Van Wezel announces one of its busiest seasons ever, with more than 100 shows

mclear@bradenton.comSeptember 1, 2013 

It's one of the biggest seasons the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota has had in many years.

"We have well over 100 shows," said Mary Bensel, Van Wezel's executive director. "I'd say that's about 20 shows more than we usually have. And we're not done yet."

The bump in the number of shows, Bensel said, is an indication of how well the hall has been doing in recent years.

"We have to be fiscally responsible," she said. "And, because we've been successful, that's allowed us to expand."

The official announcement of the season just came today, and the season's brochures have been released to the public, but there's already been one major change. Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., who were 40 percent of the Fifth Dimension, have canceled their Jan. 4 concert. They've been replaced by blues legend B.B. King.

Unfortunately, McCoo and Davis are featured on the cover of the season brochure, and their cancellation came too late to swap out the photo.

Other big-name acts will be added to the schedule, Bensel said, but negotiations weren't completed in time to get the brochures out.

Besides the sheer number of shows slated for the coming season, there's a lot of variety in almost every genre the hall is offering.

The season's heavy on comedy, and features such old-school comics as Jerry Lewis (Jan. 1) and Bob Newhart (Feb. 25) to more contemporary comedians Ron White (Jan. 2), Jerry Seinfeld (March 7) and Lewis Black (Feb. 15).

Next March brings back-to-back concerts by the R-rated Joan Rivers (March 15) and the family-friendly Bill Cosby (March 16).

Probably the most significant comedian set to appear in the coming season is Jay Leno. He's hasn't performed at Van Wezel in about 20 years, Bensel said, and his Feb. 7 show comes the day after his last episode of "The Tonight Show." It's also the night of the Van Wezel's annual gala.

There's also a lot on tap for Four Seasons fans. Besides an appearance by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons themselves (March 10), the season includes concerts by Under the Streetlamp, a vocal group made up of former cast member of "Jersey Boys," the musical about the Four Seasons, the Hitmen (Feb. 17), a group that comprises members of the Four Seasons and Tommy James & the Shondells.

Other concerts include the New Orleans sound of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band (Jan. 5), the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Aaron Neville (March 13), Tony Bennett on Valentine's Day, classical pianist Lang Lang (Feb. 26) and country legend Merle Haggard (Jan. 29).

Musical theater highlights include "Mamma Mia!" (Oct. 29-30) "Memphis" (Feb. 24, and almost sold out already) and "American Idiot" (April 7).

Here's a chronological listing of all the shows set for the upcoming season.

Ticket prices will not be announced until tickets go on sale. That happens at 10 a.m. Sept. 7; the box office will be open 10 a.m-6 p.m. Sept. 7 (expect long lines), but tickets are available online 24 hours a day.

Call 941-953-3368 or go to www.vanwezel.org.

• Diana Ross, 8 p.m. Sept. 11

• "So You Think You Can Dance," 7 p.m. Oct. 27

• "Mamma Mia!," 8 p.m. Oct. 29-30

• Rodney Atkins with Frankie Ballard, 8 p.m. Nov. 1

• Celtic Thunder: Mythology, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15

• Tango Fire, 8 p.m. Nov. 16

• "The Price Is Right Live," 7 p.m. Nov. 17

• America, 8 p.m. Nov. 21

• Clint Black, 8 p.m. Nov. 22

• "John Denver: A Rocky Mountain High Concert Celebration," 8 p.m. Nov. 23

• Cirque Dreams "Holidaze," 6 p.m. Nov. 24

• Dave Koz and Friends Christmas Tour 2013, 8 p.m. Nov. 29

• "Defending The Caveman," 8 p.m. Nov. 30

• Yanni: "World Without Borders," 7 p.m. Dec. 1

• "50 Shades: The Musical," 8 p.m. Dec. 2

• "Hello Dolly!" starring Sally Struthers, 8 p.m. Dec. 3-4

• Cheap Trick, 8 p.m. Dec. 5

• Michael McDonald: "This Christmas -- An Evening Of Holiday & Hits," 8 p.m. Dec. 10

• Under The Streetlamp, 8 p.m. Dec. 11

• "New York Tenors Christmas," 8 p.m. Dec. 12

• Hungarian State Folk Ensemble, 8 p.m. Dec. 13

• Bernadette Peters, 7 p.m. Dec. 15

• "Danú Christmas in Ireland: An Nollaig in Éirinn," 8 p.m. Dec. 16

• Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis and Cécile McLorin Salvant, 8 p.m. Dec. 17

