Big acts, Broadway plays highlight new Van Wezel season
The biggest stars of Broadway, the comedy world and popular music will converge on Sarasota this season at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.
| 4:00 p.m. August 28, 2022
Arts + Culture
Bring the comedy. Hold the cars and coffee.
The new season at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall will feature some of the biggest names in comedy, Broadway and popular music, starting with an appearance by Jerry Seinfeld in September and winding all the way through tributes to ABBA and the Beatles next May.
Seinfeld will play two shows at the Van Wezel on Sept. 30, and he’ll be followed by a flood of prominent comedians including Leanne Morgan (Oct. 16), Paul Reiser (Nov. 20), Daniel Tosh (Nov. 27), Lewis Black (Dec. 1) and Jay Leno (March 28, 2023). Mary Bensel, the executive director of the Van Wezel, is excited to welcome Seinfeld as an opening act.
“It’s a time to laugh, don’t you think?” she says. “Jerry has been here a couple times before and every time he is just hilarious, so we're thrilled to have him kick off the season. We have a big a big one with comedy, with Paul Reiser and Daniel Tosh, Lewis Black, Jay Leno and of course, the Smothers Brothers, Rita Rudner and Robert Klein.”
There’s more to the season than comedy.
The Van Wezel will bring the powerful voices of Mandy Patinkin (Feb. 16), Frank Valli (Jan 15), Paul Anka (March 29), Bonnie Raitt (Nov. 28), Foreigner (Nov. 17) and Michael Bolton (March 26) to the stage next season.
The season will also have a variety of tribute acts including "Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story" (Oct. 22) and "Get Happy: Michael Feinstein Celebrates the Judy Garland Centennial" (Feb. 7).
"Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles" and "The Concert: A Tribute to ABBA" will close out the season in May.
Bensel says longtime theater aficionados will know the depth of Patinkin’s talents, but she thinks that people who are devotees of his film work may be a bit perplexed.
“He's one of the greatest stars of Broadway,” says Bensel. “It always makes me laugh when I talk to younger people. They of course, know him from his film careers. 'The Princess Bride' and then 'Chicago Hope,' 'Homeland.'
"He has one of the most beautiful voices I've ever heard in my life. And so this will be a concert. It will actually be three years, I believe, to the day he was last here, which was right before we had to shut down for the pandemic.”
The Blue Man Group will be making their Sarasota debut on Jan.31, and Bensel suggests sitting up close for maximum immersion. Cirque Musica will seek to blow your mind with their collection of aerialists and circus artists on Dec. 17.
There will also be a host of interesting dance groups including MOMIX: Alice (Feb. 8), Ailey II (Feb. 23), The Hip Hop Nutcracker (Dec. 10), Kolo (Dec. 26) and Riverdance (Jan 10.) Last but not least, there’s also a large grouping of Broadway shows. "Aladdin" will be making its Sarasota premiere in January, and it will be closely followed by "Mean Girls" in April.
The Van Wezel will also show "Tootsie," "Cats" and "Disney Princess: The Concert."
“Broadway is my favorite,” says Bensel. “I wanted to have a big, happy show for the season that would really make people feel good about themselves. That's Disney's 'Aladdin' in my book.
"Then we have another full-week show, which is 'Mean Girls,' and that's Tina Fey’s show, which is very funny. And it's really it's quite a modern show. I really think we sometimes miss that niche of shows for teenagers up through their 40s.”