Manatee Players adds 'Spamalot' and 'Tarzan' to new season
This story was updated to include the announcement of Monty Python's Spamalot" ending the Manatee Players 2014-15 season
The Manatee Players will swing into a new season with the area premiere of Disney’s musical version of “Tarzan,” followed by a handful of classic musicals and the Tony-winning "Monty Python's Spamalot:"
Artistic Director Rick Kerby announced the new schedule at an event for supporters at the Manatee Performing Arts Center Monday night.
“Tarzan” is the stage version of the 1999 animated film with a score by Phil Collins, including the song “You’ll Be in My Heart.” Actors will be seen swinging on jungle vines with the help of the same company that had Peter Pan flying during the holiday season.
In an earlier interview, Kerby said he wanted to “open with something that’s exciting for the actors and the audience and hasn’t been done in the area.”
The season is filled with familiar titles, but several are new to the theater troupe.
“Dames at Sea” is a tongue-in-cheek spoof of classic, “let’s-put-on-a-show” musicals of the 1930s. It will be followed by the theater’s first production of “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” a musical based on the true story of a crusading journalist’s impact on a long-running brothel.
For the holidays, the theater will present “Meet Me in St. Louis,” a stage version of the Judy Garland film that features the songs “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “The Trolley Song.”
The Lerner & Loewe classic “Brigadoon,” about a small Scottish town that comes to life for one day every 100 years, will begin 2015 with such songs as “Heather on the Hill,” and “There But For You Go I.”
The music of Stephen Sondheim returns after a one-year absence with the theater’s first production of “Into the Woods,” a musical that mixes up familiar fairy tale characters on a quest to save themselves from an angry giant.
“Jesus Christ Superstar,” the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice rock opera will lead into Easter. “It is a show requested by our actors all the time,” he said.
Contractual limitations prevented Kerby from announcing "Monty Python's Spamalot" until Jan. 17 because of the extended production running through Jan. 25 at Florida Studio Theatre. The musical is inspired by the story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable and the film "Monty Python and the Holy Grail."
In the smaller Kiwanis Studio Theatre, Kerby said he is still testing out what works best.
“We have to be careful about what we choose because we put so much effort into the mainstage and we want to make sure that we don’t overtax both our technical staff and our talent pool.”
That season opens with Paul Osborn’s 1938 gentle comedy “Mornings at Seven,” about four sisters living in the same small Midwestern town.
“Godspell,” the popular Stephen Schwartz musical, is a bit of counter-programming to “Whorehouse,” Kerby said.
“We want to make sure that we have something for everybody going on here,” he said.
For the holiday season, he will present Gian Carlo Menotti’s “Amahl and the Night Visitors” combined with a concert of Christmas songs.
Norm Foster’s comedy “The Foursome” is about four men on a golf course, and will be followed by John Pielmeier’s drama “Agnes of God,” about the investigation into how an innocent young nun became pregnant.
The studio season will end with the musical “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” about how relationships develop from first date to old age.
Monday night's announcement was part of an event for the theater's Insider's, households who contribute at least $1,000 per year. Executive Director Janene Witham gave a progress report on the new Manatee Performing Arts Center, which opened in March, and how "the staff is learning a new normal every day. We're learning something about ourselves as a team and we are working better together."
Most importantly, she said, the artistic staff is "able to producer higher quality shows that are seen by far more people" in the new and larger theater.
The Manatee Players, she said, is entering a partnership with the Sarasota Film Festival to begin a series of film screenings at the theater in the spring.
While the new building is open and running, improvements are needed in several areas, including lighting. She introduced master electrician Thomas Sparks, a theater supporter and volunteer, who offered a demonstration on some of the lighting used and needed in the theater. The theater now has 89 hot spot lights, for example, but needs 101 for the upcoming production of "Shrek the Musical." He also demonstrated several other kinds of lighting that allow for more effective color changes that can cost $25,000 or more, for energy efficient LED systems.
“Tarzan,” Aug. 7-24
“Dames at Sea,” Sept. 11-28
“Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” Oct. 23-Nov. 9
“Meet Me in St. Louis,” Dec. 4-21
“Brigadoon,” Jan. 8-25
“Into the Woods,” Feb. 12-March 1
“Jesus Christ Superstar,” March 19-April 5
"Monty Python's Spamalot," April 30-May 17
Kiwanis Studio Theatre
“Mornings at Seven,” Sept. 23-Oct. 5
“Godspell,” Oct. 30-16
“Amahl and the Night Visitors,” Dec. 4-21
“The Foursome,” Jan. 15-Feb. 1
“Agnes of God,” Feb. 19-March 8
“I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change," April 9-26
For ticket information: 748-5875; manateeplayers.com