• Sarasota Ballet: John Ringling's "Circus Nutcracker," 8 p.m. Dec. 20, 1 and 8 p.m. Dec. 21

• "A Christmas Carol," 7 p.m. Dec. 22

• Moscow Ballet's "Great Russian Nutcracker," 1 and 5 p.m. Dec. 29

• Ron White, 8 p.m. Jan. 2

• "Salute to Vienna" Alexander Steinitz, conductor; Marcela Cerno, soprano; Michael Heim, tenor, 8 p.m. Jan 3

• B.B. King, 8 p.m. Jan. 4

• Preservation Hall Jazz Band, 7 p.m. Jan. 5

• Neil Sedaka, 8 p.m. Jan. 7

• "In The Mood -- A 1940's Musical Review," 8 p.m. Jan. 8

• Katharine McPhee, 8 p.m. Jan. 13

• "Godspell," 8 p.m. Jan. 15

• "Rock of Ages," 8 p.m. Jan. 16

• "ABBA the Concert," 8 p.m. Jan. 17

• Engelbert Humperdinck, 7 p.m. Jan. 19

• Jerry Lewis, 8 p.m. Jan. 21

• The Haifa Symphony Orchestra of Israel Boguslaw Dawidow, Principal Guest Conductor, Roman Rabinovich, Pianist, 8 p.m. Jan. 22

• Steve Solomon's "Cannolis, Latkis, & Guilt! The Therapy Continues," 7 p.m. Jan. 26

• Merle Haggard, 8 p.m. Jan. 29

• Linda Eder, 8 p.m. Jan. 30

• The World Famous Glenn Miller Orchestra, 8 p.m. Feb. 3

• "Complexions," 8 p.m. Feb. 4

• Michael Feinstein "Swinging With the Big Band," 8 p.m. Feb. 6

• Jay Leno and Van Wezel Foundation Gala, 8 p.m. Feb. 7

• Kenny Rogers, 8 p.m. Feb. 8

• Kenny Loggins, 7 p.m. Feb. 9

• Pilobolus, 8 p.m. Feb. 12

• Irish Rovers, 8 p.m. Feb. 13

• Tony Bennett, 8 p.m. Feb. 14

• Lewis Black "The Rant is Due," 8 p.m. Feb. 15

• "Masters of Illusion - Live!" 7 p.m. Feb. 16

• The Hit Men, 8 p.m. Feb. 17

• "Stayin' Alive," 8 p.m. Feb. 18

• "Man of La Mancha," 8 p.m. Feb. 20

• "Memphis," 8 p.m. Feb. 24

• Bob Newhart, 8 p.m. Feb. 25

• Lang Lang, 8 p.m. Feb. 26

• The Moscow Festival Ballet: "Don Quixote," 8 p.m. Feb. 27

• "Rhythm of The Dance," 8 p.m. Feb. 28

• Sutton Foster, 8 p.m. March 1

• Alton Brown - LIVE Edible Inevitable Tour, 7 p.m. March 2

• "Chicago: The Musical," 8 p.m. March4-5

• Jerry Seinfeld, 7 p.m. March 7

• Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, 8 p.m. March 10

• "The Wonderful Wizard of Song: The Music of Harold Arlen," 8 p.m. March 11

• Peking Acrobats, 7 p.m. March 12

• Aaron Neville and The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, 8 p.m. March 13

• Academy of St. Martin in the Fields with Joshua Bell, Musical Director and Soloist, 8 p.m. March 14

• Joan Rivers, 8 p.m. March 15

• Bill Cosby, 3 and 7 p.m. March 16

• "Disney's Beauty and the Beast," 7 p.m. March 17-18

• Irish Tenors, 8 p.m. March 19

• Vince Gill, 8 p.m. March 21

• Johnny Clegg with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, 7 p.m. March 23

• Patti LuPone "The Gypsy in My Soul," 8 p.m. March 25

• "Where the Action Is" Tour, 8 p.m. March 26

• Indigo Girls, 8 p.m. March 27

• The Midtown Men, 7 p.m. March 30

• Mark Russell, 8 p.m. March 31

• Mandy Patinkin: "Dress Casual" with Paul Ford on Piano, 8 p.m. April 1

• "Bring It On: The Musical," 8 p.m. April 2

• Green Day's "American Idiot," 8 p.m. April. 7

• Million Dollar Quartet, 8 p.m. April 8-9

• Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy, 7 p.m. April 13

• "Men Are From Mars -- Women Are From Venus LIVE," 8 p.m. April 24

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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