Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

8 must-see Sarasota arts events in 2024

The arts are alive and well in Sarasota’s vibrant cultural scene, and 2024 has the potential to be a record-breaking year.

  • Arts + Culture
  • Share

As you take down the tree and drop friends and family at the airport, it's easy to catch a case of the post-holiday blues. Don't worry — your loved ones will be back in no time. Spring break is just around the corner, and there are plenty of reasons to visit Sarasota in 2024, if you're not lucky enough to live here. 

It’s going to be a memorable year for several reasons. First of all, 2024 is a leap year, so there’s another day — and night — to enjoy Sarasota’s vibrant cultural scene. It’s also a presidential election year. That bodes well for the stock market, which has delivered an average annual return of 9.9% since 1937 in years when voters head to the polls.

Fatter investment accounts create a wealth effect, fueling discretionary spending on travel and entertainment, sweet spots for Sarasota.

In a boom town filled well-heeled retirees and snowbirds, the downside is the dreaded FOMO — fear of missing out. And in a jam-packed season, high-profile events sell out fast. Everybody wants to be in the room where it happens, to crib from a song in “Hamilton.”

Tickets are already sold out for the Forks & Corks food and wine festival, which moved to Jan. 22-29 after the April 2023 dates left some attendees warmer than they wanted to be.

However, there are still tickets for the historical hip-hop musical “Hamilton” at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. The show’s run, from March 26 to April 7, promises to return the Van Wezel and the Sarasota arts scene to the glory days of 2019.

That was the year “The Lion King” came to the Van Wezel, attracting more than 37,000 ticket buyers who spent $3.5 million at the box office during a three-week period. It was also the year before the pandemic shut down theaters and other live entertainment venues, closures from which they have yet to recover fully.

While national arts attendance is down between 25% and 33% since the pandemic, it has declined just 6.5% in Sarasota County, according to the Arts and Cultural Alliance. The arts are alive and well in Florida’s Cultural Coast, and 2024 has the potential to be a record-breaker if not in attendance, certainly in dollars, as inflation pushes up ticket prices.

There's still good bang for the buck in Sarasota, especially for subscribers, who pay less for seats or admission. Whether you get your ticket through a subscription package or buy it individually, here are eight shows and exhibitions you won't want to miss this year.

'The Lehman Trilogy' 

Jan. 31 to March 24. Florida Studio Theatre's Gompertz Theatre. $39-$56. Visit

"The Lehman Trilogy" plays at FST's Gompertz Theatre from Jan. 31 to March 24.
Courtesy image

Where were you a little before midnight on Jan. 14, 2008? That's when The Wall Street Journal sent out a news alert that Lehman Brothers would file bankruptcy the next day. The collapse of the storied investment firm helped accelerate the housing crisis, but the Lehman family had 163 years of history before that fateful filing. Stefano Massini's three-act play follows the family's trajectory during that time period. The Tony Award winner, adapted by Ben Power, makes its Sunshine State premiere at Florida Studio Theatre in a production running three hours and 20 minutes with two intermissions.

'Yayoi Kusama: A Letter to Georgia O’Keeffe'

Feb. 11 to June 30. Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. $26. Visit

Today, 94-year-old Yayoi Kusama is arguably the most famous living female artist in the world. She is certainly the most recognizable with her trademark red wig and her colorful clothing decorated with dots. But back in the 1950s, Kusama was a young woman living in Japan who was unsure about her ability to earn a living through art. She wrote to artist Georgia O'Keeffe, who wrote back and advised Kusama to move to New York. An exhibition at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens from Feb. 11 to June 30 explores the fateful connection between Kusama and O'Keeffe. 

