Manatee Players season features spicy variety, and rare opera

mclear@bradenton.comJanuary 13, 2014 

Three musicals about Jesus and a show about a whorehouse are coming to Bradenton.

“Something for everyone,” said Manatee Players producing artistic director Rick Kerby.

Those shows, and nine others, are part of the Manatee Players 2014-15 season announced Monday. It’s the company’s second full season at the Manatee Performing Arts Center.

The season includes seven shows in the larger Stone Hall and six in the Bradenton Kiwanis Studio Theater.

The Stone Hall shows, all musicals, are “Disney’s Tarzan” (Aug. 7-24), “Dames at Sea” (Sept. 11-28), “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” (Oct. 23-Nov. 9), “Meet Me in St. Louis” (Dec. 4-21), “Brigadoon” (Jan. 8-25), “Into the Woods” (Feb. 12-March 1, 2015) and “Jesus Christ Superstar” (March 19-April 5, 2015). The studio theater season mixes plays and musicals: “Morning’s at Seven” (Sept. 11-28), “Godspell” (Oct. 31-Nov. 17), “Amahl and the Night Visitors” (Dec. 4-21), “The Foursome” (Jan. 15-Feb. 1, 2015), “Agnes of God” (Feb. 19-March 8, 2015) and “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” (April 9-26, 2015). Most shows are classics, or at least well-known to theatergoers. But a few aren’t so familiar.

“Tarzan” is of course based on the 1999 animated film, which features music by Phil Collins. It ran for a little more than a year on Broadway in 2006-07. The same company that created the flying effects for this season’s production of “Peter Pan” for Manatee Players will be back for this show.

“Morning’s at Seven” is 1939 drama about four aging sisters. Its three Broadway runs have not been hugely successful, but it’s popular with regional theaters. “The Foursome” is a Norm Foster comedy about four buddies who play golf.

Kerby said he picked “Godspell,” the 1970s Stephen Schwartz musical, “to balance out ‘Best Little Whorehouse.’ They’re running at the same time.”

Kerby said he doesn’t expect any community objection to “Whorehouse,” which despite its title, is a light and splashy musical. But by staging “Godspell,” which is based on the Gospel of St. Matthew, at the same time, he’s ensuring the company is offering something for families.

“Amahl and the Night Visitors,” Kerby said, gives Manatee Players a chance to explore opera.

“We certainly have the talent for it,” he said. “I like the youth orientation of it. It was written as an opera for children.” “Amahl will be the first opera Manatee Players has done in decades.

“Actually, historically, like 60 years ago, operattas were a regular part of our offerings,” said Exective Director Janene Witham. “I’m excited because with our new facility we can offer all the different kinds of musical productions, and non-musical porductions, for our performers and our audiences.”

As for “Jesus Christ Superstar,” Kerby said he chose the Andrew Lloyd-Webber show after speaking with Norman Small, producing director of Theatre Winter Haven. “Superstar” is one of Small’s favorite shows, so Kerby enlisted him as guest director. “I think he’ll bring a lot of passion to that show,” Kerby said.

Another show Kerby is especially excited about is Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods.” “I’m passionate about Sondheim, and we’ve never done that one before,” he said.

The company’s first season of presenting shows in two theaters proved to be a big success, Kerby said, and audiences have responded to the more varied offering made possible by the intimate Bradenton Kiwanis Studio Theater.

“The people who like plays are asking for more plays, and the people who like the smaller musicals are asking for more smaller musicals,” he said. “For the first season I kept the technical requirements pretty limited, but I think you’ll see more technical complexity in the second season.” The Manatee Performing Arts Center is at 502 Third Ave. W. in Bradenton. For information about the season or any of the shows, call 941-749-1111 or go to manteeplayers.com.

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

Bradenton Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service