Posted March 08, 2024

Swivel with Elvis, Sing with Seasons, Skate to Family Feud

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By Harriet Howard Heithaus

TheatreZone is 20 years old this coming season and is looking ahead, not behind, with a pair of movie-based musicals and an unearthed gem. But there must be a blockbuster, so Artistic Director Mark Danni snared Jersey Boys, the head-bobbing jukebox bio of The Four Seasons, for its significance and popularity.


Jersey Boys was nominated for Broadway’s best musical the same year TheatreZone incorporated. (It won the award.)

Otherwise, there are new names: “Our audience has been with us so long, I didn’t want them to be, ‘Oh, they’re doing that again.’ So I said, ‘Let’s do something fresh and new.’”

The fresh and new include Once, a sweet story of a chance relationship over shared heartbreaks and needs in Dublin, and Ghost, a tale of efforts from beyond by a sweetheart who wants to keep his beloved from the man behind his murder. Both are musicals that began as films, a growing pattern for new millennium musicals.

Today’s musical theater also employs crossovers from other genres, Danni pointed out. Dave Stewart, leader of the rock group Eurythmics, and Glenn Ballard, who cowrote Alanis Morissette’s Grammy winning disc Jagged Little Pill, are the songwriters for Ghost: The Musical.

The February surprise among these is The Rink, a mid-career Kander & Ebb collaboration that starred Chita Rivera and Liza Minnelli as an estranged mother and daughter. It deals with themes that should be extremely familiar to Neapolitans:

  • Change: Mom is about to lose her somewhat rundown roller rink, a Boardwalk piece of history, to land developers for condos or a hotel or shops. But her daughter remembers its significance in the community and for their family in particular.
  • Familial stress: The main character has had no real relationship with her daughter for 12 years, yet they are now facing each other and perhaps—just perhaps—changing that.

“This is a show that I started looking at with the start of TheatreZone,” Danni said. “It is a very amazing score by John Kander.”


The Rink is of 1984 vintage but the script, initially from Arthur Laurents, was rewritten by Terrence McNally. Then the staging was changed from simple and small to a chorus-fed version. Then it was changed again—and then rights were pulled, according to Danni’s recollection.

Danni said he was bemoaning the fact he had not been able to secure it to Chris Dieman, the actor who played Jerry Lee Lewis in Theatre-Zone’s Million Dollar Quartet. Dieman, as it happens, also is music assistant to Kander.

“He says, ‘Oh, give me 24 hours,’” Danni recalled. Within a day they had the rights and even received a note from Kander saying how excited he was that TheatreZone was planning a production. “I love it. I think it’s a unique show. It’s perfect for our space,” Danni declared.

TheatreZone, as always, opens with its Home for the Holidays production of seasonal song and dance Dec. 20-22, but this coming season is being extended to June.

Ghost is onstage June 5-15.
Because the G & L Theatre handles end-of-school year use for academic functions, the earliest that play could be staged was at the end of May.

“But the end of May always seems to be crazy for everybody. You get to June and everyone is ready for a breath and are looking for things to do, and they probably haven’t left on their vacations yet,” Danni said.

He’s seen the summer traffic on Collier County roads: “There are a lot of freaking people down here. I think we’re going to be fine.”

TheatreZone will again bring in The Mersey Beatles for a show, and this year, it’s emphasizing an anniversary, too. It will replicate the set list The Beatles used when they played New York’s Shea Stadium in 1965, the year after the venue opened. Baby boomers may not be pleased with the math: That was 60 years ago next year.

And a new concert will offer Memories of Elvis, with three musical stars singing the icon’s music over three eras of his life.

Tickets—including individual seats—go on sale Monday, March 11, online at Tickets are $50, $65 or $85, depending on seat selection.

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