Manatee Players headed to nationals

The Manatee Players are poised for another national honor.

The Bradenton company staged an abridged version of the first act of Stephen Sondheim’s Pulitzer Prize-winning musical “Sunday in the Park with George” at the Southeastern Theatre Conference Friday at Spelman College in Atlanta.

The competition featured community theater troupes representing 10 Southern states.

The Manatee Players were announced the winners late Saturday.

“Everybody is elated,” said Manatee Players Managing Artistic Director Rick Kerby. “The talent this year was exceptional. There were a lot of great contenders, so to be chosen out of that lot is just really prestigious.”

Former Bradenton Herald features writer January Holmes, who now lives in Georgia, attended the event.

“The Manatee Players were ambitious bringing ‘Sunday In the Park With George’ to this year’s competition,” she said. “Their performance was solid and entertaining. And their mastery of a challenging Sondheim score, especially in a condensed competition format, continues to distinguish their theatrical reputation in the region.”

The Players will next compete at the American Association of Community Theatre’s AACTFest11. The national theater event brings the best community theatre productions from across the country and the U.S. Armed Services in Europe to Rochester, N.Y., June 20-26. More than 600 people are expected to participate. A victory there ranks as the highest honor in the nation bestowed upon companies such as the Manatee Players.

In 2005, the Manatee Players won Best Production for “Metamorphoses” at the 2005 AACTFest.

The Players’ staging of “Sunday in the Park with George” ended its two-week Bradenton run last October and later that same month won at the Florida Theatre Conference Festival.

“This is our third time going to nationals,” Kerby said. “It’s very stressful and it’s not an easy process. ... It’s a way to remind our community of the gem in its own backyard.”

Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 745-7057. Visit his blog at www.bradenton.com/blogs.