February and March are months of entertainment in the villages, including festivals in the plazas, productions at the Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center, and productions by resident theater groups at the recreation centers and the Savannah Center. The Wall Street Journal projected in a report this month that there could be an increase in demand for things like restaurants, vacations and entertainment when the pandemic ends, citing not only additional money in the pockets of consumers, but also growing demand. Movies, theater and live music are among the avenues of entertainment that could see a surge, said Bill ODowd, president and CEO of production company Dolphin Entertainment and an assistant professor at the University of Miami School of Communications.
Shore Fire Media, a subsidiary of Dolphin Entertainment, has more than 100 live bands on the roster that are expected to resume touring next summer, according to ODowd.
This is an example to me of an experience that people want to have outside the home, he said.
The Villages is ahead of that screening with the return of festivals, resident shows and professional shows held with COVID-19 safety guidelines, residents proving their continued appetite for entertainment. Additionally, Old Mill Playhouse reopened and started showing new titles this month.
The festival season kicked off with The Villages Balloon Festival earlier this month and Mardi Gras Tuesday in Spanish Springs Town Square. Residents and visitors can stop by the Strawberry Festival from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday at Brownwood Paddock Square. Upcoming, the St. Patrick’s Day Festival will be 4 to 9 p.m. on March 12 in the Sumter Landing Lake Marketplace and March 17 in Spanish Springs, with more to come, including the new festival. blueberries in April. Capacity is limited for nightly entertainment and special events in plazas and 6ft social distancing and masking is requested.
Elizabeth Constant, Reservations Coordinator at the Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center, recently experienced some of this demand already on site.
The Villages cultivates an environment for fun and entertainment, Constant said. This is the reason why many people move specifically to this community. Social commitments allow everyone to flourish. I think our residents and clients are looking for ways to safely stretch their legs and be a part of the thriving entertainment community we have here.
At that time, The Sharon normally hosted major Broadway tours, acclaimed concerts and comedians, and international performances, Constant said.
For several reasons, including some borders closed to travel, financial constraints with limited audience capacity, concerns about the risk of artists’ exposure to the virus and venues closed across the country, major shows are currently not being held. on tour, she added.
In a change of pace, the venue is hosting the Studio Theater Tierra del Sols Season 5 shows through September, most recently 9-17, the musical with Ada and the Motor, Spike Heels and Pipeline to come. Sharon also hosts two Village Philharmonic Performances each month from now through May, including the 2021 VPO Classical Concert on March 15.
Constant said the Studio and VPO shows were well attended, and that on February 13, the Opera Club of the Villagess, the annual Three Tenors Plus One concert fundraiser for the Harold S. Schwartz scholarship program, was out of print.
Each night we only have a handful of tickets left. Three Tenors Plus One is sold out, and if we could have opened at a higher capacity in a more secure manner, I’m sure we would have sold it twice, Constant said. Customers seem hungry for the performing arts, and we keep them as safe as possible by hosting a 20% audience each night. Many tickets are still available for our studio shows from March to September.
Among the long list of upcoming entertainment options are resident theater group shows like the Everglades Players Theater of Southern Oaks Date Night Shows, including The Pirate Map in January at Everglades Regional Recreation Complex, The Dating Game on Saturdays at Eisenhower Regional Recreation Complex and at a Pickle south of 44 coming in April.
The group has sold one performance and over 75% of tickets to the other three performances of The Pirate Map, club chief Dave Saxe said.
People want the theater, but they are a little guarded. They want to be careful, Saxe said.
That’s why the group has so far demanded masks and limited capacity.
Back by popular demand, they will also be producing The Savannah Sipping Society in June, as some customers missed last March due to COVID-19, with more shows to come. As the season progresses, the group will continue to follow the recreation center’s safety guidelines, Saxe said.
Editor-in-Chief Liz Coughlin can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5304, or [email protected]