Ruth Eckerd's 2007-08 schedule rocks

The hall's new season focuses less on the classical and more on the pop.

By John Fleming, Times Performing Arts Critic
Published July 22, 2007

CLEARWATER - There was a time when Beethoven's Fifth constituted a classic at Ruth Eckerd Hall. But now the label is more likely to go to A Horse With No Name or Breaking Up Is Hard to Do. Exhibit A: the hall's 2007-08 season, released today.

"Classical music and dance have been struggling for a number of years now," president Robert Freedman says. "We are not ever going to give up on presenting those performances which we think are part of what a performing arts center is about. But we're now in a generation that grew up with what is now classic rock 'n' roll. That's where a lot of the taste has moved. So we are responsive to that."

The lineup for the coming season includes a host of old favorites such as Anita Baker (with a top ticket of $135), Michael McDonald, REO Speedwagon, .38 Special, Neil Sedaka, K.D. Lang, Queen Latifah, America, Gary Puckett and Little Anthony and the Imperials. Other pop and rock acts, which tend to book on short notice, will be announced as the season goes along.

The classical music lineup includes a pair of regulars at the hall, violinist Itzhak Perlman and flutist James Galway. Also on the agenda are the Tokyo String Quartet playing Mozart, Beethoven and Webern, and tours of Madama Butterfly and La Traviata.

Topping the dance schedule are Pilobolus, Swan Lake, the Moiseyev Dance Company and a weeklong residency and performance by Spectrum Dance Theatre, led by Clearwater native Donald Byrd, who choreographed the Broadway hit The Color Purple.

The season also has a full complement of the easy listening and variety show staples that the hall has presented since opening in 1983: Tony Bennett, Anne Murray, Don Rickles, Joan Rivers, Johnny Mathis, Engelbert Humperdinck and even Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme.

"Three years ago Steve and Eydie did their farewell tour, and it's still continuing," Freedman says. "They love being onstage. They couldn't stop."

Spamalot tops the Broadway schedule, which was previously announced. Although the Monty Python musical comedy had a two-week engagement last season at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Freedman expects it to replicate the robust box office results that the hall enjoyed with Mamma Mia, which set a hall record with gross weekly sales of $1.3-million.

"Mamma Mia played TBPAC three times before it came to us last season, and we still sold out every performance," Freedman says. "I think Spamalot is going to be one of those shows like Cats, like Mamma Mia, that you will see repeat ticket buyers."

Cats, too, will be back in Clearwater.

Here's the complete 2007-08 schedule.

Pop, jazz and more

Oct. 9: Mindi Abair

Oct. 23: REO Speedwagon and .38 Special

Oct. 26: Nights of Fire!

Nov. 8: Queen Latifah

Dec. 5: Tony Bennett

Dec. 14: Anita Baker

Jan. 9: Chris Botti

Jan. 13: Neil Sedaka

Jan. 17: Jay Black and Gary Puckett

Jan. 19: Dennis DeYoung and America

Feb. 11: Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme

Feb. 17: John Tesh

Feb. 19: Engelbert Humperdinck

Feb. 23-24: Anne Murray

March 3: K.D. Lang

March 7: Johnny Mathis

March 8: Richard Nader's Doo Wop Reunion VIII, with Little Anthony and the Imperials, Johnny Maestro and the Brooklyn Bridge, Kenny Vance and the Planotones

March 24: Kenny G

March 30: Italian American Festival with Joy Behar and Michael Amante

April 4: Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby with Kentucky Thunder

Broadway series

Nov. 23-24: Hairspray

Dec. 16: Gypsy

Jan. 2-6: Cats

Jan. 8: Blast

Feb. 12-13: The Producers

March 2: Movin' Out

March 15: Martin Short

March 18-23: Spamalot

April 15-17: Rent

April 17: Rent's Adam Pascal in concert in the Margarete Heye Great Room

April 23: Bermuda Avenue Triangle


Jan. 22: Tokyo String Quartet

March 1: Sir James and Lady Jeanne Galway

March 25: State Symphony Orchestra of Russia

April 5: Itzhak Perlman


Jan. 26: Teatro Lirico D'Europa: Madama Butterfly

Feb. 22: Teatro Lirico D'Europa: La Traviata


March 6: Pilobolus

April 12: Russian National Ballet Theatre and Orchestra: Swan Lake

April 25: Spectrum Dance Theater/Donald Byrd, featuring David Benoit and the Clearwater Jazz Holiday/Ruth Eckerd Hall Jazz Band