'Lucia di Lammermoor'

The Sarasota Opera presents "Lucia di Lammermoor" from Feb. 24 to March 23.
Courtesy image

Feb. 24 to March 23. Sarasota Opera House. $42-$155. Visit

Prepare for an evening of music, madness and murder as Sarasota Opera performs Donizetti's bel canto masterpiece "Lucia di Lammermoor." Based on Sir Walter Scott's "The Bride of Lammermoor," the opera tells the story of a man who promises his sister's hand to a nobleman instead of allowing her to marry the man she loves. Last seen at the Opera in 2012, "Lucia di Lammermoor" stars soprano Ashley Milanese, who makes her company debut in the title role. Christopher Oglesby plays Lucia’s star-crossed lover Edgardo and Jean Carlos Rodriguez is Enrico, Lucia's brother. 


Feb. 28 to April 7. Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe. $50. Visit

The musical “Ruby” is finally making its world premiere at Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe. Directed by Nate Jacobs, who also had a hand in the music and lyrics, “Ruby” chronicles how Zora Neale Hurston came to Florida in the early 1950s to cover the story of a Black woman accused of murdering a white doctor. “Ruby” was originally scheduled for WBTT’s 2019-20 season, but was delayed due to the pandemic. It was postponed until January 2022 and was canceled again after cast members tested positive for Covid. Third time’s the charm, right?

'Rhapsody in Blue @ 100'

March 15-17. Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. $39-$100. Visit

Pianist Michelle Cann will be the soloist for Sarasota Orchestra's Gershwin concert, "Rhapsody in Blue @ 100."
Courtesy image

Sarasota Orchestra Creative Partner Peter Oundjian returns to Sarasota to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the premiere of George Gershwin’s "Rhapsody in Blue." Pianist Michelle Cann is the soloist for this iconic work as well as for Florence Price’s Piano Concerto. The concert opens on an irreverent note with Rossini’s "Overture to the Thieving Magpie" and concludes with Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, considered to be one of the Russian composer's most personal pieces.

'Cirque des Voix'

March 22-23. Sailor Circus Arena. $50-$100. Visit

Key Chorale and Circus Arts Conservatory team up to present Cirque du Voix from March 22-23 at Sailor Circus Arena.
Courtesy image

"Cirque des Voix," the Circus Arts Conservatory’s collaboration with Key Chorale, returns for its 13th year with a new program. The show brings a whole new meaning to the word "circus" as aerialists and other Circus Arts performers are accompanied by Key Chorale and the Cirque Orchestra.

'Portraits of Expression'

April 5-6. Sarasota Opera House. $35-$125. Visit

Jan. 22, 2024, marks the 100th anniversary of iconic choreographer George Balanchine's birthday and Sarasota Ballet is celebrating Mr. B in a big way. "Portraits of Expression," the sixth program of the ballet's season, begins with "Emeralds," the first of three acts in Balanchine's masterpiece "Jewels," with music by Gabriel Fauré. "Who Cares?" shows what happens when Balanchine meets Gershwin. It features a series of solos, duets, quartets and ensemble pieces. "Who Cares?" closes the program, which also includes Sir Kenneth McMillan's "Las Hermanas."

'Parisian Refraction'

May 9-11. Historic Asolo Theater at The Ringling. $30-$40. Visit

George Nickson and Samantha Bennett are co-artistic directors of contemporary classical music group EnsembleNewSRQ.
Image courtesy of Matthew Holler

In 2023, EnsembleNewSRQ performed at the Sarasota Opera House for the first time. This year, the contemporary classical music group is crossing another venue off their list as they take the stage in The Ringling's Historic Asolo Theater. The jewelbox theater will host EnsembleNewSRQ's "Parisian Refraction" three-day music festival from May 9-11. The adventurous four-concert series “explores works and composers that either embody Paris, have been commissioned by groups in the city, or are deeply inspired or affected by the French capital.” Percussionist George Nickson and violinist Samantha Bennett, the husband-and-wife team who are co-artistic directors of EnsembleNewSRQ, definitely fall into the latter category.



Monica Roman Gagnier

Monica Roman Gagnier is the arts and entertainment editor of the Observer. Previously, she covered A&E in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for the Albuquerque Journal and film for industry trade publications Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

Latest News