Category Archives: Tampa Bay Love

Sugar Butter and Flour Makes for a Sweet Musical in Waitress

Thanks to my membership in the Tampa Bay Bloggers and their partnership with the Straz Center, I received two complimentary tickets for the purposes of review to "Waitress The Musical". This has not impacted my review and all opinions below are my own.
Desi Oakley and Bryan Fenkart in the National Tour of WAITRESS – Photo Credit Joan Marcus
Desi Oakley (Jenna) and Bryan Fenkart (Dr. Pomatter) in the National Tour of Waitress. Photo credit – Joan Marcus

A couple of nights ago I watched a show about

  • passion
  • dreams
  • love
  • sex
  • betrayal
  • pursuing happiness
  • sadness
  • heartbreak
  • defeat
  • excitement, and
  • desire.

In other words, I feel like I watched a show about life. Oh yeah, and there were pies. Of course, by now you probably know I’m talking about Waitress the Musical. What gave it away? The post title or the pies comment? (I crack myself up) 

This production gave me a roller coaster of emotions. I laughed. I cried. I got mad. I got excited. I had a whole host of emotions y’all –  basically I experienced most if not all of the emotions one has in life.

Want to know more about my feelings towards the show overall? Keep reading…

Desi Oakley in Waitress
Desi Oakley as Jenna in the National Tour of Waitress. Photo credit – Joan Marcus

Waitress The MusicalWhat Straz Said About it (spoilers ahead)

Brought to life by a groundbreaking all-female creative team, this irresistible new hit features original music and lyrics by five-time Grammy® nominee Sara Bareilles (“Brave,” “Love Song”), a book by acclaimed screenwriter Jessie Nelson (I Am Sam) and direction by Tony Award® winner Diane Paulus (Pippin, Finding Neverland). “It’s an empowering musical of the highest order!” raves the Chicago Tribune.

Inspired by Adrienne Shelly’s beloved film, WAITRESS tells the story of Jenna – a waitress and expert pie maker, Jenna dreams of a way out of her small town and loveless marriage. A baking contest in a nearby county and the town’s new doctor may offer her a chance at a fresh start, while her fellow waitresses offer their own recipes for happiness. But Jenna must summon the strength and courage to rebuild her own life.

“WAITRESS is a little slice of heaven!” says Entertainment Weekly and “a monumental contribution to Broadway!” according to Marie Claire. Don’t miss this uplifting musical celebrating friendship, motherhood and the magic of a well-made pie.

Waitress The Musical – My Review (again spoilers ahead! Sorry not sorry)

When the show opened, I didn’t fully know what to expect. The only thing I did know is that I was in for a romantic comedy based on a book that turned into a movie, that then turned into a musical, with great music and a happy ending.

At least, that’s was what I heard. And, Waitress totally served up all of that and more.

Though the plot wasn’t exactly surprising, and the outcome wasn’t shocking either, it was it’s simplicity that made it so easy to follow. But, what made it exceptionally sweet was the characters, the dialogue and that music!!!

By intermission I knew that I had to have the soundtrack. Oh, and that I couldn’t wait to find out the conclusion of the show. Hurry up and get to the happy ending already!!!

From left: Charity Angel Dawson, Desi Oakley and Lenne Klingaman in the National Tour of Waitress. Credit Joan Marcus
From left: Charity Angel Dawson, Desi Oakley and Lenne Klingaman in the National Tour of Waitress. Photo credit – Joan Marcus

One of my favorite things about the musical over all, was that I got to enjoy it with my mother by my side. She and I have been through a lot over the years, and many of the elements of the plot hit a little too close to home for us.

Watching everything work out in the end was very inspirational for us. I think that’s what makes this production such a feel-good show. It’s a depiction of a life completely turned upside down, with twists and turns, that ends up being okay.

There were several songs in the show I just loved, but one particular song that got me thinking was I Didn’t Plan It. Becky sings it to Jenna, and the following lines in it really struck me:

“I needed saving
And a good mistake needed making
Maybe you need the same thing

Something to feel
To race through your blood
And remind you you’re here
To open your eyes and look around
And see the sky when you’re underground

I didn’t plan it
But that’s life
And I’m finally feeling alive”

I’ve been pondering those lyrics today, and I feel it speaks to why people do things they know they might later regret. Whether it’s risking a business move, getting up the courage to ask for a divorce, quitting a job, or having an affair- we all just want to feel alive.

Life may not always go as planned, or even be planned out at all, but really living life (mistakes and all) is better than just letting it pass us by.

We all have secrets, and many of us do dumb or silly things, but it’s all part of life. In many cases, we didn’t plan it, but sometimes we have to make mistakes to save ourselves.

Not to get too deep here, but I think the biggest mistakes are the ones we make but don’t learn anything from. For me, I often have to do something all the wrong ways to learn how to do it right.

Can you relate? I’ll bet you can, at least on some level. Perhaps that’s why I ultimately loved the show. Jenna does all the wrong things to finally figure out how to do life right – for her.

Bottom line – I say go watch this show!

Desi Oakley, Charity Angel Dawson and Lenne Klingaman in the National Tour of WAITRESS – Photo Credit Joan Marcus
Desi Oakley, Charity Angel Dawson and Lenne Klingaman in the National Tour of Waitress. Photo credit – Joan Marcus

I highly recommend you buy tickets to the show while it’s playing at the Straz Center here in Tampa! You won’t be disappointed. And, you probably won’t be able to get the soundtrack out of your head either. 