International attractions

Nov. 9: Ballet Folklorico de Mexico

Nov. 17: Yamato Drummers of Japan

Jan. 14: Bowfire

Jan. 29: AEROS

Feb. 25: Moiseyev Dance Company

March 16: Pipes, Drums and Dancers of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and the Band of the Coldstream Guards

March 28: Carl Rosa Opera: The Mikado


Oct. 13: Sinbad

Oct. 19: Last Comic Standing Tour

Jan. 25: Jackie Mason Farewell Tour

Feb. 29: Don Rickles and Joan Rivers


Nov. 28: Wynonna: A Classic Christmas

Nov. 29: Michael McDonald: "On This Night"

Dec. 3: Dave Koz: Smooth Jazz Christmas

Dec. 8-9: Miami City Ballet: The Nutcracker

Dec. 11: Peter White Christmas with Rick Braun and Mindi Abair

Dec. 21: Jim Brickman's Holiday Homecoming Concert with Lonestar's Richie McDonald

Dec. 22: Nebraska Theatre Caravan: A Christmas Carol

Dec. 31: Salute to Vienna

Young audience attractions

Nov. 2-4: Sesame Street Live: "Elmo Makes Music"

Dec. 29: Doodlebops

April 6: Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley

Family theater series

Nov. 11: Tweaksters: Fabulous Feats of Physical Fun

Jan. 18: Golden Dragon Acrobats

Feb. 2 and 9: Eckerd Theater Company: Woodland Tales

April 27: Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia: The Very Hungry Caterpillar and other Eric Carle favorites

May 17: Sol y Canto: El Doble de Amigos/Twice As Many Friends

Family theater series special

Sept. 15 and 22: Eckerd Theater Company: The Hundred Dresses

Evening at the Murray

Oct. 5: Fred Johnson and Susan Jeffers: Images and Melodies of the Heart

Nov. 2: Glenis Redmond

Dec. 14: "Jest" a Little Winter Fun, featuring Arioso String Quartet and Hoffman Institute Students

Jan. 11: Theatrical Side of Music with Maria Zouves

Feb. 22: Original All Stars featuring bassist John Lamb

March 14: Eckerd Theater Company: Battledrum

May 2: Lee Ahlin and Friends

May 16: Sol y Canto

Emerging artist series - Pinellas Youth Symphony

Oct. 13: Serenade Strings Orchestra and String Quartets

Feb. 23: Serenade Strings Orchestra, Serenade String Soloists and PYS Chamber Ensembles

Clearwater chorus

Nov. 18: From Our Family to Yours: A Holiday Feast

April 13: Spring Concert

Adults at leisure (matinee series)

Nov. 26: 3 Redneck Tenors

Dec. 4: Lena Prima: "Louis Prima, That's My Dad!"

Dec. 11: Sha Na Na Rockin' Christmas

Jan. 9: Mickey Rooney with Jan Rooney: "Let's Put on a Show!"

Jan. 15: Wonderful Wizard of Song

Jan. 22: Glenn Miller Orchestra

Jan. 28: My Sinatra: Cary Hoffman and orchestra

Feb. 4: Irving Berlin's I Love a Piano

Feb. 5: Lynda Carter with John Byner

Feb. 27: Direct From Las Vegas: the Rat Pack

March 5: Freda Payne: Musical Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald

March 9: Tony Kenny's Ireland

March 25: Irish Rovers

April 8: 100 Years of Hollywood

Ruth Eckerd Hall members may order tickets beginning in late July. Tickets will go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. Aug. 25. The ticket office is at 1111 McMullen-Booth Road in Clearwater. See www.rutheckerdhall.com or call (727) 791-7400 for details.

All artists, programs and dates are subject to change.