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March's madness not just on court anymore

By BARBARA FREDRICKSEN
Published March 17, 2007


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For basketball fans, March Madness means being glued to the television set.

For me, March Madness is a crush of local festivals, musicals and plays.

It seems that every venue and open space around here is filled with performers, all putting on their biggest and/or best as they vie for everyone's limited entertainment dollars and time.

The biggest, of course, is Chasco Fiesta, which draws upwards of 100,000 people to west Pasco during its 11 days of parades, stage shows, arts, crafts, spectator and participatory sports events, carnivals, pageants and wonderful food. There's so much going on at Chasco (which starts Thursday and runs through April 1) that it's easy to let some unrelated little gems elsewhere slip through.

For example: the Nature Coast Festival Singers' spring concert at 3 p.m. March 25 in Spring Hill; the Heritage Pines Players doing the hilarious farce Lend Me a Tenor on Thursday through March 25; the Downtown Dade City Main Street Spring Fest 2007 on March 24; the Tarpon Springs Area Historical Society's tour of historic homes on March 24; and the kids at Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School doing the slam-bang comedy Noises Off March 30-April 1. (For details, go to sptimes.com, click on St. Petersburg Times, then type Pasco Diversions: Coming Attractions in the archives box in the far right column.)

One particular must-see gem opens Wednesday, the night before Chasco starts, and has eight more performances on Thursdays and weekends through April 1.

It's Noel Coward's witty little farce Blithe Spirit, being done by the Avenue Players on the tiny stage at Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art in Tarpon Springs.

(Note: Pasco Times Hometown Pasco coordinator Diana Forgione is directing the volunteer theater troupe.)

I went to a dress rehearsal the other night and was so entertained that, unlike my usual practice of watching only a few scenes to get an idea of the quality of a production before I write a preview, I stayed to the very end. So did the Times photographer.

The play is so amusing that we simply had to stay to see how it all could possibly work itself out, and it was so well-performed that we were mesmerized by the acting.

Blithe Spirit is part of the museum's "Decades Project," where a single decade between 1900 and 2000 is examined over the course of a year from all angles. This is the project's fourth year, thus 1930-1940.

Coward acted, wrote plays and song lyrics, and composed music from 1920 almost until his death in 1973, but he produced many of his biggest hits in the 1930s.

Blithe Spirit is a ghost story of sorts, filled with Coward's clever repartee. It's about a rather pompous writer who is working on a book about the occult and invites a well-known medium to hold a seance at a small dinner party he and his second wife are holding. He hopes to figure out how the medium "tricks" people into believing in other realms of existence.

Instead, the medium inadvertently calls forth the ghost of the writer's long-dead wife - but he's the only one who can see or hear her.

The late wife causes all kinds of hilarious mischief, taunting her husband and making the new wife doubt his love for her, to say nothing of his sanity.

The tickets are only $11, the best bargain around. Call (727) 712-5762.

Speaking of busy...

Next week will probably be the busiest on record for the bunch at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre.

The production staff will back up 10 major shows while the kitchen crew does 10 full buffet dinners, all in just seven days.

It starts Monday with matinee and evening shows by the rock 'n' roll group Sha Na Na; same thing Wednesday for television, movie and Broadway star Tony Danza; same thing Thursday and Saturday for Singin' in the Rain, with single stagings Friday and Sunday.

Each show is a whole event within itself for the Show Palace gang - sort of like being the mother of the bride at 10 weddings in seven days.

I get all tuckered out just thinking about it.

[Last modified March 16, 2007, 21:01:41]


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