Spring Arts Preview: Etc. 

The best in comedy, opera, sports and more.

Don’t miss…

Laughs aplenty. If you like comedians, the springtime blossoms with funny smartasses. Katt Williams is among the best of the best of the newer comics, right up there with Louis C.K. Katt sets himself apart with a hilariously manic energy and undeniable wit — think coke-induced Robin Williams filtered through Richard Pryor and George Carlin (Feb. 9, Tampa Bay Times Forum). Kathleen Madigan, one of comedy’s most recognizable, relatable and ubiquitous performers, was declared “the funniest woman in America” by Lewis Black (Feb. 8, Palladium Theater). The dummies bring comedy’s best ventriloquist, Jeff Dunham, to Tampa, too (Feb. 22, Tampa Bay Times Forum). Amy Schumer is stand-up’s girl next door — that is, if said girl is that troublemaker your mom warned you about. Schumer belies her blonde aw-shucksness with a sassy mouth and blatant disregard for appropriateness. She was the comic who elicited the most nervous laughter during the roasts of Roseanne and Charlie Sheen (Sat., May 11, 8 p.m., Straz Center). I know one super-famous comedian who’d put Schumer in the corner: Bill Cosby. The sitcom star with a Ph.D and a passion for pudding makes a rare appearance in Clearwater (March 23, Ruth Eckerd Hall).

St. Petersburg Opera and Opera Tampa. Performances this spring illustrate that opera is not just for killing da wabbit, Viking helmets and a singing fat lady. Opera is an exquisite genre, created to make audiences think and feel through poetic storytelling and heart-rending vocals. St. Petersburg Opera presents one of the best: Tosca by Giacomo Puccini (Feb. 1, 3 and 5, Palladium Theater). Its plot follows a woman whose lover is arrested and tortured after she harbors a fugitive — and if that weren’t enough — a corrupt police chief blackmails her for the unthinkable in exchange for her boyfriend’s life. It’s a tragedy that rivals Puccini’s La Boheme and Madama Butterfly, with eloquent statements about honor and love. La Boheme, the inspiration behind Rent, is also being staged this season. It’s part of the Florida Opera Festival. Opera Tampa celebrates the series’ first year with accessible and enlightening opera-related events: outdoor movies, performances of Verdi’s masquerade classic Un Ballo in Maschero (Feb. 7-10, Straz Center) and an opera comedy that’s cookin’ — literally. Bon Appetit: Have Your Chocolate Cake and Eat It Too! is a tribute to kitchen legend Julia Child (Feb. 22, Straz Center’s TECO Theater). Katherine Jenkins, Britain’s all-time best-selling classical artist, well-known to fans of America’s Dancing with the Stars, performs with American tenor Nathan Pacheco (March 1, at 8 p.m., Straz Center). And Sunday Afternoon at the Movies screenings of operas and-related movies (Moonstruck, La Traviata) will appeal to aficionados and newbies alike (floridaoperafestival.org).

Contemporary dance. People, attend a dance performance. Trust me. Done right, dance is absolutely mesmerizing and one of the Tampa Bay area’s most under-appreciated art forms. Here’s a start: Tampa’s most electriying dance source, Moving Current, celebrates its 15th anniversary this season and joins forces with George Staib for Moving Current & Staibdance. Members of the USF-based modern dance collective will share the stage with Staib’s Atlanta-based company (March 1-3, USF’s Theater 1). In April, high-steppers across the U.S. celebrate National Dance Week, and to commemorate, the Hillsborough Community College Dance Program and School of Visual and Performing Arts will present Four Days of Dance, a series “celebrating the variety and diversity of dance in the Tampa Bay community” (April 17-20, Mainstage Theatre, HCC-Ybor).

Also on the radar…

2Cool Art Show. PAVA, a not-for-profit, artist-run organization, hosts its annual indoor art show/festival, featuring more than 40 artists. Feb. 9-10, Gulfport Casino 5500 Shore Blvd., Gulfport.

The Florida Orchestra: Video Games Live! You’ll recognize tunes from Super Mario, Zelda, Final Fantasy and more. USF Chamber Singers join in a performance of synchronized videos and rock-concert lighting, along with solo performers, electronic percussion and interactive video game segments. The concert is hosted by its creator, Tommy Tallarico. Feb. 1, 8 p.m., The Mahaffey Theater.

Tampa Bay Rowdies Home Season Opener. Cheer on the 2012 NASL champs as they take on the Carolina RailHawks. April 6, Al Lang Stadium.

Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The 1.8-mile race course has 14 turns. Participants can attend IZOD Indy Car races, the Pirelli World Challenge and more. Schedule to be announced. March 22-24, downtown St. Petersburg.

Frenchy’s Sugar Sand Festival. The City of Clearwater’s Fun ‘N Sun Festival and Sunsets at Pier 60 Daily Festival have joined forces for a 10-day fest that offers daytime and evening fun, including the Frenchy’s Master Sand Sculpting Competition, sand-sculpting clinics, speed-sand demonstrations and a children’s play area called the Sandbox. April 19-28, Pier 60, Clearwater Beach.

Black Label Launch Party. Misred Outfitters’ new clothing line is celebrated at designer Kimberly Hendrix’s studio, K.Hendrix Gallery, 531 Central Ave., St. Pete. Free tickets online. Three hundred pieces will be on sale. Feb. 9, 6 p.m., misredblacklabel.eventbrite.com.

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