Cue the SUGAR – BUTTER – FLOUR melody that I can’t quite shake. 

Waitress The Musical is playing at The Straz Center now through April 29, 2018. To see all the shows playing at the Straz, click HERE!

And, fair warning – Waitress The Musical contains some adult language, and mature situations.

I’m personally gonna be watching the movie this weekend, and I’ve got to get that soundtrack too! Click the images to grab your own copy of each. And yes, these are affiliate links so that I can grab some pie to go with my watching experience!

waitress movie image

Waitress - Original Broadway Cast Recording

 

Check out two more of my recent posts:

8 Questions with Amanda Barker of Little Black Dress The Musical

Thanks to my membership in the Tampa Bay Bloggers and their partnership with the Straz Center, I received two complimentary tickets in exchange for this preview post and social media love to "Little Black Dress The Musical". This has not impacted my post. All opinions below are my own.
Amanda Barker – photo by Dahlia Katz

When Straz Center reached out to me with the opportunity to interview Amanda Barker, I jumped at the chance! Amanda is not only a cast member in the upcoming Little Black Dress The Musical, she also is co-writer of the show!

I asked some of my pals and gals on Facebook what they would ask her  if given the chance, and I picked the best 8. Check out Amanda’s awesome answers to my questions below!

8 Questions with Amanda Barker of Little Black Dress

1. When you’re on stage or even just preparing to go on stage – Do you do your work for the love of the audience or for the love of the craft? Which is more important to you?

Oh gosh – why choose?! It’s the love of the craft that brings you to the stage, but I think it’s the audience that keeps you there. I have been lucky enough to also do film and TV, but I am like so many actors in that I started on stage and I get back on it whenever my schedule allows.

Don’t get me wrong – being on set can be glorious as it is all about the craft and you learn to create a relationship with a camera and not to expect an audience’s instant gratification. That said, what’s wonderful about Little Black Dress is that we have written in the audience’s participation! Allowing a direct address to audience is my favourite kind of theatre, but it’s extraordinarily rare, especially in a musical. That’s why creating this show and performing in it has been so exciting.

2. We know you enjoy making people laugh, but what makes you laugh?

My husband Marco makes me laugh every single day. He can be mostly asleep and still hilarious. The other day in bed he was drifting off and he said, “I love you.” When I told him that I loved him too, he answered, “I was talking to myself.” That’s a funny guy. Or a mean one. It’ll be 8 years next month and I still haven’t decided.

3. Let’s say you’re having an off day – it happens! What do you do to get stage ready and in a humorous place mentally?

This is where the audience comes in. I peek and look at them and try to see what their vibe is; their energy. I put myself in their shoes. What was their day like? What do they need? Performing is a service, and you need to connect to those you are serving to see what they need in each moment – especially with a show like this. You learn as a performer to do your best to take yourself out of the equation. It’s not about you. It’s about them. That can be very freeing if you’ve had a rotten day.

4. Do you ever go off script based on the audience you’re performing for?

For this show? Every. Damn. Day. We wrote the show for those types of personalized/improvised bits to land. We want it tailored for the crowd it is in front of. This show is special. It combines the cast’s talents for both improv and scripted performance. I do love a scripted show, and in my career, I get to do that plenty.

The words are the envelope that you can play within but you must stick to what is inside that envelope. THIS show is special though, and that’s what makes it so unique and exciting for an audience.

5. What’s the perfect Little Black Dress accessory?

One word – BLING! Any color, any variety. I have never met an accessory I didn’t love and I love that an LBD means I can wear my turquoise polka dotted shoes or bright red necklace and it all pairs seamlessly.

6. What drink pairs best with a Little Black Dress?

Little Black Dress wine of course! (Yes, they are a sponsor 😉 ) What’s great about an LBD is that you can keep stains to a minimum so you can go with a bright fruity cocktail, dark beer or red wine and no matter how messy you get, you are likely safe. If I drink it, I WILL spill it, and I love how my Little Black Dress doesn’t get ruined.

7. Would men enjoy watching Little Black Dress with their girlfriends/spouses? Or is it better for a girl’s night out?

Absolutely! It can be a great date night or a girls’ night out. It’s a story about friendship and how to deal with life’s milestones – from an awkward first kiss to keeping your marriage spicy, or the harsh reality of birthing a baby – those things are definitely universal.

One of the most important things to us was that it relates to all – and having Christopher Bond (Evil Dead the Musical) on the creative team (in addition to myself, Danielle Trzcinski and Natalie Tennebaum) means that there are plenty of jokes for guys too.

Above all else, I’m very proud that it is female material that doesn’t handle anything with kid gloves – women can be messy, dirty, complicated and hilarious. That is what was important to me.

8. Finally, what are your plans post Little Black Dress? Any other parodies or musicals brewing behind the scenes?

I actually have co-authored another show about women and clothes called Clotheswap where the audience gets to bring their bags of old duds to the theatre and those pieces are used on stage in both narrative and improvisation (and they get to participate in the clothesswap after)! That script has received two awards and will be happening in Toronto later this year.

I am very interested in the stories of women and clothes, clearly! Beyond that, I am in the next season of The Handmaid’s Tale which comes out next month, and my online series A Gay Victorian Affair will be releasing its next three episodes in May. That one falls under parody as it is a dirty version of Downton Abbey.

I am also on-air most mornings with Sirius XM’s Canada Laughs channel (I am both Canadian and American) so that fun will continue and I have two projects for TV in pre-production. I love what I do and the only thing that limits me are the hours in a day!

