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For the final 15 minutes, “Million Dollar Quartet” had the crowd on its feet.

Keep in mind, this came only after a standing ovation that felt more obligatory than any the Artist Series had seen this season. If only the writers allowed these legends to uncork their fire earlier and if only the story was engaging enough to hold it all together.

Don't blame the stars. Cody Ray Slaughter (Elvis Presley), James Barry (Carl Perkins), Scott Moreau (Johnny Cash) and John Countryman (Jerry Lee Lewis) displayed the vocal and musical talent to keep the Times-Union Center's Moran Theater rocking on April 22. But for too long, the 100-minute musical (without an intermission) rests on a thin plot of four legends arriving in Memphis with very different agendas.

Based on the legendary recording session on Dec. 4, 1956, at Sun Records, the jukebox musical takes liberties with the songbook, but that mostly can be forgiven. (Other lesser-known songs and more gospel hits were played at the actual session, which was recorded by Sun founder Sam Phillips.)

To be fair, major hits "Blue Suede Shoes" and "Folsom Prison Blues" kept the opening night crowd tapping their feet, and that finale of "Hound Dog," "Riders in the Sky," "See You Later Alligator" and "Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On" sent many home satisfied.

However, some of the lines in "Million Dollar Quartet" might leave you wondering if these jokes were even funny in 1956. At one point, Sam pleads "Say amen, somebody," and Jerry Lee replies, "Amen, somebody."

No, it wasn't all that bad. Carl points out that "drunks don't buy records," and Johnny's reply, "they just make them," earned one of the night's biggest laughs.

Barry delivers the most memorable performance, though he has the advantage of playing the least-known of the four legends.

As Sam, Vince Nappo has the unenviable task of trying to hold the story together. More than once, he comes running out, begging for applause from the audience. …   More


Daniel Austin will always remember his first time, and stars Amanda Morales and Carl Vorwerk will remember what might be their last for a Northeast Florida audience. The result is a can't-miss production of Venus in Fur, continuing through June 21 at Players by the Sea.

The first-time director collaborates with two actors about to pursue theater in New York on this sexy and mentally stimulating comedy. This should keep Jacksonville Beach's reputation as one of the nation's sexiest suburbs in play for years to come.

For all that talk about sex, the 100-minute comedy without an intermission truly excels in posing questions on pleasure, pain, power, domination, subjugation and freedom while keeping the audience off-balance in this audition-within-a-play work by David Ives.

In Venus in Fur, Thomas (Vorwerk) is at his wit's end after a day of auditioning a "panoply of outcasts" for the starring role of Vanda. The director is ready to go home when in walks an actress of the same name — the mystery doesn't end there. The role of power between director and aspiring actress sets the stage, then the game of seduction ramps it up. Thomas reveals that Venus in Fur is based on a work by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch; masochism is named after Sacher-Masoch, so you know where this is going or you think you do.

First, Vanda (Morales) must convince Thomas to let her read for it: "Anyway, this play is sure amazing. I mean, the parts of it I read. Pretty wild stuff." She's really convincing.

Austin takes major risks with a minimalistic set, a production that's more conceptional than its New York counterpart but with more tongue (you'll have to watch).

All those risks, and it's Morales and Vorwerk who need to whip it good. And they do.

Morales, a graduate of Indiana University (Bloomington) who plans to leave for New York in early July, delivers a commanding performance as the woman on top for most of this romp. She'll remind some of Julia …   More


Country duo Florida-Georgia Line performed a free show March 7 for a large crowd of Jacksonville University students, faculty and their friends and family.

Recently endorsed by superstars Taylor Swift and Keith Urban, Florida-Georgia Line, Tyler Hubbard of Monroe, Ga., and Brian Kelley of Ormond Beach, started their careers playing open mic nights and writing music after crossing paths at Belmont College in Nashville.

The band members talked about how it all began in an interview before the show.

“We met through a mutual friend, got together and started doing our thing. We realized we had a cool thing going with our voices,” Hubbard said. “I don't think we ever expected it to quite happen this fast. We had big dreams and big goals. We had our fingers crossed and we still do.”

