Marty Clear

A round-up of Bradenton-area entertainment news

By MARTY CLEAR | mclear@bradenton.com

If you were among the 3,000 people who attended the fourth annual Bradenton Blues Festival on Dec. 5, you already know it was a huge success. Great music, great weather, great people -- everything you want in a festival.

For those of you who weren't there, here are some indications of how successful the 2015 festival was, in facts and figures courtesy of Realize Bradenton:

A capacity crowd (again) of 3,000, with attendees from at least seven foreign countries: Germany, Sweden, Hungary, Italy, Brazil, Canada and Panama -- four Canadian provinces, 25 U.S. states including all the southern states and such distant states as Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Wyoming and Maine, and 197 zip codes from within Florida.

Fifty percent of ticket-buyers replied to an electronic survey. Ninety-three percent of them rated the festival as excellent. On a rating scale of 1-5 (5 (being the best), the average score was 4.7, a big jump from last year's 4.0.

Only 1 percent responded that they would not recommend the festival to a friend. Ninety-four percent said they definitely would. Five percent said they might.

Johnette Isham, the executive director of Realize Bradenton, noted that one key to the festival's success is that it responds to input from the audience and pays attention to suggestions offered. This year's festival had a dance floor and a second entrance, both for the first time, and an expanded food selection. Previous years' attendees suggested all those things, and this year's crowd said they appreciated all of them. Among the suggestions Realize Bradenton is considering for next year are tank tops to go along with the blue festival T-shirts.

One that's not being considered, Isham said, is video screens so people can see the musicians better. They're simply too expensive, Isham said, and there's no room for them.

Acting successful

Manatee Players' Action Through Acting program appears to be a major success on a couple of levels. The program, which started this season, has Manatee Players partnering with a different lo

cal non-profit group for each of the shows in the Bradenton Kiwanis Theater, the smaller of the two performance spaces at the Manatee Performing Arts Center.

The partner organizations are chosen because their goals fit the theme of a particular show. For the current, excellent production of "The Miracle Worker," Manatee Players is partnering with Lighthouse of Manasota.

Andy Reeves, the executive director of Lighthouse of Manasota, is thrilled with the opportunity the Action Through Acting program is giving his organization.

"The main thing that it has given us is community awareness," he said. "They've given us space in the lobby at every performance where we can have brochures to explain our programs. They've given us the opportunity to be on Manatee Educational Television to explain to people exactly what we do."

Manatee Players also gave Lighthouse of Manasota all the tickets for one performance of "The Miracle Worker."

"They were really wonderful," Reeves said. "They gave us the tickets and they said 'You can sell these or give them to your donors or whatever you want to do with them.' "

Lighthouse filled the audience with its volunteers, donors, employees and clients. Their clients, all of whom were blind, loved the show and found the theater very accessible.

The other way the program has been successful is in building an audience for the studio theater. In its first two years, many performances in the black box theater drew only a dozen or so people, even for great shows. "The Miracle Worker" is more than two-thirds full for a lot of performances. Action Through Acting has to get a large part of the credit for that.

Sing at the Straz

A cappella music has come out of the closet in recent years, and is even becoming kind of trendy thanks in part to the "Pitch Perfect" movies. If you have an a cappella group and you think it can wow the masses, here's your chance.

An a cappella concert called Vocalosity, created by artistic producer Deke Sharon ("Pitch Perfect," "The Sing-Off"), is coming to the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa on Jan. 16. One as-yet-undetermined a cappella group will open the show.

There's a contest to determine which local group gets the gig. If you want to enter, record your group singing a musical arrangement of any contemporary song, between one and two minutes long, and upload the recording to YouTube, and email the link to Info@VocalosityOnTour.com. You have to do all that by Jan. 3.

Three finalists will be chosen and their videos will be judged by the show's creative team. The winner will be announced Jan. 8. The winning group will do a five-minute performance at the concert. Officials from the show must approve the song selection.

If you have questions about the contest, contact marketing@strazcenter.org

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

Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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