Little Black Dress The Musical – What You Need to Know

Little Black Dress The Musical is playing at The Straz Center now through April 27 and April 28, 2018. To see all the shows playing at the Straz, click HERE! I’m going to the show on Saturday. Buy some tickets, and come join me. It’s going to be a great night out!!!

Here’s the trailer for the show:

 

 

Also… I’ve got some other deets you may want to know:

From the ladies behind Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody, this hilarious ladies-night-out musical follows BFFs Dee and Mandy as they don their LBDs to chronicle life’s major events – birth, death, dating, sex, love, friendship … and male strippers. With improv, audience participation, fun music and a triple warning – strong language, fog and haze, and one very sexy man – Little Black Dress is a perfect fit for any woman.

And finally, because I love fun photos, here’s the press pics that show you we HAVE to go see this musical ASAP! 

Little Black Dress The Musical Cast Ensemble Photo 1 – Photo by Dahlia Katz
Little Black Dress The Musical Cast Ensemble Photo 2 – Photo by Dahlia Katz
Little Black Dress The Musical Cast Ensemble Photo 3 – Photo by Dahlia Katz

 

 

Brews with Attitude – April 3, 2018 in Tampa

 

Thanks to my membership in the Tampa Bay Bloggers and their partnership with the Pepin Distributing, I received two complimentary tickets to Brews with Attitude in exchange for this preview post and social media love. All opinions are my own.

I jumped at the chance to attend Brews with Attitude for three simple reasons:

  1. My date loves her some beer, and her birthday is coming and this is a perfect event for celebrating both.
  2. It’s at one of my FAVE venues in Tampa Bay – TPepin’s Hospitality Centre
  3. Who doesn’t love a fun night out where you get to try multiple brands in one spot, for one cost?

What is Brews with Attitude?

The Reader’s Digest version? It’s a beer fest that will offer

  • Over 200 Beers and Ciders to sample from
  • Tampa’s favorite Food Trucks
  • Live Entertainment by Dave Valliere Group
  • One-off craft beer releases
  • Variety of hand rolled cigars
  • and more…

This year’s is the eight annual event, and they promise to be bigger and better than ever before.

Here’s a video from last year’s event to give you an idea of what to expect:

When is the Event?

Tuesday, April 3rd from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Where is the Event?

TPepin’s Hospitality Centre located at:

4121 N. 50th Street,
Tampa, Florida 33610

What About Tickets?

According to their website, tickets are $40, and you can snag them right here!

If they still have any available on the day of the event, tickets can also be purchased for cash or credit at the door.

Join me at this fun-filled, beer enthusiasts paradise!!!

Admission Includes: Sampling of over 200 beers with the official Brews With Attitude tasting cup.

There will also be food, non-alcoholic beverages and cigars available for purchase.

The venue asks that you please bring your printed out ticket as there will not be a list for admission!!

Who’s Gonna Be There?

The cool kids (duh!), and these breweries:

10 Bbl
3 Daughters
Ace Cider
Angry Chair
Barrel of Monks
Big Strom
Big Top
Blue Point
Bold City
Boulevard
Coppertail
Due South
Duvel
Elysian
Escape
Florida Ave
Founders
Funky Buddha
Golden Road
Goose Island
Green Bench
Hidden Springs
Highland
Innis & Gunn
Islamorada
Karbach
Kona
Mad Beach
Magic Hat
Motorworks
Narragansett
Ommegang
Ommission
Pair O Dice
Proof
Rapp
Redbridge
Rekorderlig
Sea Dog
Shipyard
Silver King
Six Ten
Sonoma Cider
Southern Tier
Spiked Seltzer
St. Somewhere
Stiegl
Swamp Head
Sweetwater
Tampa Bay Brewing
Uinta
Victory
Wine Stream
Woodchuck
Wynwood

Photo from The Bodyguard Musical Facebook Page

The Bodyguard Musical – A Review

 

Thanks to my membership in the Tampa Bay Bloggers and their partnership with the Straz Center I received two complimentary tickets for the purposes of review to The Bodyguard. This has not impacted my review and all opinions below are my own.
Deborah Cox as Rachel Marron and Company in The Bodyguard

Let me start by saying – I had no idea there even WAS a musical called The Bodyguard until it came here to Tampa Bay. I don’t have cable, and have intentionally not been watching the news, so I’ve been quite out of the loop in terms of many things related to entertainment. However, I had never seen the movie, but I LOVE musicals, so I jumped at the chance to see the production.

Funnily enough, my husband insisted I watch the movie before the play. So, I watched it last night. I’m actually kind of glad I did because it prepared me for some of the things that would have otherwise shocked me.

You see, after a family tragedy that happened December 2016, I’m hyper-sensitive these days to gun violence. Therefore, knowing what to expect going in, helped me to focus on the joyful elements of the show. My husband is a brilliant man, and knew this all to well about me, so I’m extra grateful he had me watch the movie first.

And, if I’m honest, I really loved the movie. It made me that much more excited to see the musical too. Might seem weird since it gave away much of the plot, but it’s true! (p.s. some of the plot IS different in the stage production vs. the movie)

The Bodyguard – What Straz Said About it (spoilers ahead)

Based on the smash hit film, the award-winning musical will star Grammy® Award nominee and R&B superstar Deborah Cox!

Former Secret Service agent turned bodyguard, Frank Farmer, is hired to protect superstar Rachel Marron from an unknown stalker. Each expects to be in charge; what they don’t expect is to fall in love.

