Well-known for its sunshine and beaches, Naples on Florida’s west coast also boasts a diverse and lively world of theater and other live performances. Here are some highlights of the Spring season.
Not only does this impressive artistic group host more than 220 performances annually but has a subscriber base of 3,000 and also a children’s program that reaches over 600 children a year. Founded in 1953, the group is based at Sugden Community Theatre, a multi-venue complex that includes the 326-seat Blackburn Hall, the 100-seat Tobye Studio and various rehearsal, costume, dance and music rooms.
In the studio, a small cast of talented actors is now performing the poignant, historic drama ‘These Shining Lives’ written by Melani Marnich and directed by Jessica Walck. Set in the 1920’s, the play focuses on female factory workers who all develop serious illnesses caused by the glowing paint they use to make clocks dials and the bravery and determination they show in confronting the owners about their plight. Led by Jamie Lynn Bucci as the real Catherine Wolfe Donohue, who successfully sued the company, all the main actresses (Amy Hughes, Katherine Oni and Jasmine Vizena) display ample raw emotion as they slowly transform, from relaxed, enthusiastic, easy-going, eager-to-please young women to worried, pale, confused, angst-ridden shadows of their former selves. Support characters are also well played, including Mark Vanagas in multiple roles such as a factory supervisor caught between morality and a pay-packet, and Jesse Hughes as Catherine’s husband who, having encouraged his wife to take the job, ends up devastated and angry as hell. The show ends April 15.
From April 19, Blackburn Hall will host ‘I Hate Hamlet,’ a comedy by Paul Rudnick about a television actor who is offered the role of Hamlet. Only one problem: he dislikes Hamlet intensely. Add to this conundrum ghostly visits by John Barrymore and you’ve got what seems like a thoroughly amusing romp.
An artistic complex that is home to the Baker Museum and the city’s philharmonic, it also hosts a diverse menu of theatrical performances, including recently the Broadway musical ‘Something Rotten.’
Set in Elizabethan England in 1595, this colorful story focuses on the antics of two brothers, Nick and Nigel, with the somewhat apt surname of Bottom, who desperately attempt to create a hit play while struggling under the shadow of the ever-popular William Shakespeare. Both set design and costumes by Scott Pask and Gregg Barnes respectively are impressive, as is the zaniness of the plot, which involves a narcissistic Bard singing his poetry rock-music style, amusing references about other classic musicals and romance blossoming in the most unexpected of quarters. Not to mention a mix-up with a soothsayer, Thomas, cousin of Nostradamus, who mistakenly advises the brothers to create a musical on the theme of ‘omelet’ (one scene features a dozen of them dancing joyfully across the stage) instead of ‘Hamlet.’ Adam Pascal plays a charismatic Shakespeare to a tee and Maggie Lakis is a delightfully enduring Bea, wife of Nick, who helps out all and sundry and has one of the best lines when, as her husband’s self-appointed lawyer, she tells the judge, “To behead him would be redundant.” Rob McClure shines as the dominant brother, as does Josh Grisetti, his fraternal side-kick. The book upon which ‘Something Rotten’ is based was written by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell and music and lyrics by Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick. The show is on tour throughout the US until May next year.
Naples has also become popular for performance of a different kind, barbershop singing. The city is home to The Paradise Coastmen Barbershop Chorus, a member of the national Barbershop Harmony Society, with over 300 chapters and 24,000 members worldwide.
The group rehearses every week and host concerts regularly. Their annual spring concert, for example, consisted of a marvelous a’ccappela concert by the full chorus in the North Naples Church, as well as several guest barbershop groups, including Crossroads and the Ohana Means Family.
So when you plan your next sunshine holiday, take note of the sophisticated arts scene on the west coast of Florida.