In our world, before March 2020, November and December would mark the start of the busy holiday performance season in Tampa Bay and beyond. Today in what is dubbed the new normal, many live theatres are reluctant to open and remain on extended intermission during this historic pandemic.
Like Broadway itself, Tampa Bay theatres still err on the side of caution. Many theatres have innovated to connect with you during this unprecedented time while their stages remain dark. Others have cautiously reopened following rigorous CDC guidelines for you, their cast, and crew’s safety.
Though this holiday season is certainly unique, several local community and professional theatres are doing their best to provide you a fun, holiday-themed outlet during a pandemic, whether in-person or virtual.
The Free Press contacted Tampa Bay Theatres to see what seasonal performances they were gifting our community.
It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play will run December 18-27 and be fully virtual.
“It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play honors the beloved classic with an engaging and captivating telling that combines the fun of radio drama with the intimacy of live video streaming into the homes of families from all over. I have produced this play seven times throughout my career, and I have never looked forward to it more than I do this year,” said CEO/Producing Artistic Director Stephanie Gularte. “The opportunity to experience this story about the power of community and family, and about treasuring that which matters most in our lives, promises to be a fulfilling and joyful way to conclude the year 2020.”
The full schedule can be found on the calendar on their website homepage, as well as https://tickets.americanstage.org/TheatreManager/1/login?event=2158. americanstage.org
Carrollwood Cultural Center
Performed by Friends & Family of the Carrollwood Cultural Center, Under the Mistletoe, A Virtual Christmas Special recalls times gone past with a virtual variety show filled with holiday stories as well as vocal, instrumental, and dance performances. Online performances are on December 4 & 5 at 8 pm and December 6 at 4 pm. Tickets are $10.
Performed by MAS Theatre, the holiday staple, It’s A Wonderful Life, is presented as a radio-style theatre show. Ittells the story of George Bailey and how everything changes when a wish never to be born gets heard by an angel in need of his wings. George sees just how much of an impact his life actually made. In theatre or virtual performances are December 11 and 12 at 8 pm, and December 13 at 4 pm. Tickets are $20 in the theatre, $10 online. Temperature checks, masks, and socially-distanced assigned seating are required.
Aaron Washington, events coordinator, said, “For December, we wanted to focus on the togetherness and special bonds we form throughout the year and how important that is today even more important. Both of these projects were created through love, appreciation, and respect we have for the arts, our home, and our community.” Carrollwoodcenter.org
Carrollwood Players Theatre
The CWP holiday tradition, A Christmas Carol, brings the redemption tale of Ebenezer Scrooge to a limited audience on the Mainstage, December 4 – 19, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 2 pm and 8 pm, and Sundays at 2 pm. The lobby opens 30 minutes before the show. Early patrons are asked to wait in your cars until the lobby opens. Temperature checks, masks, and socially-distanced assigned seating are required.
Streaming online on November 28 at 8 pm and November 29 at 2 pm is the original production, A Christmas Cannoli. Local playwright Joe Pauly has transformed Charles Dickens’ characters into an over-the-top, colorful collection of mobsters.
Producer Zach “Hippie” Griswold said, “A Christmas Cannoli will be completely virtual over Zoom on our end. No actors will be together. One of the best parts is we have people performing from all over Florida. People who live almost 2 hours away get to participate due to the virtual nature of the show.” carrollwoodplayers.org
Francis Wilson Playhouse
A musical celebration of Christmas, Christmas on Broadway debuts on December 11 at 8 pm. To ring in the New Year, Francis Wilson Playhouse will be hosting an online New Year’s Eve Live Party Event on December 31 at 10:30 pm. Both events can be viewed on the playhouse website or YouTube channel.
Elizabeth Lott, the box office manager, said, “It’s a wonderful free concert to start the New Year. Francis Wilson is here. We’re not going anywhere. We’re still here after 90 years.” franciswilsonplayhouse.org
freeFall Theatre has innovated social distanced theatre with an outdoor, drive-in concert series. The beloved A Christmas Carol in Concert is as a limited engagement musical December 11 – 24, Wednesdays through Sundays at 6:30 pm and 8:30 pm (select days). General tickets are $75 and premium $99, per vehicle up to 4 occupants.
“Four socially-distanced actors, separated by plexiglass dividers, perform the musical score while the story is told on three large screens mounted to the exterior of freeFall’s building facing First Avenue North. The audio is broadcast to the vehicle through its radio or a free app for smart devices. War of the Worlds was so popular that it had to be extended through December 6. Spaces go very fast,” said Matthew McGee, Director of Community Outreach. freefalltheatre.com
New Tampa Players
December will be “Home for the Holidays with NTP.” Their website will feature cast reunions, catching up with the NTP family, and decorating their new space for the holidays.
Between November 27 and December 15, NTP will host a holiday fundraiser. When you donate to NTP, they will put a star ornament on their tree with your name on it and send you an NTP holiday ornament.
