Van Wezel unveils 50th anniversary season. Here are the shows you don’t want to miss

It’s just about showtime.

Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall is gearing up for another season of stunning theater, music, comedy and performance art in Sarasota.

It also happens to be the iconic venue’s 50th birthday.

To celebrate, Bradenton and Sarasota’s premiere concert hall is bringing back classic crowd favorites and introducing theater-goers to some fresh new acts for its 2019-2020 season.

Shows will span the decades from old-school legends such as The Pointer Sisters, The Platters and The Beach Boys to modern Broadway hits and comedic talents.

Witness it all in the magnificent purple splendor that only Van Wezel can provide.

Here’s a guide to the shows you won’t want to miss during the 2019-2020 season.

Il Divo

Transcendent choral quartet Il Divo will make its Sarasota debut in January at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

Members of Il Divo hail from Switzerland, Spain, the U.S. and France, and the four singers blend their native country’s vocal traditions to amazing effect.

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World-renowned vocal quartet Il Divo will make its Sarasota debut for Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall’s 50th anniversary season. Photo courtesy of Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

Mesmerizing arrangements incorporate the influence of opera, classical and popular music for an otherworldly and emotional impact.

We’ll bet that you won’t make it through the whole performance without getting a little teary-eyed. Handkerchief definitely recommended.

Details: Catch the show at 7 p.m. on Jan. 5.

Steve Martin and Martin Short

Comedy crackerjacks Steve Martin and Martin Short know how to get a laugh.

That’s probably why they’ve been invited back to the Van Wezel by popular demand.

Comedy crackerjacks Steve Martin and Martin Short will be at Van Wezel in January. Photo courtesy of Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

Fresh off of filming a Netflix special, the pair of funnymen has unparalleled charisma, and you never know where their antics will lead next.

Details: Catch the show at 8 p.m. on Jan. 23.

Latin History for Morons

Van Wezel describes “Latin History For Morons” as the “most totally unique show of the season.”

This Broadway hit is direct in its intent and powerfully funny in its delivery.

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“Latin History for Morons” comes to Van Wezel in November. Photo courtesy of Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

In it, award-winning actor John Leguizamo is on a quest to find a Latin hero for his son’s school history project, and the American history books are regrettably lacking.

To make up for it, Leguizamo bridges the gap between ancient Mayans and Pitbull for a record-breaking and hilarious 110-minute history lesson.

Details: Catch the show at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 19.

The Pointer Sisters

Any true music fan knows the sweet songs of The Pointer Sisters — but have you heard them live?

Here’s your chance.

Hits including “I’m So Excited,” “He’s So Shy,” “Slow Hand,” “Automatic” and “Fire” put the sisters on the map, and they still sing them today.

The history-making family band was the first black female group to play the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville after the release of crossover hit “Fairytale,” and they were the first contemporary act to perform at the San Francisco Opera House.

Details: Catch the show at 8 p.m. on April 2.

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Louie Anderson and Rita Rudner will bring comedy gold to the Van Wezel this season. Photo courtesy of Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

Louie Anderson and Rita Rudner

A pair of comedy legends unite for a night of he said, she said in this show coming to Van Wezel in January.

Louie Anderson’s award-winning and quick-witted comic style has fueled a decades-long stand-up career, complimented with a prolific writing, television and movie presence.

Rita Rudner’s impressive career of laugh-making includes setting the record for the longest-running solo comedy show in the history of Las Vegas and recognition as formidably funny author, playwright and screenwriter.

Details: Catch the show at 8 p.m. on Jan. 28.

Sebastian Maniscalco: You Bother Me

Billboard created a “Comedian of the Year” award in 2018, and Sebastian Maniscalco was the first to receive the honor.

The Illinois native has toured the country with his stand-up routine and starred in his own Netflix special, and he’s still on the rise.

Maniscalco has a role in the upcoming Netflix original movie “The Irishman” opposite Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci; the Martin Scorsese flick is set to debut this fall.

Details: Catch the show at 7 p.m. or 9:30 p.m. on Nov. 30.

Dwight Yoakam

Hit-maker, deadpan actor and timelessly cool country boy Dwight Yoakam will return to the Van Wezel for a night of song.

Yoakam has sold more than 25 million albums worldwide, received 21 Grammy nominations and appeared in over 40 feature films.

Details: Catch the show at 8 p.m. on Nov. 16.

The Naked Magicians

There are no tricks here — this show is just what the title promises.

“Good magicians don’t need sleeves and great magicians don’t need pants,” the Van Wezel teases. “This show proves just that!”

Find out just what this daring duo has in store during an R-rated magic show.

This night of illusion is for guests ages 18 and up only; as such it includes coarse language, sexual references and male nudity.

Details: Catch the show at 8 p.m. on Jan. 16.

Les Misérables

Les Misérables is one of the most-popular and longest-running musicals in the world, and at nearly 30 years old it continues to take on new life.

Back by popular demand, the latest production comes to the Van Wezel in February with updated scenery and stage work.

Details: Catch the show during an extended run from Feb. 26-March 1.

Collective Soul

Ready for some 1990s nostalgia?

Early ‘90s long-haired rockers Collective Soul bridged the gap between grunge and popular rock with radio anthems like “Shine,” “Breathe,” “December” and “The World I Know.”

The Georgia-based band will make its Sarasota debut this November.

Details: Catch the show at 8 p.m. on Nov. 26.

Neil Berg’s 111 Years of Broadway

Neil Berg’s decade-spanning Broadway revue is returning to Van Wezel for the 12th year in a row in February.

In the show, five New York City-certified singers take on legendary songs from every era of Broadway, including showstoppers from “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “South Pacific,” “Wicked” and “Man of La Mancha.”