A breathtakingly romantic thriller, THE BODYGUARD features a host of irresistible classics including “Queen of the Night,” “So Emotional,” “One Moment in Time,” “Saving All My Love,” “Run to You,” “I Have Nothing,” “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” and one of the biggest selling songs of all time – “I Will Always Love You.”

 

The Bodyguard – My Review

I have to say that out of all the musicals I’ve been to, this one was CRAZY good. In fact, dare I say it might have been one of the best ones I’ve EVER seen. Then again, it felt more like I was seeing a concert than attending a musical in the “traditional” sense- whatever that means.

Let’s put it this way – I’ve always wanted to attend a Whitney Houston concert, and after watching this production tonight – I now feel like I have. You know, only with added drama and story to it. Haha!

From the opening act to the closing number I was either on edge of my seat, tapping my toes, or I was up on my feet. I also totally sang along to my favorite songs – as did much of the audience .. which I loved by the way. Made for a fun and interactive experience.

Photo from The Bodyguard via Straz Center
Deborah Cox as Rachel Marron and Jasmin Richardson as Nicki Marron in The Bodyguard

And, I have to say this about Miss Deborah Cox  – she was absolutely spectacular in this role! The way that she could command the stage, and belt out those vocals was like nothing I’ve ever seen in a live act before. I actually closed my eyes for a moment,  and almost believed I was sitting in a Whitney Houston concert!

The notes that Whitney could hit are clearly not easy to hit, but Mrs. Cox did it with such grace and ease that you can tell she knows her craft, and she owns her craft. Watching her sing and perform took my breath away, and gave me all the goosebumps multiple times.

Deborah Cox as Rachel Marron and Judson Mills as Frank Farmer in The Bodyguard via Straz
Deborah Cox as Rachel Marron and Judson Mills as Frank Farmer in The Bodyguard

To put it mildly – I would absolutely recommend to anybody who is considering seeing this musical that they buy a ticket right now.

From the costumes to actors, the songs to the choreography, even the lines the actors were supposed to say – every single bit of this musical was top-notch. It was just ahhhhhhhmazing. If given the chance, I would see it again over and over and over again!

The Bodyguard is playing at The Straz Center now through March 25, 2018.  Regularly priced tickets are $40-$123. To see all the shows playing at the Straz, click HERE!

Heads up if you’re going: Deborah Cox is not scheduled to perform at the Sunday Evening performance. And, The Bodyguard contains some adult language, mature situations and brief simulated gun shots and violence.

For just a glimpse into WHY this show was so amazing, check out this interview Mrs. Cox did with Wendy Williams where she expresses just how much she wanted it to be done right:

Also… just in case you are as curious as I was…

Here’s the cast of The Bodyguard US Tour from the official website:

  • Deborah Cox – Rachel Marron
  • Judson Mills – Frank Farmer
  • Alex Corrado – Tony Scibelli
  • Charles Gray – Bill Devaney
  • Jonathan Hadley – Sy Spector
  • Kevelin B. Jones III – Fletcher
  • Sebastian Maynard-Palmer – Fletcher
  • Jorge Paniagua – The Stalker
  • Jasmin Richardson – Nicki Marron
  • Mark McCullough – Thomas Ray Court
  • Elyssa Jo Brown – Swing
  • Henry Byalikov – Ensemble
  • Willie Dee – Swing
  • Megan Elyse Fulmer – Ensemble
  • Devinn Harris – Ensemble
  • Alex Jackson – Swing
  • Megan Melville – Ensemble
  • DeQuina Moore – Ensemble
  • Kevin Mylrea – Ensemble
  • Stefan Raulston – Ensemble
  • Matthew Schmidt – Ensemble
  • Amber Snow – Ensemble
  • Lauren Tanner  – Swing
  • Naomi C. Walley  – Ensemble

Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival Concert Lineup 2018

Have you heard? Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival is coming back to Tampa Bay Saturdays and Sundays, March 3 through April 29 and is included with any Annual Pass, Fun Card or daily admission to the park.

And, if the free with admission news isn’t enough to get you excited about attending,  each evening of the festival features a concert from some of the hottest names in the music industry.

Busch Gardens 2018 Food & Wine Festival Concert Lineup

Concert Headliners Include The Fray, Flo Rida, Cole Swindell, Boyz II Men, Olga Tañón, TLC, Hank Williams Jr., Kaleo and More!

More info about the Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival:

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay‘s most delicious event returns this March with tastes for every palate at the fourth annual Food & Wine Festival.

Guests can sample delectable cuisines paired with a selection of 65+ wines, 50+ craft brews and specialty cocktails, while enjoying some of the biggest names in entertainment.

The Food & Wine Festival runs Saturdays and Sundays, March 3 through April 29 and is included with any Annual Pass, Fun Card or daily admission to the park.

The Festival features all-new twists on cuisine at 13 culinary cabins, along with favorites like mango shrimp ceviche and beef brisket on a spiced corn waffle.

Experience bold new eats at the Savory Tavern with fried frog legs with bacon corn fritters, or indulge in flavorful treats at Artisan Eats with beloved dish duck fat truffle fries and then spice it up with tostones rellenos de pollo at Comfort Kitchen.

Opt for lobster tart with leeks and Swiss cheese or mushroom vol-au-vent at the Light Fare Canteen, or relish in the robust flavors at Chef’s Plantation with salmon cake with lemon aioli, Korean-style ribs and all-new short rib and brie grilled cheese.