After college, the duo set out to make a name for themselves, cramming their equipment in Kelley's Chevy Tahoe and hitting the road. They played acoustic shows and did a number of odd jobs to support themselves along the way. Mowing lawns and cleaning cars, the duo kept pursuing what they wanted to do — make music — with no plan B in the works.

With the release of the duo's first EP in 2010, they began to gain momentum, and the crowds at their shows started to expand. It was May of last year when the boys from opposite sides of the border released their EP titled "It'z Just What We Do," which included the hits “Cruise,” “Get Your Shine On” and “Tip it Back.”

The duo quickly caught the eye of labels when their single “Cruise” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Country Music chart after a mere 19 weeks, climbing to that spot faster than any band since 2006. It sold 100,000 copies even before the band was signed. In July 2012, they signed with Universal Republic Records.

Florida-Georgia Line pumped out all of their hits under the newly opened Larry Strom Amphitheatre on Dolphin Green …   More


Janet Bawcom's performance at the Gate River Run was worth $17,000.

For the young fans she gave high-fives on the race course, smiles were free.

"It's an accomplishment if I can make that kid smile," Bawcom said of sharing the moment with children on the race course before she even had the lead.

After running side by side with Alisha Williams for 7 miles, Bawcom broke away to win her second consecutive Gate River Run title on Saturday, March 9, in Downtown Jacksonville.

In the men's race, Ben True pulled away from Bobby Curtis in the final mile and held on to win his first River Run title, ending Mo Trafeh's three-year run as champion.

"Once I knew that Mo wasn't making the move, I knew it was going to be more of a tactical race," True said. "I was looking forward to it.

"I figured it was going to come down to Bobby and I for a kick."

True finished in 43 minutes, 38 seconds, while Bawcom ran it in 49:44. True could not erase the elite women's head start of 6 minutes, 35 seconds, but he and Bawcom each won $12,000 for claiming the U.S. 15K national championships.

Bawcom is 2 for 2 at the race and hasn't allowed a man to pass her at the River Run, claiming an additional $5,000 for the equalizer bonus each time.

The Brooks Rehabilitation Challenge Mile drew a record 298 competitors, including former Jaguars player Richard Collier, who was paralyzed from the waist down after suffering multiple gunshot wounds in 2008. Collier finished the mile race in 9 minutes, 45 seconds.

After the race, he teared up while talking to reporters and said the race was tougher than he expected.

True, who returned to the River Run after a second-place finish in 2011, beat Curtis by two seconds. Three other men — Ryan Vail (50:18), Sean Quigley (50:20) and Christo Landry (50:21) — finished within eight seconds of True.

The 34-year-old Bawcom, who went by Janet Cherobon when she won her first River Run in 2012, beat Williams, 31, by seven …   More


Starry Nights will return to Metropolitan Park with progressive rocker Chicago and five-time Grammy Award winner Christopher Cross joining the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra for two concert events this spring.

Billed as Jacksonville’s edition of Saturday in the Park with a full orchestra, Chicago rocks out on its 1970s and ‘80s hits on May 31. Christopher Cross, best known for the album “Ride Like the Wind” and singles “Never Be the Same” and “Say You’ll Be Mine,” performs with the symphony on June 6.

The concerts are both set for 8:15 p.m. and gates open at 6 p.m. The concerts take place race or shine, unless conditions put the musicians or concertgoers in danger, symphony officials said during the official announcement on Thursday, March 6.

Subscriptions to both concerts are now available with table seating ranging from $70-$170 per seat and $500-$1,250 for full tables of six or eight. Lawn seating is available at $30 for adults and $10 for children younger than 12.

Single event tickets will go on sale Monday, April 7 — table seats at $35-$85 and full tables at $250-$550. Lawn seating is $15 for adults in advance, $20 at the gate (children are $5).

For more information or to buy tickets, call 354-5547 or visit the box office at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown Jacksonville.


