Monday, June 26, 2006

India.Arie in the news and on tour

Neo-soulstress India.Arie, along with special guest Lorenzo Owens, has confirmed to play Morsani Hall at TBPAC on Thu., Aug. 10. Tickets go on sale to TBPAC members on Fri., June 30 and to the general public on Fri., July 7 at noon.

We just got tipped off she's doing a media tour in support of her new album, Testimony, Vol. 1, - Life and Relationship (which hits the streets 6/27):
June 26 - Jay Leno, NBC
June 27 - BET Awards, BET
June 29 - Live with Regis & Kelly, ABC

Check your local listings for times and where these stations fall on your box.

- David J.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Act Locally

It's a hot-button issue these days - Tampa vs St. Pete. Weekly Planet recently held a Political Party discussion about these "Downtowns on the Verge." Within a few minutes of that discussion starting up, someone made a joke that the state bird of Florida is a crane. Har. Get it? A crane? It's true though, if you head down to either Downtown they both are bustling with construction projects. I'm sick to death about hearing of the "condo boom."

I have to hear it all the time from all of my friends - artists, musicians, writers and scenesters: Downtown St. Pete kicks Tampa's keister. "No contest," they'd have me believe. To me, Downtown St. Pete is also a 20-25 minute drive away on a good day. Have you seen the traffic going over those bridges? You know we're in an oil crisis, right? Every day people talk about an accident on one of them and actually act surprised that they were delayed getting from A to B. I have better things to do with my time and cash.

I live in Tampa Heights. I work in Downtown Tampa. I drive for 3 minutes to or from work, and I never have to get on the interstate anymore. I have a quadrant that I drive that surrounds my home to points in Seminole Heights, West Tampa, Ybor, Downtown and possibly here and there it take me south of Kennedy (oh, the bougie horror!). Now that I've been in my current location for two years now, I've done quite a bit of exploring and I find that I have no real need or desire to leave my zone.

I know it might be a bit Pollyanna to have that "build it and they will come" attitude, but I think it's also true. It's not quite Manhattan yet, but money attracts money, right? Downtown Tampa isn't going to boom overnight, but with some love shown it's way it could really grow. Here are some suggestions for life in Downtown Tampa to make both an immediate impact in your quality of life that will also hopefully lead to long-term improvements down here.
  • Take in a show at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. Ok, so this is a TBPAC blog and I should probably be ashamed of myself here, right? I don't. I'm actually getting this one out of the way first. With five venues, dining options, a great location on the river and truly world-class programming - you can find something to do here pretty much every day of the week. Check out a concert by The Florida Orchestra, an intimate evening with singer-songwriters in the Club Jaeb Series, catch a cabaret review, take in a play by Jobsite Theater, see the best in Broadway spectacle straight from New York in the areas finest hall, witness a lavish grand opera, see one of today's best and brightest pop stars or comedians - you name it, we got it.
  • See a movie at the Tampa Theatre. Straight from their website: Built in 1926 as one of America's most elaborate "movie palaces", the Tampa Theatre today is a fiercely protected and generously supported landmark. Designed by famed theatre architect John Eberson, the Tampa is a superior example of the "atmospheric" style of theatre design. Inside the Tampa, audiences are transported to a lavish, romantic Mediterranean courtyard replete with old world statuary, flowers, and gargoyles. Over it all is a nighttime sky replete with twinkling stars and floating clouds.
  • You've not really experienced Downtown Tampa until you've had a drink from The Hub. Stiff drinks, great jukebox - 'nuff said. This place has been a Downtown Tampa institution for close to 50 years. Hang out Friday night until the Hot Dog Guy gets there. He makes a mean Italian sausage.
  • This is another point of contention with a lot of folks in town these days with all the planning and money and bickering, but it's still something viable to do. Go visit the Tampa Museum of Art. The anime exhibit I saw there a few years ago was one of the most fun installations I've seen.
  • Not sure if this is technically Downtown or not, but it's at least on the border - catch an art show at Flight 19 in the old baggage claim building at the railroad station.
  • Looking for dinner? Try grabbing a bite at Thai Corner, The Spain or Jerk Hut (which is also open late on the weekends).
  • Looking for breakfast/brunch on the weeekend? Try First Watch or grab bagels from CC's on Franklin St.
  • Be adventurous! See something new? Go try it! I find more often than not I'm pleasantly surprised with my urban exploration efforts.
Got any cool things I've missed to do in Downtown after work or on the weekends? Let me know!

