Of course you’ll attend our annual film and music festivals, Circus Sarasota and the blockbuster Tale of Two Cities, which opened at the Asolo Repertory Theatre last month. But here are 12 other top tickets that show the breadth and range of Sarasota’s 2007-2008 cultural season.
1. When you talk about big stuff in the visual arts, you’re talking about the Sarasota Season of Sculpture, the biennial exhibition of 20 or so large-scale sculptures dotting our bayfront Nov. 11 through May 26. It’s too early to predict whether any of this year’s pieces will stir up the controversy of the last exhibition’s mammoth Unconditional Surrender, but new artists include John Henry, whose Star Pointer shoots some 70 feet into the sky. (941) 366-7767.
2. John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt won the Tony and the Pulitzer in New York, plus a Tony for Cherry Jones, who played Sister Aloysius, a school principal determined to get at the truth about a priest and his relationship with a young black student. But truth is a slippery commodity in this tightly plotted drama. Randy Danson (herself an Obie winner), plays Sister Aloysius in the Asolo Repertory Theatre’s production, running Dec. 14 through May 1. (941) 351-8000.
3. One of the funniest and most heartwarming of recent Broadway hit musicals, the Tony-winning The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, now on its first national tour, brings the angst of adolescence and the sheer terror of cutthroat competition to the Van Wezel for eight performances, Dec. 26-30. With clever songs (Spelling Rules, I’m Not That Smart) and a chance for audience participation (make friends with your dictionary now), Bee should be a perfect antidote for the post-holiday blahs. (941) 953-3368.
4. Anna Mary Robertson Moses (better known as Grandma) represented art for a lot of people who didn’t otherwise respond to painting. But Moses, who didn’t start painting until she turned 67, was also the darling of many a New York art dealer. Her simple depictions of rural life get a retrospective look in Grandma Moses: Grandmother to the Nation, featuring 25 of her works, Jan. 26 through April 13 at the Ringling Museum of Art, and the times certainly seem ripe for a bit of nostalgia. (941) 359-5700.
5. You may have to hang around the Van Wezel’s lobby to snag a ticket, but the wait should be worth it for Spike Lee fans when the acclaimed director speaks in the Ringling School Library Association’s Town Hall series on Jan. 28. Lee has never hesitated to tell it like he sees it, whether on film (Do the Right Thing, When the Levees Broke) or in person, so be prepared. Call (941) 925-1343 to check on tickets to this often sold-out subscription series.
6. Leonard Bernstein’s musical version of Voltaire’s classic satire Candide is one of those often talked-about, seldom seen theater pieces that has sustained a cult following since it bowed more than 50 years ago. The Players Theatre first tackled the demands of this comic operetta about the best of all possible worlds some years ago; now it brings back the show that made the song Glitter and Be Gay famous from Feb. 21 through March 2. (941) 365-2494.
7. The Manatee Players are taking a chance on a world premiere musical with Best Seller, (Feb. 28 through March 16), but maybe not too much of one; artistic director Rick Kerby says this show about a couple of New York City writers in love offers lots of upbeat, catchy tunes. And it did win an Andrew Lloyd Webber competition for new musicals a few years ago for British-born (but now local) playwright Don Crabb. Perpetually busy song-and-dance man Bob Trisolini directs. (941) 748-5875.
8. Will Sarasota Opera goers gasp when they first enter the Opera House after a major $20 million renovation? Maybe, but they’ll have to catch their breath again for the opening night performance of Rigoletto on March 1. Verdi’s masterpiece about a hunchbacked jester, his beloved daughter and a licentious duke hasn’t been heard at the Opera House for 19 years and is probably the most-requested work by SO audiences. March 1 through April 13. (941) 366-8450 ext. 1.
9. Venice Little Theatre’s Stage II has earned a reputation for edgy, bold work, and this season’s offering of The Pillowman is no exception. The Tony-nominated play by Martin McDonagh (The Lieutenant of Inishmore, The Beauty Queen of Leenane) is a dark, dark comedy about a writer accused of being a serial child murderer because his stories mirror the actual crimes. The New York Times called it “this season’s most exciting and original new play.” It runs at Stage II March 13-30 in a Florida premiere. (941) 488-1115.
10. A fan of traditional Gilbert and Sullivan but still open to innovative new ways to appreciate their classic The Mikado? How about trying the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe’s The Hot Mikado, a jazzy redo of the original that follows the G&S libretto but spices it up with gospel, blues, swing and other 1940s’ flavors? Bill “Bojangles” Robinson starred in the 1939 version; WBTT presents its own all-black cast, onstage at the Historic Asolo Theater March 28 through April 5. (941) 360-7399 or (941) 358-9228.
11. Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (popularly called “Resurrection”) tackles the big issues—life, death, the meaning of it all—beautifully and memorably, making it a perfect choice for the Florida West Coast Symphony and Key Chorale (aided by the splendid voices of guest singers Kristen Clayton and Suzanna Guzman) and their Masterworks concert following the Easter holiday. Performances are April 3-6, at the Van Wezel and Neel Performing Arts Center. (941) 953-3434.
12. New Sarasota Ballet of Florida artistic director Iain Webb has cooked up a season of some pieces and choreographers heretofore unseen in Sarasota, capped by the season-ending double-bill of Matthew Bourne’s The Infernal Galop (he was nominated for a Tony for his work on Mary Poppins) and a world premiere by Dominic Walsh, artistic director of Houston’s Dominic Walsh Dance Theater and acclaimed for a recent Romeo and Juliet. April 25-27 at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts. (941) 351-8000 or (941) 359-0099.