Northeast Florida might be almost 1,000 miles away from Broadway, but the amount of high-quality theater onstage here should satisfy even those with Times Square taste.
Several theater companies have been performing on Jacksonville stages for decades, launching the careers of actors who have graduated to Broadway, television and film. Lavilla School of the Arts middle school and Douglas Anderson School of the Arts high school train top-notch talent.
The local talent pool has never been stronger, and homegrown actors can appear onstage year round in professional and community theater productions. Choices range from intimate stagings of amusing mind-benders like “Venus in Fur” at Players by the Sea to elaborate, lush musicals like “Les Miserables” at Theatre Jacksonville.
Here are some of the most active groups staging live theater in the Jacksonville area.
2032 San Marco Boulevard
Jacksonville, FL 32207
Billed as Florida’s longest running community theater since it formed as the Little Theatre company 1919, Theatre Jacksonville celebrates its 95th season in fall 2014. The productions are staged in a charming 1927 building off San Marco Square. Don’t let the size of this “Little Theatre” fool you: The plays and sets are ambitious.
PLAYERS BY THE SEA
106 Sixth Street N.
Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250
Founded in 1966 by three beaches couples who loved theater, Players by the Sea used borrowed or rented spaces for its performances. After purchasing its first permanent home in 1999, the number and quality of its productions increased. Now, the theater is known for rowdy rock musicals like “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” and Northeast Florida premieres like “Angels in America: Millennium Approaches.” Players by the Sea has two stages, the Mainstage for larger productions and the Studio Stage for more intimate plays.
ALHAMBRA THEATRE & DINING
12000 Beach Blvd.
Jacksonville, FL 32246
Built in 1967, Alhambra Theatre & Dining is a Jacksonville institution and one of the only dinner theaters left in the United States. Nationally known actors visit Jacksonville to perform in professional, Broadway-style productions, from early starlets such as Cyd Charisse and Betty Grable to recent visits by Barbara Eden and Cindy Williams. Local theater perennials bring energy and craft to these productions.
THE 5 & DIME: A THEATRE COMPANY
This itinerant group of artists creates theater all around Jacksonville in museums, bars, galleries—locations inspired by the content of their latest production. The 5 & Dime focuses on plays that might not otherwise see a stage in Northeast Florida. Past productions have included “Matt & Ben,” “Hedwig and The Angry Inch” and “Elegies For Angels, Punks and Raging Queens.”
5188 Norwood Ave.
Launched in 2003 to provide the underserved people of Jacksonville’s Northside community with a performing arts venue, Stage Aurora features productions that highlight African-American roles, such as “The Color Purple,” “Dreamgirls” and “A Raisin in the Sun.” Several Broadway stars have appeared on its stage.
ATLANTIC BEACH EXPERIMENTAL THEATRE: ABET
716 Ocean Blvd.
Atlantic Beach, FL 32233
Emphasizing new, original work and neglected classics, ABET has gained a reputation for high-quality productions, including many new plays, some by local playwrights.
11 Old Mission Ave.
St. Augustine, FL 32084
The Limelight Theatre staged its first production in 1992 in the Monson Bayfront Inn. After becoming a nonprofit in 1994, it staged productions for several years at many venues. In 2001, the Limelight purchased a building on Old Mission Avenue and converted it into a 125-seat theater. In 2006, it added the Koger-Gamache Studio Theatre. It has produced more than 100 shows, from classics to new works and tragedies to musical comedies.
AMELIA COMMUNITY THEATRE
207/209 Cedar St.
Fernandina Beach, FL 32034
Amelia Community Theatre has been producing shows since 1981. In 2010, it opened a new facility that includes the Main Stage and the Studio209 theater.
ORANGE PARK COMMUNITY THEATRE
2900 Moody Ave
Orange Park, FL 32073
In 1987, the old St. Mary's Catholic Church was donated and moved to become the Orange Park Community Theatre, an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization and the only live theater in Clay County that originally began in 1969. The first production in this theater was “Murder Among Friends,” and “Hello, Dolly!” was the first musical.
FSCJ Artist Series, sponsored by Vystar
Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts
300 Water St.
Jacksonville, FL 32202
1-888-860-BWAY (toll free outside Jacksonville)
Although these aren’t local productions, the FSCJ Artist Series is another great way to get your theater fix in Jacksonville. Presenting the Broadway touring productions, the FSCJ Artist Series, under the auspices of the Florida State College Foundation, Inc., brings diverse and innovative programs that sometimes include actors who got their start in Jacksonville.