BRADENTON -- The Manatee Players' first full season in the multimillion dollar Manatee Performing Arts Center, scheduled to be ready for the March 28 opening of "Miss Saigon," promises to impress with an eclectic lineup featuring several large productions that wouldn't have been possible in the troupe's current Riverfront Theatre.
The 2013-14 season includes eight major musicals in its main Stone Hall and six shows in the smaller Bradenton Kiwanis Studio Theater.
The Stone Hall highlights are a trio of Broadway hits, all premieres for the Bradenton community theater company. These start with Mel Brooks' comedy "Young Frankenstein" (Oct. 24-Nov. 10), followed by the family-friendly crowd pleaser "Shrek: The Musical" (Feb. 13-March 2, 2014) and the Gershwin showcase "My One and Only" (May 1-18, 2014).
"We're trying to reach out to a younger audience without alienating our true patrons," said Rick Kerby, the Manatee Players' producing artistic director. "We tried hard to get new, just-released titles in the mix."
"Grease" (Sept. 12-29), "Pe
ter Pan" (Dec. 5-22), "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" (Jan. 9-26, 2014) and "Man of La Mancha" (March 20-April 6, 2014) will also be staged in Stone Hall.
"For our first season in the new building we want it to be big and splashy," Kerby said. "We want people to be excited, not only to see the building, but the shows inside."
The Stone Hall season opener, which will run Aug. 8-25, can't be announced yet. But Denny Miller, the Manatee Players' marketing manager, has offered a clue: "You won't be miserable when you hear the title!"
The Bradenton Kiwanis Studio Theater's debut season opens with the country music queen tribute "Always Patsy Cline," which runs Sept. 19 through Oct. 6.
Then comes "Our Town," with an engagement from Oct. 31 to Nov. 17. Thornton Wilder's classic three-act play marks the Manatee players' first non-musical since 2006.
"We hadn't done a straight play in a while and so there's a whole talent pool alienated," Kerby said. "We want to get those actors who have been on hiatus for so long to come back."
"The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" (Dec. 5-22), "Stepping Out" (Jan. 16-Feb. 2, 2014), "Beehive" (Feb. 27-March 16, 2014) and "Greater Tuna" (April 10-27, 2014) round out the roster at the studio theater.
Stone Hall will seat 343 and tickets are $26-$36 for adults, $15-$18 for teachers and $13-$16 for students, depending on location. The Bradenton Kiwanis Studio Theater will seat 80 with tickets priced at $26.
Riverfront Theatre, where the Manatee Players will stage "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" Feb. 21-March 17, has a capacity of 238. Tickets for shows this season are $26 for adults, $15 for teachers and $13 for students.
Manatee Players Executive Director Janene Witham explained that people who pay the extra $10 for shows at Stone Hall will enjoy the comforts of a box seat closer to the stage.
"It really creates a sense of experience by sitting in the box seat," she said.
Brochures will be mailed out in April to current season ticket holders allowing them to reserve their seats in both theaters, including being able to order extra single tickets for the shows in the Bradenton Kiwanis Studio Theater before they go on sale to the public.
The public can reserve tickets starting Friday but won't know where their seats are located.
Witham said her organization has raised $11.5 million for the construction of the Manatee Performing Arts Center but still needs and additional $500,000 to be fully functional.
"For those people on the fence about giving, I hope they have seen the passion and hard work from the community at large and join in with the more than 2,238 households that have given to this campaign," she said. "I hope anyone considering a gift will make it today and become a visionary for future generations."
Information: 941-748-5875 or www.manateeplayers.com.
Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7057.Follow Twitter.com/wtatangelo.