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February in the arts

Bill DeYoung



Louis Armstrong (1901-1971) takes center stage for the one-man drama "Satchmo at the Waldorf," American Stage's virtual production for February. L. Peter Callendar will star in the play by Terry Teachout.

The sleeping giant that is the St. Petersburg area arts community is certainly stirring, if not operating at full tilt, in February. Everything named here, don’t forget, is subject to change.

The Mahaffey Theater returns to live shows in February, with limited seating. Of course, The Florida Orchestra has been performing in the Mahaffey since October, but the venue itself – operated by Bill Edwards’ Big3 Entertainment – has held off, until now, with other presentations.

For those who can’t resist tribute acts, the theater has “Abba Mania” Feb. 24, followed on the 26th by “Brothers Again,” an Allman Brothers Band tribute.

The truly delightful Celtic Woman, a regular Mahaffey visitor in “normal” times, returns for a concert Feb. 28.


Speaking of The Florida Orchestra, our premier classical congregation has just announced the full schedule of concerts through the end of their season (in May). They’re all at the Mahaffey Theater of course, and tickets go on sale this Wednesday.

February’s performances include Broadway Sings, with stage veteran Debbie Gravitte (a Tony winner for Jerome Robbins’ Broadway), Feb. 13; Music of Handel, Vivaldi & Mozart, Feb. 20, with vocalist Amanda Forsythe, and guest conductor Jeanette Sorrell; Beethoven Birthday Bash Feb. 25 with pianist Marco Jimenez; Dan Black & The (TFO) Brass Cats, Feb. 27.

Tickets and the full schedule can be found here.

North Pinellas

At the Central Park Performing Arts Center in Largo, the tribute shows just keep a-comin’. They’ve got “Almost ABBA” Feb. 14, a Neil Diamond tribute Feb. 3 and the Edwards Brothers (“2 Brothers, 100 Stars”) Feb. 8.

Ruth Eckerd Hall’s February lineup includes Keb’ Mo’ (Feb. 10); Classic Albums Live doing Eagles Greatest Hits (Feb. 12); Paul Thorn (Feb. 17); Jersey Boys (Feb. 23 and 24). The Capitol Theatre, Ruth’s sister venue, lists Jim Messina (Feb. 6); A Simon & Garfunkel tribute act (Feb. 13); Cristopher Cross (Feb. 19); Wailers Featuring Julian Marley (Feb. 26) and a Led Zeppelin tribute band (“Kashmir”) Feb. 27.

A word of warning: Ruth Eckerd/Capitol acts sometimes cancel or postpone at the last minute due to changing Covid numbers around the country. Monitoring the website is suggested.


When The Lifespan of a Fact opened on Broadway in 2018, it had an impressive cast of three: Daniel Radcliffe, Bobby Canavale and Cherry Jones. The biting comic play, based on real events, about a brilliant young magazine writer, his fact-checker and his editor appeared at a time when the air was heavy with the terms “alternate facts” and “fake news.”

Stageworks Theatre debuts The Lifespan of a Fact Feb. 13 (with a preview the night before), with three area actors who all have impressive stage chops: Chris Jackson, Ned Averill-Snell and Susan Halderman. Of course, there’s still a whiff of those journalistic fightin’ words out there today, which makes this play just about as topical as it was two years ago.

Quoth Variety: “…terrifically funny dialogue … once the writer and the fact-checker get into a lively debate on the ethics of factual truth vs. the beauty of literary dishonesty, it’s time to really sit up and listen … Their deadly serious but oh-so-funny ethical dispute is brilliantly argued …the debate at the heart of this play transcends comedy and demands serious attention.”

The big news, really, is that this will be Stageworks’ first live show in almost a year. The auditorium has been re-configured, and the seats suitably spaced, so that a smallish audience can see what the company’s done with the story, based on the book by John D’agata (the writer in question) and Jim Fingal (the fact-checker). The Lifespan of a Fact will run through Feb. 28.

