The summer's almost over, which means that pretty soon it'll be time to turn off the air conditioner, open the windows and call your friends in Michigan to gloat about the gorgeous Florida weather.
Autumn also brings new arts and entertainment seasons, and this year they look promising. Here are some recommendations for upcoming shows that might be especially worth considering spending your time and your money.
The Ringling International Arts Festival
(Oct. 15-18, The Ringling, Sarasota). The annual arts festival offers everything from jazz to circus arts to modern dance. No one is likely to enjoy or appreciate everything on the schedule, but everyone should be able to find something exhilarating. If you approach this festival with a sense of adventure, the rewards should be ample. Among the more intriguing shows this year are Tangram, a group that combines dance and new circus, and "The Intergalactic Nemesis," a mash-up of radio drama and graphic storytelling.
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'Little Shop of Horrors'
(Oct. 15-Nov. 16, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe). It's been done a little too often, but this campy musical version of a campy non-musical horror film is still loads of fun. (The original version of this film was 1960 black-and-white film noir that starred Jack Nicholson; the musical stage show and the musical movie came decades later.) Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe ought to be able to do amazing things with the songs by Alan Mencken. Mencken was pretty much unknown when he wrote the music for this show, but of course he went on to compose for almost all the great Disney musicals in the past 25 years.
Lyle Lovett and his Acoustic Group
(Oct. 17, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Sarasota). Even if you're only mildly impressed with Lovett's albums, you should see him live. Sparkling songs, beautiful musicianship and a homey stage presence will turn you into a devoted fan in one evening. He'll make you laugh and cry.
(Oct. 31-Nov. 15, Sarasota Opera). The only well-known opera by Ruggero Leoncavallo is one of the greatest crowd-pleasers in the history of the art form. The classic about the quintessential "crying-on-the-inside" clown starts the Sarasota Opera's fall season.
'This Filthy World: Filthier and Dirtier'
(Oct. 4, Tampa Theatre). Both icon and iconoclast, John Waters is America's best-known "outsider" filmmaker. He'll bring his one-man show to help celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.
'Framed,' The Sarasota Orchestra
(Nov. 7-9, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Sarasota). Anu Tali begins her first full season as the orchestra's music director. The program for her first Masterworks concert includes 20th century works by Shostakovich (selections from the film score for "The Gadfly") and Prokofiev ("Piano Concerto No.3) plus Mussorgsky's glorious "Pictures at an Exhibition." Pianist Alexander Toradze, a renowned Prokofiev specialist, is the featured soloist.
(Nov. 11-Dec. 28, Asolo Repertory Theatre, Sarasota). There is nothing like a dame. There is also nothing like a classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. It's not produced often enough these days, but "South Pacific" includes some of the best songs ever written for musical theater -- "This Nearly Was Mine" and "Some Enchanted Evening" among them -- and an anti-racism sentiment that was rare in its time. Asolo Rep did a great job last season with another Hammerstein classic, "Show Boat," and the company should do great thing with this one.
(Nov. 12-Jan. 10, Florida Studio Theatre, Sarasota). A fun musical (like "Lit
tle Shop of Horrors," it's also based on a campy non-musical film) with a catchy score and a nice little message about race relations.
'Garfunkel and Oates'
(Nov. 21, Straz Center for the Performing Arts, Tampa). You either love Garfunkel and Oates or you've never heard them. Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci are a really funny folk-comedy duo who take their stage names from two of popular music's most famous second bananas. Their song titles include "My Apartment's Very Clean Without You" and "Sex With Ducks." They have a great new-ish sitcom on IFC, and Micucci has a recurring role of "The Big Bang Theory."
'Amahl and the Night Visitors'
(Dec. 4-21, Manatee Players, Bradenton). If you were a kid in the '50s and early '60s, you remember when the TV broadcast of this Gian Carlo Menotti opera was an annual holiday tradition. It's much more substantial than the standard Christmas fare in theaters, but still enjoyable for children.
It's in the Bradenton Kiwanis Studio Theatre, the smaller space, at the Manatee Performing Arts Center.
Those are just a handful of shows in what looks to be a great fall season in the Bradenton area.
There are plenty of others to choose from, including three performances from the Sarasota Ballet.
One other suggestion: If you're looking for Christmas gift ideas, consider tickets to "The Book of Mormon," which opens Jan. 20 at the Straz Center.
The show's in the winter, but you'll probably have to buy tickets in the fall. It's the funniest musical ever and it's likely to sell out.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.