By Greg Carannante
City & Shore Entertainment Writer
These two halls — one long-established, the other relatively new — are great places to see a show this summer. But they’re about a lot more than that.
Miramar Cultural Center | ArtsPark
2400 Civic Center Place, 954-602-4500/954-602-4509, miramarculturalcenter.org.
At this state-of-the-art complex, you can see a production of an award-winning musical featuring an American Idol star. You can attend a lakeside wedding, corporate meeting or quinceañera at an elegant banquet hall catered by an executive chef. Or you can take in an exhibit in an intimate art gallery, practice your pirouette in the dance studio or simply enjoy the water view at a reception in the botanical garden.
MCC has been putting the “multi” in multi-purpose arts facility for the southwest Broward community since its opening in 2008. Its fully staffed 800-seat theater, 4,500-square-foot banquet hall, art gallery, dance studio and arts classroom are available for community and professional events, such as the approximately 60 performances by arts organizations each year. Last month alone, the center hosted recitals from six regional dance studios.
In addition to its own educational series of school-day matinees, master classes and performing arts summer camp, MCC also presents a dynamic performing arts series that this season featured artists as varied as Lucie Arnaz and Nicole Henry. The season arrives at an ambitious finale July 21-23 with MCC’s first Broadway Festival of South Florida, which climaxes with the hit Motown-era musical, Dreamgirls. LaKisha Jones, 2007 American Idol finalist, will join area artists onstage for two concert performances, at 8 p.m. July 22 and 2 p.m. July 23. Celebrating regional theater, the festival also includes a “Broadway Idol” song contest, master classes with nationally recognized artists and a free “Community Theatre Fair.”
Living up to its middle name, Miramar Cultural Center regularly programs events that reflect the region’s ethnic diversity, such as last month’s Caribbean American Heritage Celebration, featuring reggae group Third World; and May’s Dedette se Marie / Dedette is Getting Married, a comedy show presented entirely in Creole.
707 NE Eighth St., Fort Lauderdale,
One of the city’s first venues — and really its only grand dame — Parker Playhouse sits as a gleaming, neoclassical monument to a more graceful, still-vibrant theater experience.
The white statues of dancers, musicians and artists that adorned its portico roof are now gone. But in the lobby, a delicate, candelabra-style chandelier dangling from a cameo-motif mural still evokes an era when, 50 years ago, patrons breezed through for the Parker’s inaugural production of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple, or 14 years later, for Elizabeth Taylor’s stage debut in The Little Foxes.
The appealing aesthetic resonates into the arch-lined auditorium and its unbroken arc of 1,200 crimson seats sloping to the stage. With wide rows, superb sight lines and the acoustics you’d expect from a space designed with them in mind, it remains an intimate, enjoyable performance oasis in the arena age. Coming under the Broward Center umbrella 12 years ago, the theater has enjoyed a steady artistic renaissance, staunchly presenting mostly off-the-mainstream acts that bring in the boomers and the alternative crowd — acts like the upcoming Steve Earle/Los Lobos, Ringo Starr, Darlene Love, Paula Poundstone and Mike + The Mechanics.
The Parker is also bringing in the youngsters, hosting 30,000 students annually since the Broward Center’s educational program expanded there a few years ago. Presentations include JM Family Enterprises Smart Stage Matinees, curriculum-driven performances for pre-K through 12th grade; and Student Enrichment in the Arts performances, which align theater experiences with classroom lessons in an award-winning partnership with Broward Schools. And in April, the Countdown to Kindergarten event treated more than 1,500 pre-K kids and family members to performances of The Three Little Pigs as well as a pre-K fair to promote early literacy and kindergarten registration.