Sarasota and Bradenton Area Theatre
Whether you love to watch Broadway-caliber plays or small local productions, there are plenty of opportunities to catch live theatre in and around Anna Maria Island. Catch an intimate show at the historic Island Playhouse in Anna Maria, bring the entire family to see a blockbuster musical like Mary Poppins or West Side Story at the Manatee Performing Arts Center in Bradenton or get lost in a bold dramatic experience at the Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota. Most are also currently offering socially distant seating and virtual- or outdoor-viewing options.
No matter which route you choose, you won’t regret adding a theatrical show to your list of things to do near Bradenton Beach.
Manatee Performing Arts Center
Brandenton’s Manatee Performing Arts Center (15 minutes from the Compass hotel) has been a top destination for theatre aficionados on Florida’s Gulf Coast for over 65 years. Originally opened as The Riverfront Theatre in 1953—the first of its kind in Bradenton’s history—the community space is home to The Manatee Players, a group of talented community members who have been entertaining locals and visitors since 1947.
The spacious Manatee Performing Arts Center, which replaced the original building in 2013, now offers a diverse schedule of critically acclaimed productions, from kid-pleasing titles such as “Matilda” and “The Lion King” and comedies like “Menopause The Musical” to classics like “The Music Man” and “Fiddler on the Roof.”
The Island Players
Celebrated as the oldest community theater in Manatee County, The Island Players was founded in 1949 and has dazzled audiences with stellar stage productions ever since. The theater, which typically presents five performances each year, is housed across the bridge in one of Anna Maria Island’s most storied buildings. Before the structure became a 137-seat performance venue in the mid-1970s, it served as a family home, a center of municipal affairs, school classroom, multiple churches and a World War II service club, among other things.
Today, the theatre is recognized as both a Florida Heritage Site and an Anna Maria Island Historical Society landmark and continues to host intimate shows starring a passionate group of performers. Past productions on the schedule include “A Christmas Carol,” “Present Laughter” and “Almost, Maine.”
Asolo Repertory Theatre
About 30 minutes away, the Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota is a cultural powerhouse in southwest Florida. The name Asolo originated in the city of Asolo, Italy, where the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art acquired a small 18th-century theatre and shipped it piece by piece to Sarasota. There, The Asolo Theatre Company was established by a group of Florida State University (FSU) faculty members that evolved into a year-round professional theatre.
In 1989, the company and its audiences outgrew the small theatre and moved to its current home at FSC Center for Performing Arts. Now the Asolo Theatre Company hosts up to 15 productions every year, spanning the gamut of creative interpretations of classic and contemporary works, musical theatre experiences and freshly commissioned plays. Choose from beloved acts like “Camelot” and “The Sound of Music” or modern makeovers of classic stories like “Snow White,” “Robin Hood” and “Romeo and Juliet.”