Note: Christopher Cross' Starry Nights concert was originally scheduled for June 7, but it was moved to June 6 after the U.S. men's national team scheduled its Sendoff Series soccer match against Nigeria for June 7.



From getting hacked with a lawnmower blade by Billy Bob Thornton in the classic "Sling Blade" to once being described as Johnny Cash's favorite country singer, Kentucky-born country star Dwight Yoakam is versatile.

He's successful, too. The 56-year-old Yoakam has sold upwards of 25 million albums worldwide over his four-decade career. He didn't disappoint a packed house at The Florida Theatre March 5.

Yoakam blasted his hit "Honky Tonk Man," the song that introduced the singer to the masses, to an enthusiastic crowd. Yoakam's 1986 cover of the Johnny Horton original reached no. 3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles chart, and its music video was the first country music video to ever play on MTV.

When Yoakam strutted his signature shuffle, he received bursts of applause from the crowd. He performed tunes from his early albums, "Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc." (1986) and "Buenas Noches from a Lonely Room"(1988), to his newer albums, "Blame the Vain" (2005) and "3 Pears" (2012).

"Thank you all for listening to our new stuff and giving it a chance," Yoakam said. "We didn't ask you guys beforehand, so I guess you didn't have much of a choice, though."

Yoakam peppered the set with these quips and other funny anecdotes between songs.

"A Heart Like Mine", a single off of "3 Pears," was voted the 39th best song of 2012 by Rolling Stone -- and for good reason. The song is adventurous and it transcends genre, as Yoakam has done his entire career. It's catchy, offering a twangy steel-guitar riff during the verses, and drawn-out indie rock style chorus. The "hook" of the song sticks in your head for hours after you hear it.

Yoakam's lead guitarist, 39-year-old Gene Jaramillo, wore a rhinestone blazer and looked like a last-second fill-in Yoakam picked up from some punk-rock band. He didn't play like one, though. Jaramillo added incredible leads to Yoakam's classic and current songs, without overpowering them.

Yoakam couldn't finish the show without …   More


Beginning March 9 at The Dive Bar in New Orleans, Jacksonville duo Flagship Romance will hit the road on a cross-country tour. Jordyn Jackson and Shawn Fisher will make a stop at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, to perform March 14. Joining bands Man on Earth and Gone by Daylight for most of the tour, they will continue to California and back to the East Coast.

Flagship Romance just finished filming a new music video for Charity Water that will be released March 22 on World Water Day. Charity Water’s mission is to bring clean water to developing countries.

This tour will be a first for Jackson. Because they only found out about the tour a few weeks beforehand, the band has not ironed out all their plans, including where they will sleep. They are planning to play some “living room shows” for friends in hopes of making some extra gas money. With friends in most of the cities they are playing, they are confident that everything will work itself out. Traveling by car, Jackson is concerned about driving through the snow.

“We are Florida people. We don’t know how to drive through snow,” Jackson joked in an interview with Folio Weekly.

Flagship Romance will make stops in Colorado (March 26), Michigan (March 29), Indiana (March 30) and Ohio (April 1) before traveling back down the coast. In Chicago, they will perform March 28 at the Hard Rock Café. In New York City, they will perform in another showcase that includes The New Velvet and Tommy & The High Pilots on April 8. The tour also includes planned stops in Arizona, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

The tour hits Charlotte on April 12, Chapel Hill on April 13 and Atlanta on April 14 before the duo returns home in time to begin One Spark on April 17 in Jacksonville. To follow the duo on their adventure, visit   More


St. Augustine chalk walk organizers are seeking sponsors and volunteers for Paseo Pastel.

The chalked promenade will take place on the grounds around the city parking garage and St. Augustine Visitor Information Center, beginning with an event party 7 p.m. March 22 and continuing through March 24. This event is part of many designed to celebrate the city’s 450th anniversary with a theme of “St. Augustine Living Heritage.”

Organizers say this event is a first for the city, and they plan to schedule it annually through 2015, the year of St. Augustine’s 450th anniversary. They expect 70 artists will be drawing on 4-foot by 6-foot sections of sidewalk 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. March 23.