- David J.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Tony Awards aftershocks: Ticket sales and higher ratings

Broadway's annual love fest Sunday night gathered higher ratings than last year and also boosted the sales of tickets to the featured shows, according to today's New York Times.

"The Drowsy Chaperone," which won five awards, sold four times as many single tickets as on a normal Monday -- $700,000.

"The Color Purple," strongly plugged by producer Oprah Winfrey, appeared to double its average Monday sales -- up to $600,000.

And "Jersey Boys," the big winner as "Best Musical," also was doubling its average Monday sales -- again up to $600,000. Perhaps more impressively, the show sold a million dollars in tickets the weekend before the show as ticket buyers currently predicted its success and didn't want to be left out.

The telecast itself also increased viewership by around 20 percent, from 6.6 million last year to 7.8 million this year.

The two biggest increases were in Atlanta, where "The Color Purple" started (83 percent over last year) and Tampa! (80 percent).

The Times seemed a bit bemused by the Tampa bump. They understood Chicago and Atlanta, "but Tampa?"

Perhaps it's not so surprising.

The Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, one of the 10 largest in the country, has the highest grosses of any single-week touring Broadway market.

Our knowledgeable audiences know that this year's Tony winners will be playing our Carol Morsani Hall in Tampa as soon as there's a national tour. For example, our coming Broadway season includes "Spamalot," "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" and "Light in the Piazza," as well as "Doubt" and "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels."

Additionally, as a member of the League of American Theatres and Producers, we made a concentrated effort this year to help promote and market the Tony telecast via e-mail blasts, our web site and this very Culture Shock blog.

- Michael K.

Two for the road

Two of the hottest shows on Broadway didn't make it in Vegas, leading The New York Times to spin that city's marketing slogan into that "What happens in Vegas does not always stay in Vegas."

"Hairspray," which won the 2003 Tony for Best Musical, is closing about four months after opening at the Luxor Las Vegas Hotel on Feb. 15.

And "Avenue Q," 2004's Best Musical, went straight to Vegas but closed on May 28, running less than a year.

From this vantage point, the flaw lies with Vegas audiences rather than with these two great shows.

The Times points out that "Hairspray" has grossed more than $180 million, with a movie scheduled for next year and a new road tour starting up.

"Avenue Q" is preparing its first national road tour and presenters are excited about booking the clever, funny and entertaining musical that made hand puppets stars.

The multiple Cirque shows in all their kinetic energy still are knocking Vegas audiences out. And "Mamma Mia!" is a hit. A mini-"Phantom of the Opera" opens on June 24. And Monty Python's "Spamalot" opens next year. Of course, those last three are still touring the country and the Vegas dates aren't exclusives.

- Michael K.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

'Harry Potter' sightings

The Harry Potter "flying car," stolen last year, has been recovered. It's a 1962 Ford Anglia and doesn't have an engine. The Dark Lord is suspected in the theft.

Meanwhile, there were three other Potter sightings. If you had a Marauder's Map, you might have seen the footprints of three familiar Potter characters on Broadway.

British character actor Richard Griffiths, the larger-than-life etcher who just took home a Tony Sunday night for Broadway's "The History Boys," is Dudley's dad -- Harry's spiteful Uncle Vernon.

And Frances de la Tour, a Griffith ally who also won a 2006 Tony Award for "History Boys," plays Hagrid's love interest -- Mme. Maxine, mistress of Beauxbatons.

Then there's Ralph Fiennes, who appeared in the most recent film as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, who was nominated for the same Tony Award that Griffiths won (what a shocking headling that would have been - Dursley beats Voldemort) for Fiennes' portrayal of the titular "Faith Healer."

(For even weirder casting, the drunken, misty-eyed manager in "Faith Healer" is Ian McDiarmid -- Senator, Chancellor and Emperor Palpatine as well as Sith Lord Darth Sidious from the "Star Wars" movies. No light sabers in sight.)

By the way, I just visited the official J. K. Rowling site for the first time. Pretty cool, for wizards and muggles alike. And if you're even more of a fan than I, check out, which will give you all the Harry Potter news from everywhere, and deals in survey questions like which visiting school made the best entrance to the great hall in "Goblet of Fire," Beauxbatons or Durmstrang.

- Michael K.

(Durmstrang, of course.)

Monday, June 12, 2006

Tony toasts Broadway

Say what you will about the 60th annual Tony Awards TV program, the producers know how to keep a show running on time. Last night's program ended in exactly two hours, a good lesson to the bloated Oscar awards program that bleeds past most folks' bedtimes.

