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PLAYING AROUND

I couldn’t wait to see the film “Billy Elliot” after its release in 2000. The irresistible story of an 11-year-old boy who discovers ballet to escape the hard realities of a decaying English mining town and the energetic, aggressive dancing spoke to my predilection for British accents and musicals.

When it became a staged musical in 2005, I lumped it in with the pile of productions recycled from old movies. Sure, many of those have been good, but most of them have not broken new ground. Even with music by Elton John, it wasn’t high on my list.

So, I didn’t have high expectations when I saw the touring production of “Billy Elliot the Musical” at the Times-Union Center for Performing Arts Feb. 26.

Instead, I was blown away.

It’s rare to see a musical that stretches the medium, but “Billy Elliot the Musical” does just that. Instead of simply telling the story from the movie, the creative team reimagined the narrative as if it were originally being told in the musical format.

It probably helps that the original production was directed by Stephen Daldry and choreographed by Peter Darling, the same team behind the movie.

The songs aren’t particularly memorable; you won’t find yourself singing them to yourself as you walk out of the theater. But the music drives the fantastic staging and unbridled choreography throughout.

The first scenes are a bit slow, but once the dancing starts, it’s mesmerizing. “Solidarity” acts as a montage of Billy’s growth from clumsy boxer to ballet prodigy set against the growing clashes between police and striking miners. The scene juxtaposes pixie ballerinas and rugged miners as they intertwine in one building dramatic conflict.

When Grandma tells Billy about her complex relationship with his late grandpa during “We’d Go Dancing,” we see their feisty, flirtatious relationship played out in a bar full of …   More

PLAYING AROUND

The Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park announced The Allman Brothers Band and Widespread Panic will play two nights at the Wanee Music Festival held April 18-20 in Live Oak, Fla.

This will be the Allman Brothers’ eighth year hosting Wanee and Widespread Panic’s third year headlining the fest.

Also on the ticket: Gov’t Mule, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Robert Randolph & The Family Band, Leon Russell, Towner of Power, Les Claypool’s Duo De Twang, Electric Hot Tuna, Maceo Parker, Steel Pulse, North Mississippi Allstars, Blackberry Smoke, Galactic and Friends, The Greyboy Allstars, Voice of the Wetland All-Stars featuring Tab Benoit, Cyril Neville, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, Jumpin Johnny Sansone, Waylon Thibodeaux, Johnny Vidacovich; Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Royal Southern Brotherhood, Bobby Lee Rodgers Trio, The Lee Boys, Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, The Revivalists, Monophonics, Boombox, Oli Brown Band, Flannel Church, The Yeti Trio and Jorma Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch.

VIP tickets have already sold out, but general admission tickets priced at $205 are available now through April 8.

For more information about Wanee, visit the festival website.   More

PLAYING AROUND

Sarah Emerson will install a mural based on her own imaginary interpretation of Aokigahara, Japan’s forest, from March 11-22 at the Haskell Atrium Gallery in the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville. 

MOCA Curator Ben Thompson is encouraging visitors to come to the museum and interact with Emerson while she is painting. 

After 14 days of work, the three-wall mural will be complete to close the second season of Project Atrium. Emerson will give a presentation of her work at 2 p.m. March 22. The exhibit opens March 23 and continues through July 7.

Emerson’s mural “Underland” is a continuation of a series of paintings she has created based on the dark reality of Aokigahara, a forest in Japan that is a popular place for suicide. The rock is magnetized, sometimes compasses won’t work, and people get lost and can’t find their way out, Emerson said.

“I was really fascinated by this gray area, this natural place exists that can swallow people and embody this kind of journey that you might not get out of,” Emerson said. “It’s a nice parallel for the way I kind of view life, which is a very beautiful thing and then also very dark and scary at the same time.”

“Underland” has become a real narrative in my work with a sense of innocence and paradise lost, Emerson said. The mural will embody a gaping forest scene filled with trees, black holes, animals and imagery throughout.