Visitors can watch as the artists work, then see the finished art March 24 before it is washed away. Admission to the Chalk Walk is free.

Lee Jones, the chalk walk’s featured artist, has participated in chalk festivals across the U.S. Jones hosted a free chalking workshop on Feb. 23, allowing the public to try out chalk art.

Artists participating in the Chalk Walk will be competing for cash prizes. Local businesses will also be involved with the event, which is still seeking more sponsors. Live music will be provided as additional entertainment throughout the weekend.

For more information on St. Augustine’s first Chalk Walk or to get involved, visit the website or email the organizers.   More


After seizing a 2-0 lead on Day 1 at the Davis Cup, a U.S. victory seemed assured with prolific doubles pair Bob and Mike Bryan taking the court for an afternoon match on Feb. 2.

The Bryans, winners of a record 13 Grand Slam doubles titles, lost for only the third time in 23 Davis Cup matches. Brazilians Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares staved off a late rally by the Bryans to win 7-6 (6), 6-7 (7), 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.

"We're obviously disappointed," Bob Bryan said. "We would have loved to get the point for the U.S. I feel like we're capable of playing at a higher level. We'll get back to work and hopefully the guys will get it done on Sunday [Feb. 3], and we'll have another opportunity to make this right [in a Davis Cup semifinal later this year]."

The Bryans squandered three set points in the first-set tiebreaker, then rallied after a challenge reversal gave them new life in the second set.

There was a verbal exchange at the end of the second set between the doubles pairs.

"Yeah, Davis Cup is an emotional atmosphere. They got passionate after they thought they won the set [before the challenge]. I got passionate to them," Bob Bryan said. "There were some words said. You know, no hard feelings, no grudges. It's Davis Cup. This sort of stuff happens all the time."

Soares joked that he wasn't involved: "Marcelo could explain better. ... He's bigger and stronger than me, so I just ran away."

"Bob never did this before," Melo said. "I have him as a friend. In that moment, I [was] in shock. ... At the same time, I want to see the video again to see if he did it to me or to the crowd. If the guy do to the crowd, [it's] OK. It's not OK, but it's not words to say to another player."

Melo and Soares responded by breaking Mike Bryan twice — in the third and fifth sets. They improved to 3-1 all-time against the Bryans, considered by many to be the best men's doubles pair in tennis history.

In the match, the Bryans …   More


You might accuse the Artist Series of having a formula.

When closing out a season, take a 1950s’ icon (or a few) and pop them in a feel-good show that’s heavy on nostalgia with a narrator who’ll make sure no dullards are left in the dust.

In 2014, the Artist Series did that with one of the weakest shows they’ve brought to the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts in years — in Million Dollar Quartet (see Folio Weekly review: Mediocre Quartet).

In 2015, the formula proves tried and true and not totally tired. The legendary Lucy and Ricky Ricardo deliver where Elvis and company could not.

The opening of I Love Lucy Live on Stage proves uneven — a little too much exposition from the Desilu Playhouse Host (played by Mark Christopher Tracy). He offers three too many era-setting 1950s’ quips (at least), and the production would be smarter to run stars Thea Brooks and Euriamis Losada on stage sooner.

Brooks has the stage command and charm to create a lovable Lucy who’s more than enough to carry the comedy past its weaker moments.

Losada has the charisma and voice to wow. Both hit the familiar catchphrases — “you’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do” — for those old enough to remember the groundbreaking show or curious enough to catch episodes on TV Land. Neither goes into caricature in roles that risk just that.

Kevin Remington and Lori Hammel have their moments as Fred and Ethel Mertz with comic chemistry to match Brooks and Losada. The commercial breaks, beginning with one for Brylcreem, mostly hit their marks.

The crowd at the T-U Center was decidedly more, well, experienced than for The Book of Mormon or even Annie, and they went home happy.

Some of those who laughed up Lucy might have walked out of last month’s F-bombing-dropping The Book of Mormon. That’s fine. The theater crowd in Jacksonville is diverse enough and risk-taking enough to …   More