Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Vintage Pop!
Florida Studio Theatre
William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's review of March Madness

Carole J. Bufford
Photo by Matthew Holler
Florida Studio Theatre is back in business with the first of two cabaret shows presented in the mainstage theaters, this time The Keating. First there was an aborted attempt at a very limited reopening, the Greenroom Cafe serving food with strolling singers, but people weren't ready and they went back into hibernation. Now the timing is better, with more and more people vaccinated and a better plan on how to do it. Seating plans are very well thought out. The Keating at capacity holds 173. Every other row is taped off and every row in use has two available seats on the aisle, two taped off, and two more for usage on each side of a center aisle. Approximate social distanced capacity is a bit less than 100. Both of the shows have proven so popular at the box office that even before they opened extensions were posted.

FST was the recipient of payroll protection grant money and it was used for various projects with artists that have made an impact at the theater in the past. Carole J. Bufford, who has appeared twice before (August 2017 and June 2019) was a natural choice to develop a new show during this year, and Vintage Pop! explores mostly American pop music from the 1910s through the 1980s in four segments.

All of the attributes Ms. Bufford has brought to her previous appearances, including outstanding stage presence, thorough knowledge and research of period, excellent costuming, and always interesting stage patter, are present again. Mostly, she sticks to very well known songs that represent the eras she works through, singing them with a strong nod to period authenticity, Add in backstories and she frequently makes the over-familiar fresh again.

Ms. Bufford opens with Peter Allen's "Everything Old Is New Again" which sets the theme. Even though it dates from 1974, the last era she covers, stylistically it could be very much a part of the opening segment, the 1910s and 1920s. Other songs from that era are "Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey?, "St. Louis Blues," and "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," sung in a stunning red flapper outfit. Next comes an onstage costume change to a mustard-yellow evening dress and "Blue Moon," "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen," and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from the l930s and 1940s. After that comes a bit of a miscalculation, "La Vie En Rose" sung in French. The song is not American in flavor and never achieved any degree of popularity here until much later, so if this is a work in progress I recommend a different song choice in this spot. The act ends with Peggy Lee's "It's a Good Day," which turns out to be a good way to end this half.

From the 1950s and 1960s are "Sway," "All Shook Up" (done in both R&B and rock versions), and "A Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On." A ballad version of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" shows that it is possible to stretch a song so far out of its style that it almost loses itself. The 1970s and 1980s are saluted with "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?" and "Man in the Mirror," and the act ends with "There'll Be Some Some Changes Made," which although it has a publish date of 1921 had a rebirth in the 1970s. An encore of "House of the Rising Sun" is on my song list but was not sung at the performance I attended. Costumes for these eras are equally impressive.

Florida Studio Theater music director Jim Prosser is at the piano with exceptional period playing. Isaac Mingus, the announced bass player, was replaced at this performance.

More and more local theaters are finding safe ways to present their entertainment product. Yes, of course compromises are necessary, but what a joy to be in a performing space with live entertainment. As of now, Vintage Pop! is scheduled to run through May 9, but I would not be surprised at further extensions.

Vintage Pop! runs through May 9, 2021, at Florida Studio Theatre, Keating Theater, 1241 N. Palm Avenue, Sarasota FL. For tickets and information, please call the box office at 941-366-9000 or visit