In other words, it’s a great show for folks who can’t make up their mind about which musical they want to see.

Details: Catch the show at 2 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 19.

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The musical performances of rock ‘n’ roll greats Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly will be brought back to life in a special production by BASE Hologram, playing for one night in November at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota. Photo courtesy of Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly

We won’t blame you if you did a double take on that one.

Although legendary rock ‘n’ rollers Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly have sadly been gone for decades, a California company is bringing their performances back to life with cutting edge technology.

The holographic rockers will be backed by live, flesh-and-blood musicians.

Details: Catch the show at 8 p.m. on Nov. 4.

Other 2019 shows

Once: The Musical: Oct. 9 at 7:30 p.m.

Neil Berg’s 50 Years of Rock & Roll: Part III: Nov. 1 at 8 p.m.

Straight No Chaser: The Open Bar Tour: Nov. 17 at 7 p.m.

Cirque Dreams Holidaze: Nov. 22-23

Dave Koz and Friends Christmas Tour 2019: Nov. 29 at 8 p.m. (guests Jonathan Butler, Melissa Manchester, Michael Lington and Chris Walker)

Celtic Angels Christmas: Dec. 1 at 7 p.m.

Escape to Margaritaville: Dec. 2 at 7:30 p.m.

Tony Bennett: The “I Left My Heart” Tour: Dec. 3 at 8 p.m.

Dance to the Holidays!: Dec. 4 at 7:30 p.m.

Under the Streetlamp: Hip to the Holidays: Dec. 12 at 8 p.m.

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical: Dec. 13- 15

The Ten Tenors – Home For The Holidays: Dec. 22 at 7 p.m.

A Christmas Carol: Dec. 23 at 7:30 p.m.

Other 2020 shows

Salute To Vienna New Year’s Concert: Jan. 2 at 7 p.m.

The Book of Mormon: Jan. 7-12

The Righteous Brothers – Bill Medley and Bucky Heard: Jan. 13 at 8 p.m.

We’ve Only Just Begun: Carpenters Remembered: Jan. 14 at 8 p.m.

The Greatest Love of All: A Tribute to Whitney Houston starring Belinda Davids: Tuesday, Jan. 21 at 8 p.m.

The Drifters, The Platters & Cornell Gunter’s Coasters: Jan. 22 at 8 p.m

Waitress: Jan. 24-26

Kristin Chenoweth in Concert: Jan. 30 at 8 p.m.

Steve Solomon’s – My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish & I’m In Therapy – Updated and Funnier than Ever: Feb. 3 at 8 p.m.

Bandstand: Feb. 4-5 at 7:30 p.m.

Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons: Feb. 9 at 7 p.m.

Stayin’ Alive: Feb. 10 at 8 p.m.

New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players: The Pirates of Penzance: Feb. 13 at 7:30 p.m.

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The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields is one of the world’s top chamber orchestras. See the group perform on Feb. 15 at Van Wezel Performing Arts Center in Sarasota. Photo courtesy of Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

Academy of St. Martin In the Fields – Joshua Bell: Feb. 15 at 8 p.m.

Mandy Patinkin in Concert: Diaries with Adam Ben-David on piano: Feb. 16 at 7 p.m.

The Beach Boys: Feb. 18 at 7:30 p.m.

“Who Can Ask For Anything More” - An Evening with Michael Feinstein Singing Gershwin: Feb. 20 at 8 p.m.

The Russian National Ballet will present “Cinderella” at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall on March 3. Photo courtesy of Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

Russian National Ballet: Cinderella: March 3 at 7:30 p.m.

Celtic Woman: March 4 at 7 p.m.

Abba the Concert: March 5 at 8 p.m.

Georgia On My Mind: Celebrating the Music of Ray Charles: March 8 at 7 p.m.

Tony-award winning musical “The Color Purple” is a tale of resilience and love in the face of extreme hardship faced by black women in the American South of the 1930s. It will play at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall on March 10. Photo courtesy of Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

The Color Purple: March 10 at 7:30 p.m.

Paul Anka – Anka Sings Sinatra: March 11 at 8 p.m.

An American in Paris: March 16 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The Choir of Man: March 17 at 8 p.m.

John Pizzarelli and Catherine Russell: A Tribute to Nat King Cole and the Ladies of Song: March 18 at 8 p.m.

America: March 19 at 8 p.m.

Itzhak Perlman In Recital: March 21 at 8 p.m.

An Intimate Evening with David Foster: Hitman Tour featuring special guest Katharine McPhee: March 22 at 7 p.m.

“Up, Up and Away” Starring Marilyn McCoo And Billy Davis, Jr.: March 24 at 8 p.m.

An Evening with Bruce Hornsby: Sunday, March 29 at 7 p.m.

Jackie Evancho: The Debut: Friday, April 3, 2020 at 8 p.m.

Terry Fator: It Starts Tonight: April 10 at 8 p.m.

Reza – Edge of Illusion: April 11 at 7:30 p.m.

An Evening with Chris Botti: April 19 at 7 p.m.

A Bronx Tale: April 21-22

Brian Culbertson: April 23 at 8 p.m.

Come from Away: April 28-May 3

One Night of Queen: May 6 at 8 p.m.

The Bachelor Live on Stage: May 7 at 8 p.m.

Johnny Mathis – The Voice of Romance Tour: April 16 at 8 p.m.

Details: Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on Sept. 7. Purchase tickets at the box office at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, at vanwezel.org or by phone at 941-953-3368.

Ryan Ballogg covers arts, entertainment, dining, breaking and local news for the Bradenton Herald. He has won awards for feature writing and environmental writing in the Florida Press Club’s Excellence in Journalism Competition. Ryan is a Florida native and graduated from University of South Florida St. Petersburg.
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