Eric Collins, Robert H. Fowler and Francis Kelly are starting to feel a little like snowbirds.
The three actors arrived in Sarasota two weeks ago and will stay in town until January during the run of their oldies cabaret revue, “The Wanderers.”
All three crooners graced the FST stage last year.
Kelly and Fowler starred in last season’s “Reflections.” Collins, who debuted at FST two seasons ago in “Hula Hoop Sha-Boop,” was last seen in “That’s Life.”
The trio took a break from an afternoon rehearsal last week to discuss what makes Sarasota audiences so special and what foods compel them to break into song.
Why do you keep returning to Sarasota?
Collins: “Sarasota has been a really great artistic home for me over the past few years. FST is great because you get to work on a lot of original work, which is refreshing. The last two pieces I was in have been things that were created here.”
How does a Sarasota audience compare to a New York City audience?
Fowler (laughing): “They’re a little older.”
Kelly: “They’re surprisingly responsive. They’re right along with you.”
Fowler: “Also, being in a cabaret room and singing songs they’re familiar with has kind of an intimate feel. You can see the songs we’re singing remind them of certain things. It hits them in a spot they’re familiar with.”
Kelly: “Plus we are exposed to a variety of individuals. Sarasota has a broader theater audience.”
Collins: “It’s a more varied experience than you might expect from a largely retired community.”
Kelly: “Sarasota feels like a test market for the whole country.”
Fowler: “It’s a microcosm.”
Is it different to sing songs from the 1950s and 1960s to an older crowd than it is to sing to a crowd of 20- or 30-somethings?
Fowler: “There’s always one emotional response.”
Kelly: “Yeah, one time during ‘Reflections’ when we were singing ‘When a Man Loves a Woman,’ there was this older couple and the wife leaned over and grabbed the husband’s hand. I think we had sung their song.”
Collins: “They know the songs. We can’t get away with anything.”
Kelly: “There’s a palpable reaction to things we do that might be lost on a younger audience.”
Have you grown attached to any Sarasota restaurants?
Fowler: “There’s this olive oil place on St. Armands Circle that I’ve taken a liking to.”
Kelly: “We repeatedly patronize Stairway to Belgium, partially for the beer and partially because of the excellent salmon balls. We actually made up a song about the salmon balls.”
You made up a song about salmon balls?
Kelly: “Yeah, Jim Prosser (FST’s resident pianist) recently wished me a happy birthday by writing the lyrics from the song on my Facebook page.”
Can you share one, good it-only-happens-in-Sarasota story?
Collins: “After ‘Hula Hoop’ one year, a gentleman invited us on his yacht. His name was Capt. Jerry Chitwood. He had enjoyed the performance so much that he wanted to give us a tour around Sarasota. He took 11 of us out. We saw dolphins and I remember I got a bad sunburn that day.”
IF YOU GO
“The Wanderers” runs Oct. 13 through Jan. 1 in FST’s Goldstein Cabaret Theatre. For more information, call 366-9000 or visit www.floridastudiotheatre.org.
— Heidi Kurpiela