“During December, we will be celebrating the successes of 2020, hosting virtual cast reunions, and catching up with our NTP family during our “Home for the Holidays with NTP,” said NTP president Nora Paine. “NTP has many exciting things coming in 2021, and we will have a holiday opportunity to support NTP as we grow.” newtampaplayers.org/homefortheholidays
Written by Powerstories founder Fran Powers with music by Terez Hartman, Raising Twelve on a Nickel and a Prayer is a musical spanning three Christmas seasons, beginning in 1950 and closing in 1966. It follows the love story, adventures, and trials and tribulations of Betty, who dreams of having 12 children, and Harold, her husband, a Navy sailor.
Streaming will be available as a limited engagement, one weekend only on December 18 through December 20 at 8 pm. With a $12 donation to the theatre’s GoFundMe campaign, patrons will be emailed a link to the production.
Friday features buy a link, and the theatre sends a link to your family member across the miles. On Saturday, when a link is purchased, another will be sent to a local family. On Sunday, for every $12 donation, a link will be given to a local military family.
“I lived this Christmas story of being raised in a large family,” said Powers. “It was filled with adventures, hardships, and dreams coming true.” powerstories.com
Ruth Eckerd Hall
Ruth Eckerd Hall starts the holiday season with GRAMMY® nominated, multi-platinum selling band, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s Wild & Swingin’ Holiday Party onSunday, December 13 at 8 pm. Tickets are priced at $53.75, $43.75, $33.75.
Next is Michael W. Smith Christmas. The iconicmulti-platinum singer and songwriter Michael W. Smith brings his festive show to Ruth Eckerd Hall, featuring holiday classics and a full band on Sunday, December 20 at 7 pm. Tickets are priced at $82.75, $72.75, $62.75
Comedian Anthony Rodia ends the holiday season with New Year’s Eve onThursday, December 31 at 7:30 pm at The Bilheimer Capitol Theatre. Tickets are priced at $70, $55.
Straz Center for the Performing Arts
On December 11 – 23, Next Generation Ballet®‘s Nutcracker Outdoor Wonderland be anoutdoor performance event that will take place throughout the Straz Center campus and on the Riverwalk Stage. The ballets re-imagines the traditional holiday favorite through an immersive experience that will lead you through all the ballet’s memorable moments while strolling through the Straz Center campus. Created by NGB Artistic Director Philip Neal and his team of dance magicians, Nutcracker Outdoor Wonderland features the NGB’s award-winning dancers … along with a special visit from Santa. Tickets are $33.50 for children 17 and under and $48.50.
On December 18-20, Opera Tampa’s Home for the Holidays is a concert full of Christmas spirit and cheerful carols that will have you singing right along. Tables that seat up to four people are $99.50, pairs of seats in the mezzanine are $55.50, and a limited number of single seats are available on the balcony for $35.50.
The full schedule of performance times can be found on their website. Health screening, temperature checks, masks, and socially-distanced assigned seating are required. strazcenter.org
Suncoast Broadway Dinner Theatre
On November 20 – December 27, Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings is a funny holiday sequel where the Plaids return from the afterlife for a Christmas special. Tickets are $59 and include a served buffet meal. The full schedule of performance times can be found on their website. Health screening, temperature checks, masks, and socially-distanced assigned seating are required. suncoastbroadway.com
On December 5-19, Sorry! Wrong Chimney! In this rollicking holiday comedy, David, a struggling young executive, is moonlighting as a department store Santa so that he can buy his wife Samantha an expensive fur for Christmas. He tells her he’s working at the office late, but when she finds out he is not at the office, suspicions arise, and hilarity ensues. Masks and socially-distanced assigned seating are required.Tickets are $20, $17 members. tarponarts.org
On Saturday, December 12, and Sunday, December 13 at 3 pm and 7 pm at Stageworks Theatre, ThinkTank Theatre presentsHoliday Festivus Variety Show Spectacular, an evening of Holiday Stories, Factoids, Scenes, Songs and Sketches.
“Hosted by Park County’s own (almost) Broadway Veteran, alongside the local Singer/Song Writing Team, the former High School Theatre Guild Director, and the cast, crew, and staff of local community college interns trying to get their final production credit for the semester, this ragtag group is sure to supply viewers with plenty of laughs and enjoyment,” said Georgia Mallory Guy, artistic director.
Socially Distanced Limited Seating for Performances is available with a live streaming option available for December 13. Socially Distanced seating and streaming are pay-what-you-can with a suggested $20 donation for adults and $15 for children in elementary through high school. Thinktanktheatre.com
When you are deciding on a present this holiday season, consider the gift of live theatre. Theatres across Tampa Bay are struggling to stay afloat, and every show ticket or season ticket purchased helps lessen the burden and allows their doors to reopen in 2021. On GivingTuesday, December 1, consider donating to your favorite theatre. All donations are tax-deductible.