Archive for August, 2011

Our new season at the Palladium – which begins in September – has all of us excited. It turns out John Fleming and the St. Petersburg  Times are also excited about what’s coming up in 2011-2012. 

Sunday’s Latitudes section (8-28-11) featured a major story on the season – Fleming, the Times arts writer and critic, was especially happy about some of the Broadway stars and young classical musicians who are on the schedule.


Here’s what John wrote:

The Palladium accents its local bent with touring classical musicians and Broadway performers.
ST. PETERSBURG – The Palladium Theater was founded in 1998 as an affordable venue for homegrown performers, and it continues to follow that mission, but it will also present a number of touring classical musicians and Broadway performers in the 2011-12 season. The highlights:* Caroline Goulding (Nov. 16), an up-and-coming violinist, headlines  the Young Concert Artist Series, which includes violinist Hahn-Bin (Jan. 18) and pianist Charlie Albright (April 18).* The Palladium’s Broadway Cabaret Series features a pair of Tony Award   nominees, Marc Kudisch (Jan. 21) and Emily Skinner (March 22). “I was looking for areas in the market where we could make a statement,” executive    director Paul Wilborn says. “With the Young Concert Artist Series, I felt like we could   make it a community event where we could offer free or reduced tickets to students, and the artists will do a master class. I think it could be a big deal for the music community and especially the student music community.”

At 18, Goulding already has been nominated for a Grammy Award, for her debut recital CD two years ago, and performed as a soloist with the likes of the Cleveland Orchestra, Toronto Symphony and Dallas Symphony.

Skinner made her name on Broadway as one of the Siamese twins (with Alice Ripley) in Side Show. She’s now playing Mrs. Wilkinson in Billy Elliot. Kudisch, who was nominated for Tonys for his performances in 9 to 5, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Thoroughly Modern Millie, has a cabaret show titled What Makes Me Tick.

Three Men and a Baby . . . Grand! (April 21), the third show in the series, features John Boswell, Brian Lane Green and Lee Lessack in Broadway and Frank Sinatra standards.

Wilborn, a musician himself (as well as a former reporter with the St. Petersburg Times), is especially looking forward to the Broadway Cabaret Series. “I handpicked these to start it off,” he said. “I think we’re a perfect venue for those kinds of things.”

Even performers as well known as Goulding, Kudisch and Skinner don’t command fees of more than $10,000, making them a reasonable risk. “I think it would be very hard to fail with them,” Wilborn said.

The Palladium still takes a grass-roots approach, with rentals to community arts organizations making up about half its business, according to Wilborn. These include St. Petersburg Opera, whose season opens Sept. 30 with Die Fledermaus; the Academy of Ballet ArtsNutcracker Nov. 30 to Dec. 4; and the Encore chamber music series that begins Jan. 25.

Also notable this season is the American Stage production of August: Osage County (Oct. 22-30). The 2008 Pulitzer  Prize winner by Tracy Letts is a sprawling show that the theater company thinks will work better in the Palladium than in its own smaller home.

Another large-scale production is Cirque des Voix (March 24-25), a “choral circus” by Circus Sarasota and the Key Chorale.

The Tampa Bay Symphony, a volunteer orchestra, will play at the Palladium for the first time, opening its season Nov. 1 with a program anchored by Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2, John Bannon conducting. Previously, the group played St. Petersburg concerts at Mahaffey Theater.

“It’s going to be crowded,” Wilborn says of accommodating the orchestra on the stage of Hough Concert Hall, which seats 850. “They believe they can fit. We think it’s going to work.”

Other bay area musical groups in the Palladium lineup are the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay (March 30) and the men’s chorus Una Voce (April 28).

One of the first shows in the Palladium season is the Nate Najar Trio (Sept. 22), playing the downstairs Side Door Cabaret, which has cultivated an audience for jazz, blues and folk music. “Our cabaret room is about my favorite place,” Wilborn says. “It came into its own in the last year, consistently selling 100 to 175 tickets for mostly local performers.”

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Playwright Bill Leavengood was worried that local critics might think his new comedy, Lourdes of the Flies, was too juvenile and silly. Leavengood made his rep in this area with more weighty work  including the hit musicial “Webb’s City.”

And, sure enough, Mark Leib, writing in Creative Loafing, said just that. But Marty Clear, writing in the St. Petersburg Times, got the joke. He loved the show, thought the jokes were funny and praised the young actors in the cast. Here are some excerpts from his review:

“Leavengood’s script is clever and amusing from start to finish, with tons of chuckles… The way he integrates a few pointed sociological observations into such abject silliness is impressive.”

