Newly open in the Goldstein Cabaret at Sarasota’s Florida Studio Theatre is “Guitar Girls.”
Honoring some of the greatest female singer/songwriters of the past 80 or so years, four female singers and a guy fill the cabaret with one hit after another while also educating those of us in the audience about the stories behind the songs and songwriters.
In a nutshell, that is one of the strengths of FST’s in-house creations. This latest show is just another in a string of shows created in-house by FST producing artistic director Richard Hopkins, Rebecca Hopkins and Catherine Randazzo with musical arrangements by FST’s resident pianist Jim Prosser. The talented musician has added his considerable talent in that regard to countless shows developed in-house at FST for some 25 years.
Music ranged from such spiritually moving songs such as “Amazing Grace,” brilliantly performed by Jannie Jones to “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and Carter family songs performed by Tamara Haydn, as well as traditional folk songs like “House of the Rising Sun” and “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine.”
Jones doesn’t play guitar but she certainly can belt out a song and does so throughout the show. So does Cat Greenfield, especially when she performs “Me and Bobby McGee.” It was as though Janis Joplin had returned to sing again but in that wonderful cabaret space. In Act Two, Jones scored a standing ovation from a few women in the house with her rendition of Dolly Parton’s song, “I Will Always Love You,” performing it as done by Whitney Huston in the film “The Bodyguard” with Kevin Costner. Jones is no stranger to Sarasota stages. She performed recently in “Raisin” at Westcoast Black Theatre, and with that voice, she is a force to be reckoned with on the national stage.
While there is no true lead singer in this talented troupe, Tamra Hayden comes close, whether singing alone or performing with one or more of the others on the stage. She has several songs with the one male singer in the show, FST veteran Joe Casey (“Million Dollar Quartet, “Blue Suede Shoes” and “American Pie”). Hayden plays violin as well as guitar and also serves as the emcee of the group throughout the show.
The female songwriters featured include Carole King, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Joni Mitchell, Mary Chapin Carpenter, June Carter and more all the way back to Rosetta Tharpe who wrote “This Train” back in the 1930s.
“Guitar Girls” continues through March 31 in the Goldstein Cabaret on North Palm Avenue, Sarasota. Enjoy dinner before the show.
“Guitar Girls” is part of a three-show package, which includes “Unchained Melodies” and “The Wonder Years: Music of the Baby Boomers.” A subscription for these three shows begins at $49. Call the box office at 941-366-9000 or visit: FloridaStudioTheatre.org.