“If anything I kind of want the viewer to feel a little innocence and corrupted at the same time,” Emerson said.

It’s a very dark subject that is rendered superficially, but it’s rendered in a very pleasant and colorful manner, Thompson said.

“I’m really excited to work with her because she is still relatively unknown,” Thompson said. “She has a following, but some of the artists we have presented are probably a little bit further along in …   More

Playing Around

The City of St. Augustine and the rich cultural diversity it represents has survived as the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the continental United States. In celebration of the 450th founding anniversary of St. Augustine, Ancient City Mosaic will display 450 works of art by local and regional artists.

Each of the 450 works, one for each year of the history of St. Augustine, will be of the artists’ depiction of a historical landmark, event, figure or tradition relevant to St. Augustine.

Entries will be accepted — one per artist — through April 15 at St. Augustine's City Hall, Lightner Building, 450th Offices, Lobby B on the third floor, 75 King St., St. Augustine.

Registration for the event is $10 for adults (18 and older), which includes the canvas. Canvases for adults must be picked up at the Michaels Stores location at 310 CBL Dr., St. Augustine. A $10 gift card to Michaels Stores will be given to the first 100 people to register and pick up their canvases at Michaels Stores, which is sponsoring the event.

Children (17 and under) may receive a free 8-inch-by-10-inch canvas through participating St. Johns County Schools. For schools that do not have Ancient City Mosaic canvases, students may pick them up at City Hall in Lobby C on the fourth floor, 75 King St. The registration cost is $5 for children to submit their artwork to the Ancient City Mosaic Project.

Project organizers seek local artists who wouldn’t normally have an opportunity to display their work. Artists of all ages and skill levels are encouraged to participate in this commemoration of the nation’s oldest city. Any medium that will fit on the supplied canvas will be accepted.

The selected art will be displayed at all six St. Johns County Public Library locations and the St. Augustine Art Association from May 3 to June 1. The 450-piece mosaic will be displayed June 15 through Aug. 10 with a reception honoring the artists and …   More

PLAYING AROUND

A film written by a Jacksonville resident will screen in the same theater where the Oscars are handed out in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Best Friends Films’ “The Other Half,” written by Jacksonville’s Sharon Y. Cobb, received runner-up honors and $1,000 in cash and prizes in the 48 Go Green International Film Competition.

The short film will screen with other winners on April 19, about two months after Hollywood stars pick up their Oscars Feb. 24, at The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.

In the Go Green film competition filmmakers must create the concept, write the script, cast, film and edit the film all within the 48-hour time limit.

“The Other Half” is about Albert Smith, a young man searching for the girl in a torn photograph he discovered. Meanwhile, Lark Green is trying to teach the world ways to save the environment, but no one will give her the time of day. She seeks a boy in torn photo, because she believes he will help her save the world.

Cobb, a member of the Writers Guild of America, is also director of the University of North Florida Writers Conference and teaches literature classes at UNF. She also created the comedy website FunnyFixx.com and produces the web series “Thurapy.”

Best Friends Films, led by producer/director Marc Boese, had their film “Way Off the Grid” selected among the top-rated films for the 2011 competition.   More

PLAYING AROUND

The St. Johns Cultural Council honors women in the community for making significant contributions in the arts with its fifth annual Recognizing Outstanding Women in the Arts (ROWITA) ceremony at 6 p.m. March 10 in the Black Box of the Limelight Theatre in St. Augustine.

These women will be honored and recognized during the program followed by a reception. The keynote speaker is Jean Rahner, co-founder of Limelight. The 2013 winners are Diane Bradley, Debbie McDade, Patti Rang, Mary Siess and Wendy Tatter.

Bradley is an educator of the arts and a visual artist who is passionate about youth involvement in the art world. For the past eight years, Bradley has jointly presented the Annual All-County High School and Middle School Arts Show alongside the St. Johns County Schools. Bradley also led to the creation of the annual Tactile Show for the blind and visually impaired, which is now in its 12th year. Bradley continues to donate her time and efforts to the St. Augustine Art Association by managing their biggest fundraiser, the annual Spring and Fall Art and Craft Festivals and the Nature and Wildlife Exhibition.

