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The month of July in the Arts

Bill DeYoung



Starring in the musical "Pippin" at freeFall: Kellie Rhianne and Daniel Maldonado. Photo: Thee Photo Ninja.

July brings major musical productions to both of St. Petersburg’s professional theaters. American Stage and freeFall have come to the end of line for the 2019/2019 seasons, and following these shows will each take a short break before cranking things up for 2019/2020 (late September for freeFall, early October for American Stage).

Pippin, the early 1970s Stephen Schwartz vehicle that made a musical theater star out of Ben Vereen, is freeFall’s entry in the summer musical sweepstakes, opening July 12 and running through Aug. 11.

The theater’s founder and artistic director Eric Davis is directing what’s described as a “new staging” of Pippin, which is the (frankly difficult to follow) story of a young prince searching for a meaning to his life. Or something like that.

The songs are great, however, and Pippin – which was originally directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse, way back when – is one of those stage musicals that gets by on some kind of intangible charm.

Starring as the Leading Player (the Ben Vereen role) is Orlando-based singer and actress Kellie Rhianne, with Daniel Maldonado (from New York) as the character Pippin. Both are making their freeFall debuts.

There’ll be more in the Catalyst about the show as opening day approaches, as there will be about Fun Home, July 17-Aug. 18 at American Stage. Winner of five Tony Awards (including Best Musical) in 2016, the Lisa Kron/Jeanine Tsori show is based on a graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel.

Three actresses portray Alison as she looks back on several key eras in her life, revolving around her relationship with her father, and her coming out (as a college student) as gay.

Directing Fun Home is Karla Hartley, the producing artistic director of Stage Works Theater in Tampa.

Stage Works itself has no more Mainstage productions for the rest of the summer, resuming things in September, but there’s one more show in the current season for Jobsite, the Tampa company based in the Straz Center complex. Opening July 12, Nick Payne’s Constellations is a simple love story existing in not-so-simple parallel universes.

Highlights for July

July 5: Rock singer Rob Thomas, ex-Matchbox Twenty (and the voice of Carlos Santana’s big comeback hit “Smooth”) performs at the Mahaffey this Friday night.

July 6. Georgian singer/guitarist Rodney Justo was a founding member of the Atlanta Rhythm Section, and he’s at the Palladium Saturday with a 1960s cover band called Coo Coo Ca Choo, which is peopled with other AR members from over the years (although distinctive lead vocalist Ronnie Hammond died in 2011). This band promises an evening of Beatles, Beach Boys, Hollies, Crosby Stills & Nash and others, harmonies galore. Although, guys, the actual lyric to “I Am the Walrus,” which you seem to be referencing in your name, is “Goo Goo G’Joob.” Read the lyric sheet in your Magical Mystery Tour album.

July 10: July 21: Hang on, what decade is it again? You can relieve the ‘70s – or at least the smooth FM radio latter-half – with Rock the Yacht this night at Ruth Eckerd Hall. I’ll be glad to see Walter “Magnet and Steel” Egan, and the bill also includes Stephen Bishop of “On and On” fame, Ambrosia (“How Much I Feel”), John Ford Coley (his better half England Dan Seals is long dead), Looking Glass (“Brandy”) and the guy who sang “Baby Come Back” with a barely-remembered ’70s group called Player.

July 12: The family-tree drama of British prog-rock pioneers Yes – who’s in the band, who’s not in the band, et cetera – continues with a concert at Ruth Eckerd Hall starring Yes (the one with guitarist Steve Howe and drummer Alan White) co-billed with Asia (Howe’s other famous band), which includes original members Geoff Downes and Carl Palmer (singer John Wetton died in 2017). And yes (Yes!) that’s the Carl Palmer of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, who’ll open the show with The Legacy of ELP – featuring old-school British rock vocalist Arthur Brown (see Crazy World Of, The). Also on the bill:” John Lodge, bassist and singer for the Moody Blues. And there it is.

July 14: Veronica Leone Matthews and the company of St. Petersburg Shakespeare Festival will be at the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art with a specially-crafted presentation called Shakespeare on the Frontier; “come learn how Shakespeare made its way into the hands and hearts of cowboys, prostitutes, traders, and outlaws!”

July 20: At the Palladium, Carter Plays Coltrane brings St. Petersburg a thrilling vein of bebop and free jazz we don’t get enough of: The eccentric, electric music of John Coltrane, as performed by saxman Jeremy Carter. His combo on this night includes John O’Leary (piano), Alejandro Arenas (bass) and Mark Feinman (drums).

July 21: Hang on, what decade is it again? You can relieve the ‘80s – or at least the MTV-glittery bit – at Ferg’s Sports Bar this night with the Transform Tour, with Howard Jones (“No One is to Blame”), Men Without Hats (“Safety Dance”) and a contemporary electronica duo called All Hail the Silence.




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