You can tell, though, that the stage actors aren't used to stand-up microphones. Most of the presenters and recipients hunched over the mic like osteoporosis sufferers.

The presenter pairings were inspired, and non-theater celebs were woven into the mix without the show looking desperate for star power, which is always a gamble. (How many theater stars, who aren't also in movies, present at the Oscars?)

The full-blown musical numbers certainly sold those shows to a wider audience, even to people who weren't familiar with them. "Jersey Boys" and "The Drowsy Chaperone," the latter a send-up of 1920s musicals, in particular probably sold a lot of tickets today.

Julia Roberts, who sold-out her run in "Three Days of Rain," but mostly was panned, reluctantly, by the critics, addressed the whole industry: "You people are insanely talented."

Joe Pesci, who grew up in Jersey and is represented in the musical as a whiny kid on the periphery of the band (as opposed to a whiny actor), appeared with the three living Four Seasons to introduce that's show's musical showcase.

Take a look at the list of winners below. It was a good night to be a boy, whether "History" or "Jersey."

- Michael K.


Best Play:
The History Boys by Alan Bennett

Best Musical:
Jersey Boys

Best Book of a Musical:
The Drowsy Chaperone - Book by: Bob Martin and Don McKellar

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics):
The Drowsy Chaperone - Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison (music & lyrics)

Best Revival of a Play:
Awake and Sing!

Best Revival of a Musical:
The Pajama Game

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play:
Richard Griffiths, The History Boys

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play:
Cynthia Nixon, Rabbit Hole

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical:
John Lloyd Young, Jersey Boys

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical:
LaChanze, The Color Purple

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play:
Ian McDiarmid, Faith Healer

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play:
Frances de la Tour, The History Boys

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical:
Christian Hoff, Jersey Boys

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical:
Beth Leavel, The Drowsy Chaperone

Best Scenic Design of a Play:
Bob Crowley, The History Boys

Best Scenic Design of a Musical:
David Gallo, The Drowsy Chaperone

Best Costume Design of a Play:
Catherine Zuber, Awake and Sing!

Best Costume Design of a Musical:
Gregg Barnes, The Drowsy Chaperone

Best Lighting Design of a Play:
Mark Henderson, The History Boys

Best Lighting Design of a Musical:
Howell Binkley, Jersey Boys

Best Direction of a Play:
Nicholas Hytner, The History Boys

Best Direction of a Musical:
John Doyle, Sweeney Todd

Best Choreography:
Kathleen Marshall, The Pajama Game

Best Orchestrations:
Sarah Travis, Sweeney Todd

Friday, June 09, 2006

2006 Tony Award updates

From the newsletter of the Tony Awards.

Broadway's biggest night of the year is fast approaching!
Make sure you visit before, during, and after the American Theatre Wing's 60th Annual Tony Awards for great interactive features surrounding this year's Tonys, which will be telecast on CBS on Sunday evening, beginning at 8:00 p.m./7c.

Red Carpet Glamour - On Cable and Via the Internet is joining forces with NY 1 News to bring you live coverage of the celebrities' arrivals on the Red Carpet at Radio City Music Hall. On Sunday evening beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET, tune in to NY1 News or log on to and you'll get to meet presenters, nominees, and special guest stars.

The First Ten Awards - A Exclusive!
Then, stay on line for's exclusive live video webcast of the presentation of the first ten Tony Awards, live from the stage at Radio City Music Hall. Unless you're at Radio City, the only way to see this portion of the ceremony is to watch our webcast. Two Tony-winners from 2005, Norbert Leo Butz and Victoria Clark, will host the initial 45-minute segment of the 2006 Tony Awards ceremony, which will be webcast at, beginning at approximately 7:15 p.m. ET.

The Main Event
The main event begins at 8:00 p.m./7c with the Tony Awards telecast on CBS. You'll see musical numbers from The Color Purple, The Drowsy Chaperone, Jersey Boys, The Pajama Game, Sweeney Todd, The Threepenny Opera, and The Wedding Singer. Dozens of presenters and performers paying tribute to Broadway this year include Oprah Winfrey, Julia Roberts, Mark Ruffalo, Oliver Platt, Alan Cumming and many others.

