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The month of December in the arts

Bill DeYoung



The Florida Orchestra and the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay. "Handel's Messiah" returns Dec. 17-19. Photo: TFO.

Heading into the final month of 2021, the arts calendar heats up for a while – and then, by mid-December things cool down as the holiday week approaches (hopefully temperatures will follow a similar trajectory).

Before we divvy up the month’s four-and-a-half weeks, arts event by arts event, let’s point out a few things that go on for more than just a single day at this particular point in time. For the family:

The St. Pete Pier is a faux winter wonderland through Jan. 17. Winter Beach is centered around a real, and really large (4,000 square feet), outdoor ice skating rink (how do they do that?) and features a “holiday shopping village” and live musical performances from area churches and schools. You have to pay for the skating, but everything else is free. Learn more here.

And Enchant Christmas has taken over Tropicana Field until Jan. 2. You can ice-skate there, too, or wander inside the 90,000 square foot light maze, complete with a 100-foot-tall Christmas tree and a “Smoke Bubble Tree” 25 feet in diameter. The Trop’s opaque dome has been blacked out for the occasion. Details here.

There’s ice skating, holiday sights, sounds and more at Curtis Hixon Park in downtown Tampa (on the river, behind the Straz Center and the public library). It’s called Winter Village Tampa, and it’s sponsored by the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. Through Jan. 2. All info is here.

Then you’ve got the interactive Festival of Lights (and Santa’s Village) at the Hillsborough County Fairgrounds, which you can read about here.

One for Joe

Suncoast Surf Shop founder Joe Nuzzo, who died in September at age 78, threw the biggest, loudest and best-attended Christmas parties. This year, the man with a million friends is being toasted and feted by pretty much all of them, with a Celebration of Life Dec. 14 at the Treasure Island Yacht Club.

This five hour poolside bash is open to the public (admission is an unwrapped toy, or $5) and the musical entertainment is a choice cross-section of some of Nuzzo’s closest friends, including the Mad Beach Band (with Pete Merrigan and TC Carr), Tom Gribbin & the Saltwater Cowboys (with TC Carr and Dennis Wallace) and Dennis Wallace and Freeforallus, plus Kirk Adams, Gale Trippsmith and a guest cast of thousands). Cash bar and food bar at the 5-10 p.m. event.

The late John Prine, a part-time Gulfport resident, was extremely tight with Nuzzo. Tommy Prine – John’s son – performs two nights later (Dec. 16) at the Hideaway Cafe.

Jannus rock 

Some great stuff at Jannus Live in December. How about Dark Star Orchestra (bringing the Dead back from the Dead since 1991) Dec. 5, Wailers Dec. 16, Circle Jerks Dec. 17, legendary DJ Paul Oakenfold Dec. 18, Lettuce Dec. 30 and JJ Grey & Mofro on Dec. 31, New Year’s Eve. Yeah man.

In the halls

It’s beginning to look at lot like Christmas, Hanukkah and the others Ruth Eckerd Hall and the Capitol Theatre, with A Johnny Mathis Christmas Dec. 3, A Peter White Christmas Dec. 7, Bowser’s Holiday Party Dec. 11 and Rockapella Christmas Dec. 18.

Non-holiday shows (remember, all are subject to last minute change – hey, it happens) include the live edition of Whose Line is it Anyway (Dec. 2), Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story (Dec. 3), comedian Kevin James (Dec. 4), Friends The Musical Parody (Dec. 5), the Outlaws (Dec. 10 and 11), Temptations and Four Tops (Dec. 10), Ricky Skaggs (Dec. 12), Sarah Brightman (Dec. 15), David Foster (Dec. 17), Salute to Vienna (at Ruth Eckerd) and comedian Anthony Rodia (Capitol), both on New Year’s Eve.

Speaking of comedy, the Man with the Mouth, the eternally acerbic Lewis Black, has a date at the Mahaffey Theater Dec. 17. Other Mahaffey shows of note include Champions of Magic (Dec. 3), Martina McBride’s Christmas show (Dec. 5) and British tenor Jonathan Antone’s ChristmasLand Live (Dec. 23).

Lest we forget, Jimmy Buffett has a date this weekend (Dec. 3) at Amalie Arena.

Holidays, classics

St. Petersburg Opera Company’s annual December show, the festive Holiday Sparkle, is presented Dec. 11 and 12 (at 3 p.m.) at Cage Brewing, Dec. 16 and 18 (8 p.m.) at Opera Central, and once more – with feeling, of course – Dec. 19 (at 3 p.m.) in North Straub Park.

The Florida Orchestra’s Holiday Pops concerts, conducted by Bob Bernhardt, are all set for the Straz Center (8 p.m. Dec. 10), the Mahaffey (2 and 8 p.m. Dec. 11) and Ruth Eckerd Hall (2 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 12). These are the orchestra’s top-selling events year in and year out.

Musical director Michael Francis is back at the podium for the annual performances of Handel’s Messiah, with the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay, at the Straz Center Dec. 17, the Mahaffey Dec. 18 and Ruth Eckerd Hall Dec. 19. The Ruth Eckerd concert is a matinee; the others are evening shows.

Holiday Brass is a TFO concert taking place Dec. 18 at the Palladium Theater, with Todd Craven conducting the brass and percussion sections on holiday favorites (it’s a matinee, which means the musicians have plenty of time to re-join the full band for the evening’s Messiah at the Mahaffey).

TFO concertmaster Jeffrey Multer and his Mile-High Trio (piano, cello and violin) are at the Palladium Dec. 8, for a program of music from Shubert and Arensky. It’s not a holiday program, per se, but the other Palladium events are indeed: Guitarist Nate Najar’s annual Jazz Holiday (Dec. 10) with an all-star combo that features vocalist Daniela Soledade, and bay area blues harp master TC Carr with his Bolts of Blue band (Dec. 17).

Acting out

Several of our professional theater companies are in the mix with stage productions: There’s the all-original freeFall musical The Night Before (Dec. 3-24), the American Stage production of Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol (Dec. 8-Jan. 2). The non-holiday shows are The Giver and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (in rotation from Tampa Repertory Theatre, ThinkTank and Stageworks), and two works from St. Pete playwright William Leavengood at Studio Grand Central – The Sister-Mothers of Gulfport (Dec. 2012) and The Azure Sky in Oz (Dec. 16-19).

Not to be forgotten, of course, is the re-mount of Shockheaded Peter at Jobsite, which closes its short re-run with Saturday night’s show. That’s in the Jaeb Theatre, part of Tampa’s David A. Straz Center. There’s a road company of Cats at Morsani Hall (in the same complex) Dec. 7-12.

Also at the Straz: Menopause the Musical (Dec. 3-5), Twas A Girls Night Before Christmas: The Musical (Dec. 10-12) and Million Dollar Quartet Christmas (Dec. 22).

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