awe. A group of talented dancers perform behind a screen, transforming themselves into buildings, animals, letters of the alphabet and much, much more. The audience, in front of the screen, sees only their shadows. It is an amazing sight — one that left the judges on the eighth season of “America’s Got Talent” speechless. It is excellent for children and adults.
An American in Paris, a musical, comes to the Sunrise this year with a national touring company. Chazz Palminteri brings his one-man show called A Bronx Tale, based on his childhood and life experiences growing up in an Italian-American community in the Bronx. Rocktopia features an astonishing merger of classical music performed by a 20-piece orchestra with performances of more contemporary music from groups such as The Who, Aerosmith, Queen, Heart and more. It’s an evening that will take you worlds away.
The Beach Boys themselves will take you down memory lane when they appear. And two great tribute bands feature the music of the incomparable Whitney Houston and the legendary Ray Charles.
Maltz Jupiter Theatre offers some great plays this year with Chicago, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs, a classic coming-of-age story in which a youth is confronted with the pressures of an impending war in 1937.
Ballet Vero Beach presents three exciting original dance events this year. The first event, in January, is called Founding Fathers and features a world premiere dance with choreography by Camilo A. Rodriguez, the emotional Harlequin/Pierrot, and Friends and Lovers choreographed by Adam Schnell, CEO and artistic director of Ballet Vero Beach. It will be at the Vero Beach High School Performing Arts Center.
The second program of the season, in February, is Composers Notebook: The Music of Paul Gay. It represents the organization’s commitment to diving deep into the work of choreographers and composers featured in the performances. The third, in April, is Clarity of Vision with works of World Premiere, Ballade, and je, tu, il, elle.
Schnell is excited for people to experience the program this season. “In honor of our lucky seventh season, we have added components to all of our programming,” he says. “These expansions will allow us to reach more people, while presenting a broader spectrum of what professional ballet looks like today.”
The community theaters all have intriguing plays to offer this season. The Barn Theatre, in Stuart, presents Noises Off in March. Brimming with slapstick comedy, it’s a farce, complete with slamming doors, falling trousers and — of course — flying sardines.
“The Barn Theatre is no longer just another community theater,” says theater President Chris Mazzella. “Though we may be a smaller theater, we now have the technical infrastructure to be as good as any regional theater and to support even the most demanding musicals or plays. We expect our season to shine and continue to have sold-out audiences.”
The Vero Beach Theatre Guild has a packed season that includes the global phenomenon Jesus Christ Superstar in March, Moonlight and Magnolias in May and Always a Bridesmaid in January.
In Fort Pierce, the Pineapple Playhouse offers The Bare Truth in January and February about a senior couple trying to get their children to leave them alone. Harvey and Calendar Girls round out the spring show schedule.
There will be plenty for music lovers with performances from the Treasure Coast Singers, the Treasure Coast Choral Society, the Atlantic Classical Orchestra, the Space Coast Symphony Orchestra, which plays in Vero Beach, and the Vero Beach Opera with the delightful Barber of Seville and a competition for aspiring opera singers.
Get that calendar out and start writing because this will be a season you won’t want to miss.