West Coast Schedule
For Broadway fans on the West Coast, please note that the awards will be aired on time delay at 8 p.m. PT on CBS.'s live coverage of the Red Carpet arrivals begins at 3:30 p.m. PT with the exclusive pre-telecast webcast of the first ten awards following at 4:15 p.m. PT. We will be posting the winners on as soon as they are announced. So you have a choice: You can either find out who wins what by logging onto before the telecast, or close your browser and remain in suspense until the Tony telecast airs at 8:00 p.m. PT.

- compiled by David J.

The play's the thing

Sometimes Broadway is so big on spectacle, the story gets a little lost.

But with this year's bumper crop of plays, there has been no shortage of provocative words, themes and a little spit flying across the boards.

You can check out some of this great work on Sunday night during the broadcast of this year's Tony Awards.

"The History Boys" led the plays with seven nominations and goes up against "Rabbit Hole," "Shining City" and "The Lieutenant of Inishmore."

And while it's not a Best Play candidate because it's a revival, Ralph Fiennes, Cherry Jones and Ian McDiarmid all take star turns in Brian Friel's "Faith Healer."

For those of us on the road, unfortunately, great plays don't often tour.

An exception is last year's Tony and Pulitzer winner, "Doubt," which -- by the way -- is closing on Broadway on July 2 after 25 previews and 525 regular performances.

One of the most thought-provoking plays I've seen since, oh, since maybe "Angels in America, it had my party talking for 45 minutes afterward. You'll have to decide for yourself whether the priest or the nun are correct, but the exercise is stimulating and invigorating.

And if we're lucky, maybe some of this year's crop will hit the road as well.

- Michael K.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

There's still time to join in Jobsite's Food Drive!

Jobsite Theater, resident theater company of TBPAC's Shimberg Playhouse, is holding a food drive in conjunction with their current show - Dario Fo's We Won't Pay! We Won't Pay! which plays tonight through June 18 (Disclosure: I am also Jobsite's Artistic Director).

Jobsite has partnered with the local charity Metropolitan Ministries to not only raise food, but also awareness for the prominent local not-for-profit that provides vital services to over ten thousand Bay area residents every year.

A food collection barrel is set up in front of the theater for the hour preceding every performance of We Won't Pay! We Won't Pay! It is not necessary to have a ticket to the performance to donate to the food drive, so feel free to just stop by if you're interested in making a donation.

- David J.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Top 10 Dead songs ...

Courtesy of the TBPAC mailroom:

1. Casey Jones
2. Franklin's Tower
3. Sugaree
4. Turn On Your Lovelight
5. Friend of the Devil
6. St. Stephen
7. Sugar Magnolia
8. Truckin'
9. U.S. Blues
10. The Eleven

They also passed along to me that Phil Lesh still plays most of these songs live, and that Phish fans (or is that Phish phans?) may be interested to know that Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon might be part of the "and Friends" billing of the upcoming Phil Lesh and Friends date here at TBPAC. They've certainly played with them in the past.

Agree/disagree with any of these choices, or do you wish to leave your own mark? Comment away!

- David J.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Latest Tony Award News

From the newsletter for the Tony Awards. Visit their site to join the email list. Three more newsletters will roll out before the award ceremony

Tony Night
We will be providing video coverage of the stars arrivals on the Red Carpet, as well as an exclusive webcast of the portion of the Awards Ceremony that takes place before the television cameras begin to roll. The fun begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, June 11, and continues with the CBS telecast at 8p.m./7c.

Tony Tickets Still Available

A limited number of tickets are still available for the Tony Awards ceremony at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 11th at 8:00 p.m. Click here for info about tickets.

Meet the Nominees On Video!

We invite you to view on-demand clips of video interviews with many of the 2006 Tony nominees, including Best Actors/Actresses Michael Cerveris, Harry Connick Jr., Zeljko Ivanek, Judy Kaye, Lisa Kron, LaChanze, Stephen Lynch, Bob Martin, Cynthia Nixon, Kelli OHara, Oliver Platt, Chita Rivera, and David Wilmot, as well as nominees in other categories.

Make Your Predictions
If you haven't done so already, visit the site to tell us who you think will win on June 11.

Nominee Blogs
Check out the blogs of Tony nominees Manoel Felciano (Best Featured Actor in a Musical, Sweeney Todd) and John Lloyd Young (Best Actor in a Musical, Jersey Boys) to read what they have to say about their nominations and the excitement of Tony time.

Video Highlights from Nominated Shows
Beginning later this week, you can get a taste of nominated shows on video at

- compiled by David J.