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Weekend arts forecast: Drag queens and a banjo wizard

Bill DeYoung



Drag queens Trixie and Katya perform Friday at Ruth Eckerd Hall. Publicity photo.

First emerging into the public consciousness as contestants on Rupaul’s Drag Race, Trixie Mattel (Brian Firkus) and Katya Zamolodchikova (Brian McCook) has become perhaps the best-known drag queens in America. There’s the YouTube series UNHhhh, and the New York Times bestseller, the satirical Trixie and Katya’s Guide to Modern Womanhood.

That’s also the title of the Trixie and Katya live show, which is within a batted eyelash of selling out Friday night at Ruth Eckerd Hall (tickets remain, however – look here).

Friday also brings Varla Jean Merman (Jeffrey Robertson) to freeFall Theatre with a cabaret-style musical comedy called Ready to Blow. The 7 p.m. show sold out, so a 9 p.m. was added. Tickets are here.

And Friday at thestudio@620, Shasta Velvet (a.k.a. Ryan Hill) is the featured performer in Dirty John’s Club Dirty, the latest cabaret tour de force from “Dirty” John Huls and his comedic comrades. Tickets.


Banjo wizard Alison Brown

Alison Brown

It’s a very small club, innovative banjo players who have expanded and experimented with the instrument’s capabilities to create innovative new music. After Bela Fleck, on this list, comes the formidable Alison Brown, who spent a number of years in Alison Krauss’ Union Station and has performed and recorded with some of the very best in the business, taking banjo far afield of its Appalachian and bluegrass origins. She’s also the co-founder of Compass Records, one of the country’s hippest indie labels.

Crows Billboard: “Like James Taylor’s voice or B.B. King’s guitar, Alison Brown’s banjo is an instrument possessed of a unique sonic signature and an inescapable beauty.”

Brown and her band have a date Saturday at The Attic at Rock Brothers Brewing, in Ybor City. Tickets.


More concerts

Pianist, composer and producer Neil Berg’s 114 Years of Broadway is back at Clearwater’s Ruth Eckerd Hall for its annual visit today (Thursday, March 2). There are shows at 1 and 7:30 p.m. Berg is joined by a quintet of vocalists who share songs and stories from big Broadway hits. Tickets.

Sarasota jazz vocalist Synia Carroll has two St. Pete dates. Tonight (March 2) she’ll channel the legendary Nina Simone at the Palladium (tickets). Friday finds Carroll, backed by our own La Lucha, performing for the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance’s MUSE gala at the Morean Center for Clay, in the Warehouse Arts District (details here).

Friday brings the semi-annual return of Canadian pop singer Gino Vannelli (“I Just Wanna Stop”) to the Capitol Theatre (Clearwater). Tickets.

County superstar Blake Shelton is at Amalie Arena in Tampa Friday, with Carly Pearce and Jackson Dean also on the bill. Tickets.

Longtime Pinellas County resident Joey Dee, of “Peppermint Twist” fame, is part of Saturday’s Doo-Wop Reunion concert at Ruth Eckerd Hall. Also on the bill: Kenny Vance (“Looking For an Echo”), Lou Christie (“Lightning Strikes”) and Jay Siegel’s Tokens (“The Lion Sleeps Tonight”). Tickets.

Monday (March 6): The eccentric British comedian, actor and author Russell Brand (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) is onstage at the Capitol Theatre, and the anime-inspired jazz group Cowboy Bebop plays the Palladium in St. Pete, in a multi-media presentation. Brand tickets here; Bebop tickets here.


“The Rooster’s Tale.” Photo: Paula Britto.


LAB Theatre Project (Ybor City) is in the first weekend of Paula Fell’s comedy The Rooster’s Tale, which company leader Owen Robertson describes as “The Canterbury Tales meets Monty Python.” Tickets are here. Robertson is Friday’s guest on our Arts Alive! podcast, discussing this show and Lab’s mission, which is to present only original, previously-unproduced works.

The Off-Central’s Ward Smith trades in his acting and directing hat Saturday for Standup Spotlight at the downtown St. Pete venue, in which he and fellow comedians Stephen Henry, Jay Legend and Jeff Klein will mine for yuks. Tickets.

American Stage’s annual New Play Festival is Friday through Sunday at the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art. It’s a series of staged readings of unproduced plays from BIPOC playwrights – read all about it, and find tickets, here.


The classics

The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay debuts composer Joan Szymko’s The Journey at two concerts this weekend – Friday at St. Pete’s First Presbyterian Church, Saturday at the University of Florida Concert Hall in Tampa. Read all about the chorale, and the concert, here.

As the 2007 film Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix screens above, in high definition, The Florida Orchestra will perform the score, as it happens, live. Concerts are 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday, both in the Straz Center’s Morsani Hall (Tampa). Tickets.


Outdoor art events

Friday brings the Gulfport Merchants Chamber’s monthly First Friday ArtWalk, a juried fine art show, to the downtown streets. Hours are 5 to 9 p.m.; details here.

The Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, this weekend in Julian B. Lane Park (that’s in Tampa), is a juried show celebrating its 53rd year. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Find all you need to know at the festival website here.

The Weekend arts forecast appears every Thursday in the Catalyst

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