Florida Studio Theatre opens its 29th Summer Mainstage Series with the return of one of the most successful shows in the theatre’s history, "Sophie Tucker: The Last of the Red Hot Mamas."
Called “Thoroughly winning” and “One-of-a-kind” by NPR, this sizzling show tells the intriguing life story of Sophie Tucker, a pioneering entertainer who proved that a woman could reach the top of show business on her own terms. Created by Jack Fournier and Kathy Halenda, "Sophie Tucker" will run in FST’s Gompertz Theatre June 2 through July 11.
"Sophie Tucker: The Last of the Red Hot Mamas" is part of a three-show subscription package. Also included in the Mainstage subscription package is the inspiring new historical drama "My Lord, What a Night" and the endearing Off-Broadway comedy, "Rounding Third."
“Sophie Tucker is, without a doubt, one of the biggest hit shows in FST history,” said Rebecca Hopkins, FST’s managing director. “Kathy Halenda is an instrumental part of that. She is a powerhouse and beloved by our Sarasota community. It’s definitely the right time to bring her and the show back as we kick off our first summer season in two years.”
With a voice and personality that lit up Vaudeville and Broadway, Tucker was one of the most popular entertainers in the United States during the first half of the 20th century. Tucker was known for performing bawdy, risqué songs and talking about taboo subjects — like infidelity, aging, and her larger body size — in her acts.
“Women of that time never openly discussed things like sex, heartbreak, marital frustration or even personal opinions,” said Halenda, who will be reprising her role this summer after playing Tucker in FST’s previous productions. “Sophie broke the mold by talking about things that all women thought about, but couldn't speak of — and she did it all with a sly wink and a smile, without ever being overtly offensive.”
Featuring Tucker’s best-known songs, such as “The Lady is a Tramp,” “My Yiddishe Momme” and “Some of These Days,” this saucy show is an FST favorite. FST produced the show’s world premiere in 2000, and went on to present it three more times due to audience demand (2002, 2004 and 2012).
“Sophie Tucker hasn’t been seen in Sarasota for nearly 10 years,” said Richard Hopkins, FST’s producing artistic director and director of "Sophie Tucker: The Last of the Red Hot Mamas." “Like the show, Tucker was way ahead of her time. She didn’t ask for women’s rights — she took them. And with Kathy Halenda, who, herself, is a funny, big-voiced, strong woman, returning to this role, it’s like a match made in heaven.”
Halenda has performed in over 250 professional productions, counting 18 national tours and including roles such as Mama Rose in "Gypsy," Mae West in "Ziegfeld" and Golde in "Fiddler on the Roof." She has also created and co-written three one-woman shows, including "Sophie Tucker: The Last of the Red Hot Mamas," which has gained critical acclaim in Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania and New York. She has previously been seen at FST in "Somewhere Over the Rose" (2014), "Inspired Lunacy" (2015) and numerous Winter Cabarets.
Joining Halenda onstage is FST’s resident pianist, Jim Prosser as Teddy, Tucker’s musical accompanist and comedic foil. Prosser has been FST’s resident pianist for over 25 years, mostly recently appearing in FST’s spring presentation of "Vintage POP!" with Carole J. Bufford. He has arranged and co-developed over 50 cabarets for FST, including the smash hits "Outlaws & Angels," "Unchained Melodies" and "Blue Suede Shoes." Prosser has served as Composer/Music Director for the FST School, in addition to FST’s Children’s Theatre and WRITE A PLAY programs for over two decades.