Musical revue tracing the history of doo-wop music returns for its third run in Sarasota

‘Unchained Melodies’: Runs Wednesday through March 22 in Florida Studio Theatre’s Keating Theatre, 1241 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota. 941-366-9000; floridastudiotheatre.org


Producing theaters always hope their shows will connect with audiences, but even the creators of the Florida Studio Theatre 2018 cabaret show "Unchained Melodies" were stunned at the response from audiences.


The musical revue traces the history of doo-wop music and the singers and groups who made the sound popular and ever-changing. It originally ran for 18 weeks and was brought back for another run in March 2019 to sold-out houses, making it the longest-running cabaret show in the theater’s history.


"Unchained Melodies" will add to that record with another run that begins March 11. A third week was added to the originally scheduled two-week run even before it opens.


"We had done doo-wop style shows before, but this particular show, with the four guys telling more of the story of doo-wop, really connected with people," said Managing Director Rebecca Hopkins, who wrote the show with her husband, Artistic Director Richard Hopkins.


Nick Anastasia, Nathaniel P. Claridad and David Marmanillo, who were three of the original stars, return along with James LaRosa, who joined the quartet last March when it moved from the Court Cabaret to the larger Keating Theatre.


"The stars aligned with this one," said director Catherine Randazzo. "It also aligned with the characters. The characters the guys portray mix with their own personalities, and people just fell in love with them. They really connect with them, and it feels like a group that has been together for a long time."


The performers celebrate male harmony groups, from the Drifters and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, to the Temptations, Boys to Men and ’N Sync, with such hits as "Blue Moon," "16 Candles," "Save the Last Dance" and "Working My Way Back to You."


Hopkins recalled feeling nervous when the cast first gathered for rehearsals of the show.


"They didn’t know the music and I was scared," she said. "But they just fell in love with the music and the enthusiasm they brought to the stage was real."


Hopkins said the experience is a little different in the Keating Theatre.


"It’s twice as big as the cabaret and you’ve got twice the audience reaction. It turned into a bigger concert," she said. "One thing I love about cabaret is that it’s intimate. It is 100 people and you feel like that actor is talking or singing to you. You lose a bit of that, but the audience is more focused on them. The cabaret environment is meant to be more congenial, but on the mainstage they were laser focused on these guys and by the end the guys really talked about how different it was."