Gordon McConnell and Mary Rasmusse
in Blackbird
(© George Schiavone)
Gordon McConnell and Mary Rasmusse in Blackbird
(© George Schiavone)
This month marks the start of the third annual South Florida Theatre Festival, which will feature 24 productions in Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach from March 10 to May 12. The openings this month include Blackbird (March 1-30) at Gable Stage in Miami, which recalls the passion of an unconventional love affair between an older man and a young girl. On a similarly dark note, explore the personal secrets and political agendas of the Iraq war in Ward 57 (March 21-April 27) at Florida Stage in Manalapan. If you liked the movie, then take a chance and get Footloose (March 5-April 6) at the Actor's Playhouse in Coral Gables. For Agatha Christie fans, Spring Killing (March 28-April 13) at The Delray Beach Playhouse should fill your appetite for mystery. Long before Dorothy drooped in, two other girls met in the land of Oz, and now Wicked (March 12-April 6) is coming to the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale to tell their story. Finally, a case of love built in music comes with They're Playing Our Song (March 15-April 6) at the Tamarac Theatre of Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale.

Other Southern Florida openings include some comedic self-examination with Defending The Caveman (March 7-10) at the Raymond F. Kravis Center in West Palm Beach; a hilarious one-man play about the ways men and women relate. The Kravis Center will also present Spamalot (March 11-16), the second Florida stop on the Broadway Across America tour starring Gary Beach as King Arthur.

In Fort Lauderdale, enjoy 23 of Gershwin's unique creations in The Soul Of Gershwin, The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer (March 4-9), created by Joseph Voss, at the Parker Playhouse. Also in the area, 2 1/2 Jews (March 13-April 18) at the Museum of Art paints a picture of a big-shot lawyer who can't seem to handle his needy wife, his 80-year-old grandfather, or his lawyer son who is about to overshadow his success.

Miami will get a dose of a few New York favorites at the Adrienne Arsht Center, including the first Florida stop of the Spamalot tour (March 4-9), Forbidden Broadway (March 25 -April 13) starring the New York cast on its Spring Break, A Musical Evening with Martin Short (March 16), and Bernadette Peters in Concert (March 8).

On the west coast of the Sunshine State, Sarasota has a few openings this month. If you know anything about Fanny Brice, you'll enjoy Funny Girl (March 18-May 11) at the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre. Or take an adventure with Underneath the Lintel (March 5-23) at the Florida Studio Theatre when a small town civil servant unlocks an ancient myth in a book that was returned 113 years overdue.

Further down the southwestern coast, Breaking Legs (March 28-April 20) at the Florida Repertory Theatre will bring theater Tony Soprano style when a college professor gets his play produced by a Mafia don. If you're familiar with the ups and downs of marriage then you'll enjoy the Florida premiere of Married Alive! (March 6-20) at The Alliance for the Arts in Fort Myers, and also at the Norris Center (March 26-April 5) in Naples.

In Melbourne, join the merry sailors of the HMS Pinafore (March 29) at the Maxwell C. King Center for a taste of Gilbert and Sullivan's timeless wit. Also at the King Center, Movin' Out (March 11) and Evita (March 16) should tickle your musical bones whether you prefer Billy Joel or the former First Lady of Argentina. If all you need is a little comedy about a mixed up family, be sure to check out Steve Solomon's one man comedy My Sister's An Only Child (March 25) at the King Center.

In Orlando, I Never Saw Another Butterfly (March 28-April 13) at the Orlando Rep tells the story of Irena Synkova who helped the children in the Terezin holocaust camp dream of a better future. Another good choice in the area is Doubt: A Parable (March 20-April 13) presented by the Orlando Theatre Project at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center. Set in a Bronx Roman Catholic school, the play follows one nun's relentless pursuit of what she believes to be sexual misconduct.

If you're looking for something to do with your kids, the rabbit-hole is open for exploration this month in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (March 26-April 13) at the PlayGround Theatre in Miami Shores. If your little ones watch Blue's Clues! on TV, then bring them to Blue's Clues Live! The Most Spectacular Place (March 7 - 30) at The Orlando Rep for some live excitement with their favorite characters.