Guests can elevate the Food and Wine Festival experience even more by sipping a carefully curated selection of fine bourbons and new tequila tastings.

Concert headliners include:

Saturday, March 3: Edwin McCain & Sister Hazel
Sunday, March 4: Grupo Niche
Saturday, March 10: The Fray
Sunday, March 11: Southern Uprising Tour: A Southern Rock Revival with Travis Tritt, The Charlie Daniels Band, The Marshall Tucker Band, The Outlaws
Saturday, March 17: Olga Tañón
Sunday, March 18: Goo Goo Dolls
Saturday, March 24: Better Than Ezra & Tonic
Sunday, March 25: Michael Bolton
Saturday, March 31: Boyz II Men
Sunday, April 1: Natalie Grant
Saturday, April 7: Hank Williams, Jr.
Sunday, April 8: TLC
Saturday, April 14: Bret Michaels
Sunday, April 15: Coming Soon!
Saturday, April 21: The All-American Rejects
Sunday, April 22: Cole Swindell
Saturday, April 28: Flo Rida
Sunday, April 29: Kaleo & Bleachers

Guests can choose from two exclusive VIP concert upgrades at the Festival which include priority seating and a 5-item sampler lanyard for even more access to great times and great tastes.

Additionally, guests can purchase of 5, 10 and 12-item sampler lanyards to tailor the experience to any taste bud. Food and beverage is not included with park admission and is available for an additional fee. Guests must be 21 years of age or older to consumer alcoholic beverages.

BEST VALUES FOR FLORIDA RESIDENTS:

  • For a limited time, buy a Busch Gardens Fun Card and get an Adventure Island Fun Card FREE! Experience both parks through 2018 for the price of one.

 

  • For those wishing for more VIP offerings, the Annual Pass includes unlimited admission for 12 months, free parking, no blockout dates, in-park discounts and other benefits, valued at more than $350. With EZpay, Annual Passes start at just $14 per month for one park, and $16 per month for both Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and Adventure Island.

Be the first to know about new events, special deals and future announcements by joining the conversation using #corksandcoasters on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

Sister Hazel, Edwin McCain and Grupo Niche to Kickoff the Food & Wine Festival at Busch Gardens

This weekend the Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival begins and I just learned some more exciting news about their kickoff weekend! Check out the notice they just sent me below the image!

TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 26, 2018) – Chart-topping artists Sister Hazel and Edwin McCain, and Latin sensation Grupo Niche will take the stage this weekend at Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay’s fourth annual Food & Wine Festival.

The festival takes place on Saturdays and Sundays March 3 through April 29. Concerts are included with any Pass, Fun Card or daily admission.

Sister Hazel – Saturday, March 3 at 5:30 p.m., Gwazi Park

Originally from the sunshine state, Sister Hazel has been considered “one of the Top 100 Most Influential Independent Performers of the last 15 years.” The five gifted and seasonal musicians exude natural talent and charisma with their chart-topping hits “All for You” and “Lighter in the Dark” earning them multiple spots on Billboard charts. Along with being outstanding musicians, the band hosts annual philanthropic events like “Hazelnut Hang” and gives back with Lyrics for Life benefiting cancer research and patient-care. Don’t miss out on celebrating with Sister Hazel here at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.

Edwin McCain– Saturday, March 3 at 7:00 p.m., Gwazi Park

Proclaimed the “great American romantic” by the New York Times, Edwin McCain has swept the nation with over 20 years of pop music and endless touring. His love ballads and genuine personality makes concerts feel more like nonstop parties. With classic hits like “I’ll Be” and “I Could Not Ask for More”, McCain has proved time and time again that he is truly a one-of-a-kind performer.

Grupo Niche – Sunday, March 4 at 6:00 p.m., Gwazi Park

Join us as we welcome the salsa sensation, Group Niche, to this year’s Food and Wine Festival! Residing in eccentric country of Colombia, this group has taken Latin America by storm with its Latin flares and outstanding performances.

SPECIAL PACKAGES:

  • Food, Wine & Brew Sampler – Guests with exclusive interests in culinary offerings can purchase a Food & Wine sampler that includes any samples of choice throughout the Festival. Samplers are available in quantities of five, eight or twelve and start at $29.99. New this year, a Pass Member exclusive 15-item Sampler is available for the same price as a 12-item Sampler.https://buschgardens.com/tampa/events/food-and-wine-festival/upgrades/sampler-lanyard/

  • Wine, Bourbon and Tequila by the Bottle – Guests can take home a part of the Food & Wine Festival with wine, bourbon and tequila available for purchase by the bottle at the Xcursions gift shop.

BEST VALUES FOR FLORIDA RESIDENTS:

  •  For a limited time, buy a Busch Gardens Fun Card and get an Adventure Island Fun Card FREE! Experience both parks through 2018 for the price of one.

  • For those wishing for more VIP offerings, the Annual Pass includes unlimited admission for 12 months, free parking, no blockout dates, in-park discounts and other benefits, valued at more than $350. With EZpay, Annual Passes start at just $14 per month for one park, and $16 per month for both Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and Adventure Island

The Festival features all-new twists on cuisine at 13 culinary cabins, along with favorites like mango shrimp ceviche and beef brisket on a spiced corn waffle. Experience bold new eats at the Savory Tavern with fried frog legs with bacon corn fritters, or indulge in flavorful treats at Artisan Eats with beloved dish duck fat truffle fries and then spice it up with tostones rellenos de pollo at Comfort Kitchen.  Opt for lobster tart with leeks and Swiss cheese or mushroom vol-au-vent at the Light Fare Canteen, or relish in the robust flavors at Chef’s Plantation with salmon cake with lemon aioli, Korean-style ribs and all-new short rib and brie grilled cheese.  Guests can elevate the Food and Wine Festival experience even more by sipping a carefully curated selection of fine bourbons and new tequila tastings.

The Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival takes place on Saturdays and Sundays from March 3 through April 29 and is included with any Pass, Fun Card or daily admission. Food and beverage is not included with park admission and is available for an extra fee. Guests must be 21 years of age or older to consume alcoholic beverages.

Be the first to know about new events, special deals and future announcements by following the park’s blog at BuschGardens.com/tampa/blog, or “Like” the Busch Gardens Facebook page, and follow @buschgardens on TwitterInstagram and Snapchat.

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About SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment™ is a leading theme park and entertainment company providing experiences that matter and inspiring guests to protect animals and the wild wonders of our world. The company is one of the world’s foremost zoological organizations and a global leader in animal welfare, training, husbandry and veterinary care. The company also rescues and rehabilitates marine and terrestrial animals that are ill, injured, orphaned or abandoned, with the goal of returning them to the wild. The SeaWorld® rescue team has helped more than 31,000 animals in need over the last 50 years.

The company owns or licenses a portfolio of recognized brands including SeaWorld, Busch Gardens® and Sea Rescue®. Over its more than 50-year history, the company has built a diversified portfolio of 12 destination and regional theme parks that are grouped in key markets across the United States. The company’s theme parks feature a diverse array of rides, shows and other attractions with broad demographic appeal which deliver memorable experiences and a strong value proposition for its guests. Visit AdventureIsland.com or Busch Gardens.com.

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment is a wholly owned subsidiary of SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc., a publicly traded company. Visit www.seaworldentertainment.com for more.

So Many Things to See and Do at the Florida State Fair!

Thanks to Cox Media Group Tampa I was given a family four pack to the Florida State Fair in exchange for this post and social media love. Although my tickets, some meals and rides were free, this has not affected my review. All opinions are my own.

Every year I look forward to The Florida State Fair. The food, the rides, the people watching. It’s something my husband and I thoroughly enjoy going to. There are so many things to do at the fair, and this year we decided to enjoy some of our favorite activities AND check out a few of the things we’ve never done before.

Our old faithfuls at The Florida State Fair

  • The food – We always end up with a corn dog upon arrival, and the past couple of years we end with a cheeseburger. Hubby always goes for the traditional barbecue bacon burger, and I either get the doughnut burger or the mac and cheese burger from Carousel Foods. Such yumminess! And seriously – you have to try the doughnut burger once in your life. I think you will be as surprised as I was at how delicious this darn thing actually is!
  • The arts – We LOVE seeing the entries in the arts and crafts contest held every year at the fair. The paintings and the sculptures, and the photos – this year they were just over the top. And, I was exceptionally giddy because I actually recognized some of the names of the winners in the art contests. I’ve decided next year I want to add a contribution of my own. I’ll share what I’m entering when it comes time.
  • The people watching – Dude! This is far and away my FAVORITE thing to do at the fair. You never know what outfits you will see, who you will bump into or what fun you will witness.  One of the crazy things we witnessed this year while people watching was a cell phone FLYING off of a ride. That was nuts. It almost hit someone!! Funny and scary all at the same time. And the craziest part? Their cell phone protector actually protected it. NO DAMAGE! Not even a single crack. That’s crazy right?!?
  • The Sky Ride – I love this because it takes you from one end of the fair to the other and gives you incredible views along the way. Resting our feet while getting a bird’s eye view? Winning!
  • The Ferris Wheel – it’s tradition. We always ride the Ferris Wheel. What was extra exciting about this year’s ride though was the wheel was bigger and we rode at sunset. We got some of the most epic views from the top. Seriously. Check this out:

The new things we saw/did in 2018 at the fair:

  • We went and visited with the drivers of the mini monster trucks. I had no idea this was a thing for kids! Youngins driving mini trucks?!? WOWZA! Pretty wild seeing these littles with those big trucks.
  • We also checked out the Farm to School Fun arcade hosted by The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). There were free games, educational opportunities, and we got to try some roasted peanuts from the Florida farmers that grow them. I also learned a lot about vegetables, bees, spiders, butterflies, and fish in this room.
  • For a few moments as we took a rest from the sun we stopped in and watched some baton twirling competitors. That was so cool and made me realize JUST how uncoordinated I really am. haha! We also darted over in the same hall and checked out the arts and crafts vendors selling their goods. It is truly amazing how talented some people are. While they we also got our fill of fudge, more peanuts, dip samples and more. So much deliciousness!!!
  • One thing we did that we’ve never done was juice our own oranges in the agriculture area. This covered areas also had some chickens in it which prompted a humorous conversation between me and the hubs about why we need to own chickens when we get a house.

