Performing Arts

Performing Arts Story
By:Ryan Hutchins

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Unknown to many on the First Coast, there is a plethora of options for enjoying the Performing Arts. This can be a great change-up to a night out. Whether that be date night, a reunion with friends, or trying something different, two places stand out when enjoying a show in on your nightly agenda.

One of the hidden gems that Jacksonville has is The Ritz Theatre and Museum. Located downtown near Riverside and in the historic neighborhood of LaVilla, The Ritz highlights African-American history in our city with a little twist of modern music and comedy. The theatre puts on a music and comedy series that goes on year round.

“This Theatre is a ‘Metropolis’ of culture,” said Stacy Aubrey, the director of theatres.

Inside the complex there is a museum that highlights many old artifacts from famous African American people or places in Jacksonville. For instance, there are track shoes from “Bullett” Bob Hayes from the 1964 Olympics. There is also a picture of Billy Daniels’ star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, along with one of his famous suits . To top all of that off, there is an animatronic presentation about “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing”, which is widely known as the “Black American National Anthem”. James Weldon Johnson, the author of the poem, was from Jacksonville and today is still one of the biggest figures to ever come out of the city.

Along with the museum there is also a concert and comedy series going on at the theatre. The 400-seat theatre is an intimate venue to see some fine artists come and display their craft. It’s truly a hidden gem for a night out in Jacksonville.

However, there is also a little bit of history at the Alhambra Dinner Theatre. Located on Beach Boulevard, The Alhambra is one of four operating dinner theatres still in existence. Want another reason why you should visit? It’s the oldest of those four.

The Alhambra puts on many shows during the duration of the year and you can find talented actors and actresses walking through its doors. Some of the popular artists to perform here include Dorothy Lamour and Martha Raye. According to owner Craig Smith, it’s a lot like something else beloved in Jacksonville.

“It’s a lot like Minor League Baseball,” said Smith. “They’re on their way to the big leagues and they get to practice their craft.”

Like the Ritz, this theatre is small and intimate. The performers will often walk out into the audience while the show is going on so it feels as if the audience is really in the show! The small, charming and intimate theatre is beloved by many here in Jacksonville, yet many are unaware of its existence.

When Smith took over ownership in 2009, the Alhambra went under extensive renovations. Today, it is a top-notch destination for a show in Jacksonville while getting a four-star meal. This place shouldn’t be missed when it comes to a fun night out.

These two places are special parts of Jacksonville’s history. Most people don’t know that Jacksonville is home to many fine examples and showings of the Performing Arts. For your next night out, consider one of these venues and you won’t be disappointed.