The brilliant L. Peter Callender returns to American Stage this month, playing an American musical icon in the virtual production of Satchmo at the Waldorf. Callender is, of course, in the role of Louis Armstrong (it’s 1971, just months before his death, and he’s looking back on his life and career), but because it’s written as a one-man show, Callender also plays Armstrong’s (white) manager Joe Glaser and Miles Davis, who famously had a rocky relationship with Armstrong.

Terry Teachout’s play, loosely based on Armstrong’s memoirs, premiered in 2014. “By the show’s end, you sense the profound fortitude that lay beneath the avuncular surface of this giant, and you are newly appreciative of his singular place in history,” said the New York Times.

American Stage hasn’t yet returned to live, in-person performances, but their virtual work is the most impressive in Tampa Bay. And Satchmo at the Waldorf (Feb. 19-28) is being directed by none other than Ted Lange, an actor of wide range known primarily for his work on TV’s The Love Boat, as Isaac the bartender.

After a successful run of Doubt last month, Jobsite Theater will be back in the socially-distanced Jaeb Theater (in the Straz Center) with Hand to God Feb. 26-March 14.

Robert Askins’ comedy is about a mild-mannered Texas teen who joins the Christian Puppet Ministry, where a puppet called Tyrone announces that he is, in fact, Satan. And, as Johnny Carson used to say, hilarity ensues.

The cast includes Evan Fineout, Nick Hoop, Brian Shea, Kara Sotakoun and Katrina Stevenson.

Celebration of the Arts 2021

Each February brings us the Celebration of the Arts, a series of themed cultural events, from all across the spectrum. Dr. Gordon Gilbert and his wife, Michele Kidwell-Gilbert, are the driving forces behind this unique series. The 2021 theme is “The Sea.”

Thursday (Feb. 4): Robert Krakow, executive director of the SS St Louis Legacy Project Foundation, takes part in a livestreamed Q&A about his film Complicit, a documentary about the tragic fate of a German ocean liner transporting refugees in 1939. Krakow will be joined by Eva Wiener, a child refugee passenger on the SS St. Louis.

This 6:30 p.m. event, which is co-presented by the Florida Holocaust Museum, follows a window of availability for watching Complicit at one’s leisure, which will begin Jan. 24. Details here.

Feb. 18. Streaming online lecture from Sarah Munson Deats: Shakespeare’s Sea Voyages. 2 p.m., free.

Feb. 20. At 2 and 8 p.m. Boston-based lyric soprano Amanda Forsythe joins conductor Jeannette Sorrell and the Florida Orchestra for a Mahaffey Theater program including (among others) Handel’s Da Tempeste (By the Storm), Mozart’s Ruhe sanft (Rest Gently) and Siam Navi all’ondi algenti (We are Ships on a Chilly Ocean) by Vivaldi.

Feb. 23. Streaming lecture by Professor Stephen Michael Vinson: “Ancient Egyptian Nautical Art.” 5 p.m., free.

Feb. 24. Sponsored by Hadassah St. Petersburg Chapter:  Streaming lecture by Dr. Peter Feinman, Institute of History, Archaeology, and Education: “When Israel sang the Song of the Sea at Zion, what did that mean in the city David had chosen to be the capital of his kingdom?”  3 p.m., free.

Feb. 25. St. Petersburg Opera: “Opera and the Sea,” Preis Hall at Opera Central, 6 p.m.

Feb. 26. St. Petersburg Opera: “Opera and the Sea,” Preis Hall at Opera Central, 8 p.m.

Feb. 27. St. Petersburg Opera: “Opera and the Sea,” at Cage Brewing, 4 p.m.

Feb. 28. St. Petersburg Opera: “Opera and the Sea,” outdoors at the Museum of Fine Arts St. Petersburg, 4 p.m. Admission is pay-what-you-can.

For more information, and to register for the lectures, click here.

And still more

# The kinks have been worked out of the Palladium Theater’s new box office system, and the full slate of March/April Palladium Live dates (video recorded in the theater without an audience) will go on the website this morning. The theater has added a live date with Roy Book Binder (with an extremely limited audience) Feb. 26.

# Make note of the date for the 2021 Gulfport Fine Arts Festival: Feb. 13 and 14. And Localtopia returns to Williams Park Saturday, Feb. 20.








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