Things we skipped or missed that I wish we’d seen:

  • We missed the Extreme Illusions & Escapes show, the BMX/FMX Freestyle Madness displays, Circus Hollywood, and the Laser Light shows. Mind you we didn’t skip them because we wanted to. We should have made the fair visit a multi-day event because we just didn’t have time for everything. The timing was off for us to see things at their scheduled hours, and/or we weren’t in the area when it was happening.
  • We skipped Cracker Country this year. Forgive me y’all, but I just wasn’t excited about this – perhaps because we’ve seen it sooooooooo many times over the years. I do regret not going over at least long enough to get some kettle corn though. It’s never better anywhere than it is there IMHO.
  • We missed events that were only happening on specific days. For example, we’ll miss the demolition derby because another trip to the fair before they close this year probably won’t be feasible with our work schedules.  Same for the Trashy Flashy Fashion Show. We were there the day after this occurred. I have to say I was super bummed about missing this because I LOVE trashy fashion shows. The way the artists can turn garbage into wearable art never ceases to amaze me.

Our 2018 fair visit was a success in my book

All in all, I loved my day at the fair, and sincerely hope that in 2019 I can afford more time to be there. I’d like to go multiple days and check out more events and things I haven’t seen yet, or that I’ve not seen in awhile. I will say that for the cost of the fair ticket, there is certainly a LOT of entertainment and enjoyment to be had. It’s not JUST about the rides and the food. I can’t wait to visit again. In the meantime, I’m hoping to check out many other events our fair city has to offer. <- see what I did there? LOL! I crack me up!

Check out all the images I snapped at The Florida State Fair this year –

How Not to End a Musical – A Love Never Dies Review

Thanks to my membership in the Tampa Bay Bloggers and their partnership with the Straz Center I received two complimentary tickets for the purposes of review to Love Never Dies. This has not impacted my review and all opinions below are my own.
“Only For You” – Mary Michael Patterson (“Meg Giry”) and the Ensemble of Love Never Dies. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Okay so look. I LOVE musicals. Like, wish I was the one singing and dancing on stage kind of love for musicals. M’kay? So, please go into this post knowing that first and foremost so you don’t just think I’m hatin’.

I want to start by saying that the cast, the sets, the singing, the overall production of Love Never Dies – they were all absolutely stunning. I loved the set so much, it was just gorgeous! And, the singing gave me goosebumps in the best way. Just awesome. Everything was going great. At intermission I was on cloud nine. I even tweeted this:

Gardar Thor Cortes (“The Phantom”) and Meghan Picerno (“Christine Daaé”) star in Love Never Dies. Photo by Joan Marcus.

And then…the last frikkin number came, and what happened after ruined EVERYTHING!!! I won’t spoil it in case you’re going to go see it. BUT!!! Love Never Dies ended in the worst way of EVER!!! I hated it. I was fuming. I was crying like a blubbering frikkin’ mess, and then I was pissed off the entire way home. I thought musicals were supposed to have a happy ending dammit! This one did not, and it made me mad. Like so mad I couldn’t even tweet about how I was feeling about it for more than an hour.

Meghan Picerno (“Christine Daaé”) stars in Love Never Dies. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Here’s the thing – if you want to believe the end is happy, leave after you see the peacock. Let Christine sing for you, and as soon as the song ends and the peacock goes away – LEAVE. THE. THEATER!!! Then, pretend the ending was a lovely, sweet one, and you’ll walk away feeling like it was one of the greatest musicals perhaps of all time. BUT, if you want to get mad, sad, heartbroken or any other array of negative emotions…stick around for the horrible conclusion that left me wanting to punch someone.

This is one time I wish somebody had warned me about the ending. It’s the one time I wish someone had said, Ashley LEAVE after the song in front of the peacock. If I had known and walked away, I would have ended the evening feeling that it was a fabulous night out, and simply an amazing production.

I want to reiterate at this point that I LOVED all of the rest of the show. It kept me on my toes, and falling hard for some of the characters. Maybe that’s why the ending made me so upset. Or maybe it’s my own life experiences that made the last moments of the production ruin the entire show for me. I’m not 100% sure. What I do know is this though – that to me was how NOT to end a musical.

Love Never Dies is playing at the Straz Center in Tampa through December 17, 2017. To see all of the shows playing at the Center, click here.

Photo by Rob-Harris

 

 

Busch Gardens Christmas Town 2017 – Fun for the Whole Family this Holiday Season

FTC Disclosure: I will be receiving two passes to visit Christmas Town in the month of December in exchange for social media love. While the tickets are being given to me for free, this has not affected my opinions of Busch Gardens or their Christmas Town event. 

Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay’s annual holiday tradition, Christmas Town™  is back in town for the holidays now through December 31st. And, this season they are keeping it open for an extended  Three Kings Day Celebration from Jan. 1 through Jan. 6.  I’ve had the amazing pleasure of attending Christmas Town three different times, and it always beams bright with twinkling lights, spectacular shows, holiday shopping and even a visit to Santa’s House! Check out all the amazing things that Christmas Town has to offer, and I hope you will consider attending Busch Gardens for this fun event this year. It’s truly a fabulous way to get into the holiday spirit!!!

Attractions and Features of Christmas Town 2017:

 NEW! Holiday Culinary Samplers: Enjoy 5 or 10 delectable creations from our holiday menus during Christmas Town. Culinary locations like Christmas Town Village will feature savory treats and Yuletide sweets for the whole family.

 NEW! Story Time Breakfast with Rudolph: Sometimes the best part about Christmas morning is the breakfast. This year, the all-new Story Time Breakfast with Rudolph delivers atDragon Fire Grill complete with holiday songs, story time and special surprises. Indulge in waffles, French toast, scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese grits, pastries, biscuits and gravy, and much more.

NEW! Three Kings Celebration: Busch Gardens unfolds the famed journey to the humble town of Bethlehem during a Three Kings Celebration from Jan. 1-6. This cultural celebration boasts authentic Latin traditions, live entertainment honoring the three wise men and Busch Gardens’ dazzling display of twinkling lights.