McDade is a jazz singer who went to New York as a teenager to pursue her career. McDade is listed in the Encyclopedia of Jazz, and she adopted the stage name Debby Moore, which was given to her by Louis Armstrong. McDade released her record, My Kind of Blues in 1959. McDade sang alongside American jazz pianist Earl “Fatha” Hines and has also starred in movies while working in Japan. McDade is active in community efforts, while serving a board member of Excelsior Museum and Cultural Center and the Foot Soldiers Memorial Project.

Rang has been a cultural advocate and re-enactor in the creation and organization of events to celebrate the colonial life of St. Augustine for more than 30 years. She is a leader and contributing member of the East Florida Rangers and the 60th Regiment of Foot in local and regional events. Rang wrote a cookbook …   More

PLAYING AROUND

Three days of activities will mark the 2013 Jazz Festival in Downtown Jacksonville May 23-26. Among the performers are BWB featuring Rick Braun, Kirk Whatum and Norman Brown, Euge Groove, Gerald Albright, Gregory Porter, Poncho Sanchez and the Yellowjackets.

In addition to the music on three stages, there will be Art in the Heart Downtown, an art show and sale, the Jacksonville Jazz Piano Competition, Youth Jazz Talent Showcase, jazz brunch, exhibits and display. Most of the activities are free and open to the public.

For additional information, go the website or follow the festival on Twitter or Facebook.   More

Playing Around

The Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville selected dance instructor Claudia Kuendig-Williams and sculptor David Engdahl as winners of the 37th annual Arts & Culture Awards with a celebration to be held 5:30-8:30 p.m. Friday, April 12, at the Main Library Downtown.

Kuendig-Williams, an instructor at Brentwood Elementary School for the Arts, Riverside Presbyterian Day School and the Cathedral Arts Project, will be honored with the Arts Educator Award, according to a statement from the Cultural Council.

Engdahl, retired chief architect for the Haskell Company, will be honored with the Innovator Award for his work with the Museum of Science & History, the CoRK Arts District and the Northeast Florida Sculptors.

The Jacksonville Chapter of the American Institute of Architects will receive the Business Arts Award for its volunteer work on MOSH’s “Jacksonville by Design” exhibit as well as work with City Beautiful Jax, the University of North Florida and Florida A&M University.

Each award winner will receive a custom piece from Ponte Vedra sculptor Lucy Clark. The event will feature work by local artist Jeff Whipple.

Tickets to the event are $75. For more information, go to culturalcouncil.org.   More

Playing Around

St. Augustine artist Martha Rose Cardot-Greiner is participating in the group exhibit “The Power of Perception” at Raw Art Space next month in New York. The exhibit is on display from March 1-15 with a reception 6-9 p.m. March 7.

Cardot-Greiner captures moments in everyday life that are often overlooked by applying meticulous detail through various mediums.

She grew up on a farm in a small town in Pennsylvania and learned to appreciate the simplicity and beauty in the natural world. Cardot-Greiner aims to educate her viewers while also providing an enriching aesthetic experience.

A local artist based in St. Augustine with her own studio and boutique, Cardot-Greiner specializes in colored-pencil, graphite and lead drawings, oil paintings and handmade jewelry. She incorporates real gems from all over the world into her artwork paired with other components to make each piece unique. Cardot-Greiner’s art takes stagnant objects and suggests movement. She also applies India Inks to her art for vibrant colors to make the subject stand out.   More

Playing Around

Katt Williams' show tonight (Feb. 8), planned for Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, was canceled due to weather conditions, according to a news release from SMG.

His travel arrangements from the West Coast to the East Coast were changed, preventing him from performing in Jacksonville.

Refunds are available at the point of purchase, according to the statement. For more information, contact the Veterans Memorial Arena at 630-3900.   More

 
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