Manatee Players announce new season, construction continues

Bradenton Herald — Progress has been under way on the new Manatee Players Performing Arts Center in the past few months, although most of it has been behind closed doors.

Inside, construction continues on the venue. Outside, there’s the development of a parking lot and the announcement of a new season.

But still no date on an official opening for the building. The need for $4 million still stands in the way of that.

“We’re still raising funds,” said artistic director Rick Kerby, whose new theater is being built on a pay-as-you-go schedule. “We’re still moving forward, brick by brick.”

Within the $15 million performing arts center off Third Avenue West in downtown Bradenton sit large air conditioning ducts waiting to be installed. Aluminum stud work has gone up throughout, adding definition to interior walls and hallways. A catwalk has been built over the venue’s main stage and 300-seat house and a lighting grid has been installed in what will be the 100-seat studio theater across the hall.

The next step is getting stairways installed for the dressing rooms, the stage and orchestra pit, said Denny Miller, marketing manager.

During a tour of the building, Miller pointed through a side window where construction crews were busy working on a parking lot that will service the theater and Rossi Waterfront Park. The $433,534 lot, built by the city of Bradenton, will accommodate more than 120 cars, Miller said.

Included in that price tag are pavement, fence, curbs, irrigation, lighting and landscaping, said Tim McCann, public information officer for the city. It is the second phase of the city’s waterfront improvement project.

The parking lot should be completed in a couple of weeks, Kerby said.

Though moving into the new building is still a goal to be reached, Kerby said he is excited about a new season filled with classic hits — some of which have never been performed by the theater troupe.

“I think it’s an incredibly strong season, one that will be well received by our patrons,” he said. “It’s upbeat.”

The new season begins Aug. 20 with “Crazy for You.” Overall there are seven musicals and one non-musical, “The Boys Next Door.” Highlights include “Hello Dolly!,” “Annie,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and the brand new musical comedy “Curtains,” which closed last year on Broadway. The Manatee Players will be the first non-professional theater in the country to produce the show, said Kerby, who is glad to have a brand new show in the mix.

Meanwhile, the theater troupe is in the planning stages of developing new fund-raising events for the year in hopes of paying off the first phase of construction that will allow the building to open and shows to be performed.

Kerby said he can’t wait for that day to come.

“I think when we do get to move in, we’ll move in immediately,” he said. “Even if it’s mid-season.”

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