The theatrical season is well underway at the Live Oak Theatre, which is a not-for-profit 501(C)(3) repertory company of local artists, located at the Carol and Frank Morsani Center for the Arts at 21030 Cortez Boulevard, Brooksville. Whether you favor the sound of music or the feel of mystery, the Live Oak Theatre is offering an exciting schedule of shows that appeal to all.
Currently playing at the theatre is “Murder on the Orient Express,” now showing from September 23 through October 9.
Assistant Director Chris Rocanelli is a Live Oak veteran who returns to the stage as assistant director of “Murder on the Orient Express.” He stated, “Live Oak has been a part of my life since I was 14 years old. My friend Holly had done shows with them and told me I should audition for their latest original production ‘Around the World in 80 Days.’ I did and got cast in a variety of supporting roles! Then, I continued performing with Live Oak by joining the company of ‘The Secret Garden.’ By the time I was a sophomore, I focused on the F.W. Springstead High School productions. However, the Live Oak Family was still a part of my life. Since my return to Hernando County, I have been seen on stage in LOT’s production of ‘Into the Woods’ as the Narrator and ‘Newsies’ as Wiesel, Jacobi, and the Mayor. Now, I am stepping behind the scenes in our production of ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ as the assistant director.”
Rocanelli also plays another important role in the community, as an elementary school teacher. “I currently teach 4th Grade Language Arts and Social Studies at Pine Grove Elementary School. PGES is a second home to me as it was my elementary school and my mother, sister, aunt, and cousin all work there. If that was not enough family, my beautiful fiancé Kimberly (who can be seen as Mrs.Hubbard in our production of ‘Murder on the Orient Express’) is my co-teacher!” he said. “As for college, I am currently finishing my Bachelor’s degree in Supervision and Management from Florida State College at Jacksonville.”
This has proven a rich homecoming for Rocanelli, now a seasoned thespian. “I attended school in Jacksonville, and with the rise of COVID-19, working from home, and attending school online, my sister, fiancé and I decided to move back to Spring Hill. In Jacksonville, I continued my theatrical ventures by taking theatre classes and was featured in ‘Into the Woods’ as Rapunzel’s Prince, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ as Nick Bottom, and ‘Twelve Angry Men’ as Juror #2 in Theatre Jacksonville’s 100th season,” he explained. “As we prepared to move back, I decided to look and see what Live Oak Theatre’s season was and saw the upcoming auditions for “Into the Woods”. “Into the Woods” is one of my favorite musicals, so my fiancé and I decided to audition. Thus, it all began as we were welcomed back to Live Oak with open arms!”
Rocanelli has a strong background in the theatrical arts. “Many of my ventures in Jacksonville as well as Spring Hill had me involved both on and off stage. I was learning more and more about directing and other technical theatre elements throughout my recent theatre experiences, so when the opportunity came to assistant direct ‘Murder on the Orient Express,’ I had to take it,” he said. “This cast is filled with people I love dearly and who have become a second family to me. Working with Director Katie Marra, the cast, and members of the Live Oak Theatre company on this production has been simply incredible.”
Rocanelli said that audiences should enjoy their ride on the Orient Express.”’Murder on the Orient Express’ is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last line! It is your classic ‘whodunnit’ play and will have you feeling like you are investigating the crime right along with world famous detective Hercule Poirot (played by Kevan Richards). It is the perfect mix of suspense, comedy, and thrill executed beautifully by an extremely talented cast.” he said. “This cast has worked tirelessly both on and off stage to make this a truly amazing production. Each member of our production brings something so special to the table that you do not want to miss! Katie Marra, our director, has worked so hard to bring to the community what I can guarantee will be a beautiful night in the theatre.”
Rocanelli looks forward to a bright future in the theatre, at Live Oak and beyond. “Currently, I am prepping for the upcoming auditions for Live Oak Theatre’s production of ‘The Sound of Music’ which is set to premiere in the Spring! I hope to be able to try my hand at directing future Live Oak Theatre productions in the upcoming seasons!” he said. “Also, I am currently working to bring a chorus back to Pine Grove Elementary School and hope to continue to educate and guide children to the arts both through my position at PGES and my membership with Live Oak Theatre.”
Live Oak Theatre’s open auditions for “The Sound of Music” are coming soon at the theatre. This is Live Oak’s interpretation of the classic story of the Von Trapp family, under the guidance of governess turned matriarch Maria Von Trapp. This classic story has been retold in the form of a book, several German-based musical films, a classic Hollywood musical, and now a popular stage musical production.
“We are super excited to put our own special touches to this classic musical,” said Vince Vanni, Live Oak spokesman. “We have attempted, on many occasions, to obtain the rights to “Sound of Music:” however, whenever we apply, it was being performed close by.” To be considered for this audition, any talent, whether they’re a Live Oak vet or are new to the theatre, should submit a video audition performing a pre-selected monologues and a pre-selected character specific song from the show by Tuesday, November 29. Full audition instructions can be found on the Live Oak Theatre website at https://www.liveoaktheatre.org/gallery.
Those who read the full instructions and still have questions, email [email protected] “Live Oak Theatre is a repertory company, so auditions are actually to be in the company, not just this one production. Once accepted into the company, you are notified of various opportunities to perform,” said Vanni. “Those who are accepted participate in a brief orientation about the mission, vision, and especially the values of our family friendly theatre company.” “The Sound of Music” will be performed March 17,19, 24-26 & 31-April 2, 2023. Additional performances may be scheduled.
The Executive Producer sponsor for “The Sound of Music” is Pasco Hernando State College. “I am handling the drama coaching and direction. The full production is under the direction of Kris Mitten,” said Vanni. “I have worked with her on ‘Cheaper by the Dozen’ and ‘The Importance of Being Earnest.’ I was thrilled when she asked me to collaborate with her again.”
For more information about the Live Oak Theatre Company, including sponsorship and audition opportunities, call 352-593-0027, email [email protected] or go to www.LiveOakTheatre.org.