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Helpful hints for 'Lion King' viewing

By JOHN FLEMING, Times Performing Arts Critic
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 13, 2002

TAMPA -- Call it Theatergoing 101.

In a mailing to ticketholders to The Lion King, the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center advises them to arrive at the theater a full hour before show time.

"The Lion King is bringing a whole bunch of people who have never been here before," said Shannon Conner, public relations manager for the center. "The opening is the coolest part, and we don't want them to miss it."

The procession of animals -- actors brilliantly costumed with masks and puppets -- that begins the Disney musical is a remarkable coup de theatre. If audience members are not seated in time for the opening, they will not be allowed into Carol Morsani Hall for five minutes.

The Lion King, hotly anticipated in the five years since its Broadway premiere, opens this weekend. Technically, performances tonight and Saturday afternoon are previews, with slightly reduced ticket prices. The official opening is Saturday night, and the production runs through Jan. 26.

Almost 110,000 tickets have been sold, just over 90 percent of the total available. The center has warned parents and others accompanying children to the show to be prepared for its running time of 2 hours, 45 minutes, including an intermission.

In a pre-emptive strike against fidgeting, the center recommended "that children 4 and under not be allowed to see the show because of its length," Conner said.

The TBPAC mailing also tells people to check their tickets. "Occasionally patrons come on the wrong day or at the wrong time," it reads. "Since this show is a sell-out, we will not be able to reseat you for another performance."

Now if they could only do something about the cell phones . . .

WHEN ONE BECOMES TWO: And file this under dueling choruses: Recently, the Tampa Bay Gay Men's Chorus went through an internal split of sorts, and some members broke away to form another group. Now the area has two gay men's choruses, both of which have holiday concerts this weekend.

Una Voce, the Florida Men's Chorale, is the new group, directed by John-Philip Mullinax, former director of the established gay men's chorus. In a program called "Unwrapped! . . . A Choral Gift for the Holidays," it performs at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at St. Andrews Episcopal Church, 509 E Twigg St., Tampa. Tickets are $15 or two for $20.

Also Sunday, in a program titled "Candles, Carols and Canes," the Tampa Bay Gay Men's Chorus gives its 15th anniversary holiday performance at 3 p.m. at the Palladium in St. Petersburg. Tickets are $20.

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