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Steven Levenson’s “If I Forget” began its Off-Broadway run a year ago, closing just six weeks before the now 33-year-old playwright won the Tony Award for writing the book of the acclaimed musical “Dear Evan Hansen.” Cut to February 2018, and South Florida already has its own exquisite production of “If I Forget,” thanks to GableStage artistic director Joseph Adler. Levenson’s fun..

In a career that continues to soar two decades after his first play was produced, Michael McKeever has premiered his dramas, comedies and short plays at theaters all over South Florida. Nearly always, he’s involved in those productions as the author, sometimes as an actor, at times as a set designer. The plays get their start here, then go on to productions (sometimes multiple product..

When M. John Richard decided to leave the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in late 2008 to become president and chief executive officer of Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, he arrived in South Florida with a vision, myriad ideas and a long-term exit strategy. “I knew in 2008 that I had a 10-year run in my tank,” says Richard, 65, who plans to retire from his Arsh..

Friendships can bring seemingly unlike people together to sometime form a strong bond. Such is the case in Walter Dean Myers’ coming of age novel, Darius & Twig. According to the summary notes of the book “Two best friends, a writer and a runner, deal with bullies, family issues, social pressures, and their quest for success coming out of Harlem.” It’s a tale of endurance, perseverance, an..

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When it comes to farces, Michael Frayn’s “Noises Off” is one of the great ones. The 1982 comedy has made it to Broadway three times, and American audiences all over the country have embraced it in countless regional productions. Actors’ Playhouse is having a go at “Noises Off” as the second show of its 30th anniversary season. The play fits like a period glove on the main stage at the..

The intricate alchemy of inspired theatrical art is on full display in Zoetic Stage’s darkly hilarious, gripping world premiere of Christopher Demos-Brown’s “Wrongful Death and Other Circus Acts.” Demos-Brown, a rising theatrical star whose play “American Son” will open on Broadway in November, has drawn on his experience as a lawyer working on wrongful death cases to create a savage exami..

My Barbarian wanted to take Miami on a boat ride. “We wanted to interact and be out in the public,” Alex Segade reveals over the phone from Los Angeles, where he just got out of rehearsal for My Barbarian’s first Miami show, coming up this Saturday at the Miami Light Project, as part of Miami-Dade College’s Museum of Art and Design’s “Living Together” performance series this season. ..

The time seems right for Karen Finley to be visiting Miami, to be performing in the black box space of the Miami Light Project at the Goldman Warehouse, and to present her latest performance-art manifesto about the current political landscape, “Unicorn Gratitude Mystery.” In the show, which she began developing as a response to the U.S. presidential election in 2016, Finley plays a unicor..

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He says his dance comes from his dreams. French-Algerian choreographer Hervé Koubi’s most recent work, “What the Day Owes the Night” combines Sufi rhythms with cutting edge b-boy moves, class..

A world premiere always comes with a drum roll. And, throughout the years, Miami City Ballet has brought to light its fair share of resounding new works. Still, Brian Brooks’ freshly-minted O..

Wednesday night at the Arsht Center’s Knight Concert Hall the South Florida Symphony Orchestra in collaboration with the Martha Graham Dance company presented “Appalachian Spring Suite” and “The R..

Cooking may be Dan Froot’s favorite thing. This is saying a lot since Froot is also a composer, a dancer, a sax-player, a play-wright, an oral-historian -- an all-around performance artist an..

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Anytime would be a good time to devote a dance program to the works of Jerome Robbins, our most versatile and celebrated American-born choreographer. But, given that 2018 marks the centennial..

Due to winter storms in the Northeast impacting travel, with great regrets the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company announced the cancellation of the Saturday, Jan. 6 performance. At age..

It is fitting at this time of the year that our thoughts often turn to what connects us not what divides us. Whether we are driven by religious or secular motives, many of us are in the spiri..

Famed Percussionist Bobby Thomas Jr. Makes Music in the Park

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Written by: Tracy Fields
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South Florida music lovers have a rare chance to see a homegrown star in concert - and there’s no admission charge.

Bobby Thomas Jr., described by jazz legend Melton Mustafa as “the baddest drummer on the planet, bar none,” performs on Friday at Music in the Park, a biannual concert series in Miami Gardens. The opening act is singer Rochelle Lightfoot.

Thomas, a two-time Grammy nominee and member of the South Florida Jazz Hall of Fame, has traveled the world with artists such as Monty Alexander, Ira Sullivan, Thad Jones, Joe Zawinul and Weather Report. On Friday, he’ll perform with his homeboys Randy Bernsen on guitar, bassist Bob Grabowski, and Fernando Diez on sax.

“This ensemble is like my extended family,” said Thomas, who has played with them all for decades, with Grabowski and Bernsen since his late teens. They met after the man Thomas calls his “jazz father,” saxophonist and fellow Hall of Fame member Jet Nero, showed him there was a musical world beyond the disco that dominated the scene in the 1970s.

Thomas, who began to play percussion when an elementary-school teacher urged him to take up music, hated the repetitive dance tracks with their unvarying beat. “There was nothing for me to do,” he said. “I quit playing music period because of the disco scene.”

He didn’t lack for creative outlets, though, having majored in art at what was then Miami-Dade Junior College. “I’m really a painter and sculptor,” said Thomas, who still makes visual art and is assembling pieces for a show.

But popular music also presented another problem for Thomas back in the day. “My fiancée had broken my heart and I couldn’t stand to hear pop music on the radio,” he said. A dear friend suggested he try jazz and recommended a visit to the Gold Dust Lounge, a hot spot for the music.

“I walked in, I think it was Curtis Lundy on the bass, and this cool-looking guy on the saxophone, which was Jet Nero,” Thomas recalled. “On the break I walked up to Jet and asked him [if I could] sit in. They had some bongos lying on the floor. As soon as I started to play, he turned around and said, ‘Wow, you’re not gonna be here long.’”

Nero was right. In the next couple of years, Thomas met and began working with Alexander, South Floridian bass legend Jaco Pastorius, and Zawinul.

“I guess it’s a good thing that girl broke my heart,” Thomas said, chuckling.

On Friday, concertgoers can expect “a lot of positive energy, a lot of love coming from the bandstand,” he said. “And a lot of improvisation. I’m not a big fan of copying other people’s music.”

There is one standard the band is sure to play: “What the World Needs Now is Love,” by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. “Because of what’s happened with the whole political scene, it’s quite a huge disappointment,” Thomas said, “so I think that’ll be an appropriate theme to put out to the people.”

The Bobby Thomas Ensemble headlines Music in the Park, Friday, Dec. 2, with opening act Rochelle Lightfoot, 6:30 p.m. in the Betty T. Ferguson Recreational Complex Amphitheater, 3000 N.W. 199 St., Miami Gardens; admission free.

 


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About The writer

Tracy Fields is a reporter, writer and host of Evenin' Jazz

A member of the South Florida media for more than two decades, Tracy Fields has been a reporter/editor for The Associated Press and a freelance wordsm..

About the Writer

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