Rudolph’s Winter Wonderland: Making his Christmas Town debut, Sam the Snowman joins Rudolph, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and Bumble at Rudolph’s Winter Wonderland located in Celestial Crossing.  Meet and take photos with these beloved characters, play holiday games and indulge in Yuletide treats while scenes of the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer® television special come to life.

Santa’s House presented by Coca-Cola®: The Claus family invites you into their North Pole home at Santa’s House presented by Coca-Cola®. While the elves are busy preparing for Christmas, Santa is taking a break from his busy holiday schedule to meet and take photos with families in his private study.

Thrill Rides at Night: Nestled between beautifully lit trees and roaring with excitement, some of the best views of Christmas Town can be found atop Florida’s top thrill rides, including family spin coaster, Cobra’s Curse®.

Guests can also expect the return of fan-favorite shows that ring in the season, including Christmas on IceCarol of the Bells light show and the Holiday Hills Brass Band. For a complete list of seasonal sights and unforgettable Yuletide experiences, visit ChristmasTown.com.

Christmas Town is included with any annual pass, Fun Card or daily admission to the park. The event is open until 10 p.m. on select dates and will close at 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve. For New Year’s Eve, Christmas Town will remain open until 1 a.m. to ring in 2018. Please visit our website for park hours.

For a limited time, guests can pay for a day and get two parks now through 2018 FREE! Enjoy unlimited admission to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay through Dec. 31, 2018 and to Adventure Island through the 2018 season. Offer ends March 25, 2018.

For more event information, visit ChristmasTown.com.  Plus, be the first to know about new events, special deals and future announcements by following the Busch GardensTampa Bay blog or joining in the conversation with @BuschGardens on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Snapchat.

Tickets Now on Sale for Sixth Annual Clearwater Beach Uncorked

FTC Disclosure: As part of my partnership with Hayworth PR I am receiving two VIP admissions to the Clearwater Beach uncorked event in exchange for a review and social media love. This has not affected my opinion of the event, its sponsors or Clearwater Beach and its partners. 

Sip. Savor. Repeat. at Sixth Annual Clearwater Beach Uncorked Food and Wine Festival

Tickets Now on Sale for Two-Day Food, Wine & Craft Beer Festival – Dec 2 & 3

Have you heard? Tickets are on sale for the Sixth Annual Clearwater Beach Uncorked! This is the sixth year for this highly anticipated two-day, food wine and craft beer festival. The event will be held December 2-3, in a new location directly on Clearwater Beach (Right next to the official host hotel, Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach), just south of Pier 60.

Clearwater Beach Uncorked will celebrate the Bay area’s most renowned chefs, restaurants, and breweries in a culinary showcase served with 180-degree Gulf of Mexico views. The event is the west coast sister of the new Cocoa Beach Uncorked, which debuted in June and was dubbed one of the best food, wine and beer festivals on Florida’s East coast. Tickets and details are available online at ClearwaterBeachUncorked.com.

Clearwater Beach provides an ideal setting to showcase an impressive roster of the Bay area’s culinary offerings to thousands of foodies, wine lovers and beer aficionados,” said Tammy Gail, event producer. “This taste-fest brings together people with a shared interest for an unforgettable weekend for attendees, partners and exhibitors alike. This is our sixth year, and we’re pulling out all the stops to highlight the culinary attributes of Florida’s west coast.”

The two-day event will feature interactive experiences, tastings, cooking demonstrations and competitions between some of the area’s most notable and award-winning chefs and restaurants. To help create a full weekend culinary experience, the Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach, the official hotel sponsor of the event, is offering an Uncorked Getaway during the weekend of December 1-2, which includes accommodations and a pair of General admission tickets for just $289.

Event tickets are $65 per person, per day for general admission and $95 per person, per day for VIP access. All guests will receive a limited-edition wine glass, custom tote bag and enjoy the Grand Tasting Village with unlimited tastings from 1 to 4 p.m. Guests who purchase a VIP ticket will also enjoy one-hour early admission to the Grand Tasting Village and exclusive access to the Spirits Pool Lounge at the Wyndham Grand pool deck from 1 to 5 p.m. to sample exciting and intriguing crafted libations.

A portion of the proceeds from Clearwater Beach Uncorked will benefit University of South Florida’s Sarasota Manatee School of Hospitality and Tourism, Vet to Chef program. Funds will be used to help the training program give veterans who are struggling a fresh start and pull their lives together by entering a civilian career in the culinary arts.

For more information on Clearwater Beach Uncorked and to purchase tickets, visit ClearwaterBeachUncorked.com. Follow Clearwater Beach Uncorked on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram #Uncorkedweekend.

About Clearwater Beach Uncorked:

Clearwater Beach Uncorked has been dubbed the hippest, most exciting two-day food, wine, and craft beer festival on Florida’s West Coast. The event welcomes thousands of attendees to Florida’s award-winning Clearwater Beach.  In celebration of its sixth anniversary, Clearwater Beach Uncorked will play host to foodies, wine lovers and craft beer aficionados who long to wiggle their toes in the sugar white sand as they enjoy some of the area’s most delectable offerings. The 30,000 sq. ft. Grand Tasting Tent will feature a vast array of mouthwatering taste experiences for discerning palettes. A percentage of ticket sales will benefit the University of South Florida Sarasota Manatee School of Hospitality and Technology.