“The cast, made up mostly of high school and college students directed by Leavengood, is impressive…. their comic timing is sharp, their physical comedy is crisp and virtually all of the nine cast members have appealing stage presences. Tamara Austin, as the one African-American among the island’s inhabitants, is one standout.”

“…a broad and silly look at high school cliques. It borrows its title and the skeleton of its plot from William Golding’s harsh novel Lord of the Flies, but its humor, style and sensibility owe more to Gilligan’s Island and the plays of Charles Busch.”

“….the enormous appeal of Lourdes comes from its silliness and its coy bawdiness.”

To read the full review (and to see Marty’s critique of our Side Door cabaret as a theater space) visit:


And don’t miss this totally tacky tiki bar of a summer show. It runs through Labor Day weekend. Check the Palladium website for showtimes – www.mypalladium.org

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St. Petersburg Times fine arts writer John Fleming published a story on the Jeff Norton Theater Awards, which debuted Monday night at the Palladium. To read the story follow this link:


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Going through a box of keepsakes a few weeks ago, I found a picture from the mid-1990s: The actor Jeff Norton and the sometime actor, Paul Wilborn, posing in costumes that are a little bit Shakespeare and a lot more like 1950s sci-fi spacemen.

We were doing “Return To the Forbidden Planet” at the Jaeb Theater. Rosemary Orlando, Jeff’s one-time girlfriend and lifetime friend, was the director. Every night, to restart the show after intermission, Jeff and I stood on opposite platforms on the space ship set and improvised jokes about the show and the audience.

With Jeff, it was effortless and easy. He loved to riff and take his character into ever stranger places. The audience loved it and the high-wire improvisation got me charged up every night.

And I was comfortable playing on stage with Jeff, who had been a friend and beer-drinking buddy since we first appeared together in the Alice People’s big production of “Cabaret” in the early 1980s.

Jeff was the real deal. An actor’s actor. A guy with impeccable comic timing and a face and body that contorted into whatever shape he wished. He worked for everyone for over 20 years. For many springs, he starred in American Stage’s Shakespeare in the park productions in one comic role or another.

I moved away and we lost touch for a while. But in my second year at the Palladium, we revived Bill Leavengood and Lee Ahlin’s musical – “Webb’s City.” Jeff played newspaperman Nelson Poynter. We laughed a lot during rehearsals and caught up, standing outside the stage door while Jeff finished a cigarette.

He was working at Shorecrest in St. Pete and life seemed good and stable. With a lot of younger actors on stage for “Webb’s City,” Jeff was a steadying force and, of course, memorable in all his scenes. It turned out to be his last professional gig.

Most of us still can’t quite come to grips with how his life ended. A senseless murder – now, over a year ago. I still expect to see Jeff at our stage door. Or running up to my car when I pull into the parking lot at Shorecrest.

Monday night at the Palladium, the theater community will honor my old friend with an event that bears his name. It’s fitting that the event will take place on the stage where he made his final entrance. And that the awards for local actors will be named after one of our very best.

Hope to see you there.

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In a jazz community with some great piano players, Kym Purling is one of the very best. He’s a regular in our Side Door Cabaret and on our main stage in Hough Hall. He most recently headlined our jazz benefit for Nepal.

Now Kym will be spending more time on national and international stages. He was recently chosen to be musical director and conductor for the legendary singer Englebert Humperdinck.

Englebert, famous for tunes like “Release Me” and “After The Lovin’ “ continues to have a major career as a concert artist. The big guy with the big voice (and that memorable moniker) plays the big rooms in Vegas and the major halls around the world.

Eddie Tobin, Englebert’s former musical director, recommended Kym for the job after hearing him at a concert. Kym’s no stranger to a job like this. He’s done national tours and played with lots of top names in Las Vegas and elsewhere, but he’s never done it on this scale.  

“I’ve worked with a lot of famous people here and there but I’ve never really gone on the road with somebody of Englebert’s stature,” Kym said. “He is 75 and still sounding great. And he is a wonderful performer.”

A tour this fall will take Kym and the 10-piece band to England, including a stop at the Royal Albert Hall.

“That’s a dream come true, that one,” Kym said.

Tampa Bay audiences will still have plenty of chances to enjoy Kym’s music. Englebert tours several months a year, but there will still be many months when Kym is in town – at the Palladium or The Fox in Tampa.

It’s a much-deserved break for one of our top talents. I wish him well.

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 For those of you coming on board the SS Palladium during our upcoming production of Bill Leavengood’s hilarious new play, Lourdes of the Flies, you’ll want to check out the following video of boating safety tips from the class chaperone, Mrs. Clincher. Her tips are posted on You Tube. You can click this link: 


For more information on this comic tale of teen survival check out our website at www.mypalladium.org.

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