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Theater troupe ready for its silver season

The Largo Cultural Center also will feature a children's series and bands that draw boomers.

By RITA FARLOW, Times Staff Writer
Published August 30, 2007


LARGO - When the curtain rises on a performance of Gaslight at the Largo Cultural Center on Sept. 14, it marks more than just the start of the new theater season.

The show, a psychological thriller set in Victorian-era London, also launches the 25th year of Eight O'Clock Theatre, the center's resident theater company.

"I think we're going to have a blockbuster season," said Betsy Byrd, Eight O'Clock's business manager.

The Gaslight cast, which director Rand Smith calls exceptional, is about midway through rehearsals.

"I think we're on our way to having the best Gaslight anyone's ever seen," Smith said.

Center manager Colin Bissett was equally optimistic about the Broadway series and children's productions.

"I think we've got the best season ever at Largo Cultural Center, without a doubt," Bissett said. "It's so eclectic and has a lot of diversity."

On tap this year for Eight O'Clock's anniversary season are Cabaret, Mame, Lend Me a Tenor and Forever Plaid, a musical comedy about a quartet of young male harmony singers from the 1950s.

The Broadway series will start with An Evening With Groucho, a fast-paced comedy based on the jokes and anecdotes of comedian Groucho Marx.

Other highlights include Beehive: The '60s Musical and Ain't Misbehavin', the Tony award-winning musical revue of black artists from the Harlem Renaissance.

This is the second year for the Broadway series, which provided a big boost for ticket sales last year, Bissett said. That helps offset the financial support provided by the city, which is about $480,000 per year, Bissett said.

The children's series will start off with Break! The Urban Funk Spectacular, a high-energy tribute to break-dancing, an urban dance style that grew out of the hip-hop music movement in the 1970s.

Along with more traditional children's tales like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Ugly Duckling, the series will include Shanghai Circus, a Chinese acrobatic troupe that has performed on Broadway.

In addition to the array of theater productions, the venue will continue to host oldies and tribute bands, which Bissett refers to as "boomer bands," for their ability to draw middle-aged listeners.

Popular groups such as the Kingston Trio and Atlanta Rhythm Section will return. Rick Derringer, perhaps best known for Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo, and Ambrosia will perform for the first time at the center.

Said Bissett: "We've developed a reputation as the best small theater with a big reputation."

For more information, call the Largo Cultural Center at (727) 587-6751.

If you go

Cause for Applause

This year's Partners N Progress gala to support the Largo Cultural Center will honor the 25th anniversary of the center's resident theater company, Eight O'Clock Theatre. "Cause for Applause" will be held Sept. 29. Cocktails, hors d'oeuvres and a silent auction begin at 6:30 p.m., followed by a live auction, dinner at 8 p.m., a musical review from performances over the last 25 years, and dancing. Tickets to the black-tie event are $100. For tickets, call 587-6751.

2007-2008 season

To view the 2007-08 season, visit the center's Web site at www.largoarts.com and Eight O'Clock Theatre's Web site at www.eightoclocktheatre.com. For tickets, call the box office at 587-6793.