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Looking ahead: The month of January in the Arts

Bill DeYoung



Eugene Berman, Curtain design for "Devil’s Holiday" (detail), 1939, Watercolor and ink on paper, Collection of the McNay Art Museum, Gift of the Tobin Endowment

It’s the end of the first half-week of the first month of the first decade … well, since the last decade.


Now that everyone’s got that whole holiday thing out of the way, attention is turned again to the visual arts and the performing arts – and January, as it happens, has got a lot to give us.

And a few of these recommendations take us into the early weeks of February, if you’re the planning sort.

On Jan. 25, the curtain comes up on Art of the Stage: From Picasso to Hockney, the first 2020 exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts St. Petersburg. It’s a collection of more than 100 studies for scene, costume, curtain and program designs, as well as maquettes (mini sculptures) and costumes by noted artists from the 19th century to the present day.

How noted, you ask? Consider that Henri Matisse, Giorgio de Chirico, Natalia Goncharova, Pablo Picasso, Louise Nevelson, David Hockney, Robert Indiana and Lesley Dill all contributed to the look and design of theater in their times, and they’re all included in the MFA’s ambitious exhibit, drawn from the Texas-based Tobin Collection of Theatre Arts, which is housed at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio.

Quoth the MFA media machine: “From the sumptuous productions of the Ballets Russes, to the riotous spectacle of avant-garde theatre, to Robert Indiana’s Pop vision for an American opera, Art of the Stage seductively reflects the grand history of Western art from the vantage point of the stage.”

A series of scheduled live performances in the galleries will dovetail with the exhibit (running through May 10); participants include the Florida Orchestra, the Sarasota Ballet Conservatory and opera singer Ashley Thunder accompanied by pianist Violet Mandese. The schedule also includes lectures, film screenings and other theatrically-sparked events.

In the theater

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” (Pritchard Photography)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Jobsite. Director David Jenkins delights in turning Shakespeare on his pointy head with challenging new interpretations; in this case, it’s the winsome story of Puck and Bottom and Hermia and Lysander and Oberon and – well, the whole Fairyland gang – with aerial choreography by Katrina Stevenson, and an original score by pianist/composer Jeremy Douglass, of Florida Bjorkestra fame. Jan. 15-Feb. 9.

Marie and Rosetta at freeFall. Jayne Trinette plays pioneering musician Sister Rosetta Tharpe, with Hillary Scales as Sister Rosetta’s young protégé Marie Knight. Set in 1946 Mississippi, George Brant’s musically-rich drama follows the two as they prepare for a groundbreaking cross-country tour. The songs range from traditional blues to gospel to rhythm ‘n’ blues and the earliest whispers of rock ‘n’ roll, of which the guitar-toting Tharpe was an originator. Jan. 17-Feb. 16.

Skeleton Crew at American Stage. This Obie Award-winning drama (Jan. 22-Feb. 23) by Dominique Morriseau explores the dynamics between blue-collar and white-collar employees at a failing Detroit auto plant. Morriseau’s Pipeline was a highlight of American Stage’s 2018-2019 season. And how’s this for six degrees of separation: She’s also the author of the smash Broadway musical Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations, which launched St. Pete native Ephraim Sykes to stardom. Jan. 22-Feb. 23.

Thrice to Mine at HCC Studio Theatre Ybor City. The Tampa Repertory Theatre’s planned production of The Curious Case of the Watson Intelligence got a last-minute cancellation notice, so St. Pete actor/playwright Roxanne Fay will be doing her amazing one-woman show (a sort-of Lady MacBeth tale) as a Tampa Rep benefit. Jan. 24 and 25.

Morningside at Stageworks. Acerbic wit Topher Payne (Perfect Arrangement, Angry Fags) wrote this comedy about Atlanta women at a baby shower, with a case of Prosecco, axes to grind and a lot of time on their hands. Feb. 7-23.

The classics

Byron Stripling

The Florida Orchestra resumes operations this week, with the nod for First Big Concert of the New Year going to Lush Life: Ellington and Strayhorn, with trumpeter and vocalist Byron Stripling conducting (Jan 10 at the Straz Center, two shows Jan. 11 at the Mahaffey). On Feb. 1, it’s TFO Gala time, with guest artist Bernadette Peters singing, Maestro Michael Francis conducting, at the Mahaffey.

At the Palladium Theater: The Palladium Chamber Players (Jan. 8) with Beethoven’s Cello Sonata in F Major, Ravel’s duo Sonata for Violin and Cello, and Dvořák’s celebrated Dumky piano trio; world-class pianist Renana Gutman in recital with a mostly-Chopin program (Jan. 13).

After a successful eight-performance run of its holiday cabaret show, St. Petersburg Opera Company gets back to the serious business of grand opera with a full production of Verdi’s Rigoletto, Jan. 24-28 at the Palladium. As a lead-in, Rigoletto cast members will sing their favorites from musical theater at the Jan. 18 Broadway Cabaret, at the company’s Opera Central headquarters.

Pop stars, celebs etc

Amalie Arena: The next top-tier concerts are these: Celine Dion (Jan. 15), Billy Joel (Feb. 7) and Andrea Boccelli (Feb. 14).

Jannus Live: Bookings include Citizen Cope (Jan. 31), Jamey Johnson (Feb. 5) and G. Love & Special Sauce (Feb. 8).

Ruth Eckerd Hall: Things heat up towards the end of the month with Steve Martin and Martin Short (Jan. 24) and a screening of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi with live music by the Florida Orchestra (Jan. 25); at the Capitol Theatre, Ruth’s small downtown hall, check out the Robert Cray Band (Jan. 25), and this series of Americana legends – Kris Kristofferson and Robert Earl Keen (Jan. 26), Lyle Lovett (Jan. 27 and 28) and Rodney Crowell (Jan. 31).

The Mahaffey: The National Ballet Theatre of Odessa, Ukraine dances Prokofiev’s thrilling Romeo and Juliet this Sunday (Jan. 5); public radio pundit Ira Glass returns Jan. 25 with Seven Things I’ve Learned.

Yuengling Center: Mike Epps headlines the “Fabulously Funny Comedy Festival” Feb. 7.

Skippers Smokehouse: Blues guitarist Tab Benoit (Jan. 17 and 18); Southern Culture on the Skids (Jan. 25); the Wishbone Ash 50th Anniversary Tour (Feb. 16).

Central Park Performing Arts Center: Florida’s own Jim Stafford returns for his first bay area show in … well, too long (Jan. 11); jazz with the Branford Marsalis Quartet (Jan. 18); rock trio Kings X (Feb. 6); hip hop legend Grandmaster Flash (Feb. 7).

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