Arts & Entertainment Season Preview

Here’s a sampling to whet your appetite and get you started on a season-long adventure in art, theater, music, dance, literature, film, history and science.

To paraphrase Rodgers and Hammerstein’s hit song from the musical Carousel, the arts are bustin’ out all over.

Broadway Across America loads up on blockbusters with Orlando presentations of The Book of Mormon (below) and War Horse. (Brinkhoff/Moegenburg)


In a meeting with arts groups last year, Terry Olson, head of Orange County’s office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, declared 2014 “The Year of Charles Dickens” in Orlando. But you can get an early start this December, when playwright Joseph Hayes presents The Little Dickens at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater as the 13th event in his “13in13’’ project. “The Little Dickens will combine theater, podcasting, smartphones, live streaming, modern technology and ancient storytelling,’’ Hayes says. “The play is told by all the juvenile characters of Dickens’ novels—Little Nell, Little Dorrit, Tiny Tim, Jack Dawkins—using their actual lines from the books, interwoven into a rollicking evening of entertainment.”

Joan Marcus

There’s nothing little about director Jim Helsinger’s Dickensian plans for 2014. A cast of 27 actors playing more than 150 characters will appear in the UCF/Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s production of The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, Parts I and II. “Nicholas Nickleby is a young firebrand who fights the oppression of the poor by the rich,” Helsinger says. “It’s a universal theme, still relevant, and has lots of parallels with today.” Christopher Niess, chair of UCF’s theater department, will co-direct the shows, which will be performed in repertory one week apart. On Saturdays, the audience can watch the first half from 2 to 5 p.m., break for Victorian tea nearby, then watch the second half at 7:30 p.m. Nicholas Nickleby runs from mid-January through March.

Not quite ready for a theater marathon? Local theater critic Elizabeth Maupin recommends her sentimental favorite, The Light in the Piazza, a musical by Adam Guettel and Craig Lucas, coming to the Mad Cow Theatre in December. Maupin says, “It’s set in Florence and is about love of all kinds—between young lovers, between older lovers and between a daughter and a mother who has to learn how to let go. It’s a beautiful, beautiful show.”

Speaking of beautiful shows, if you’re ever going to buy season tickets to Broadway Across America, this might be the time to do it. The 25th anniversary season boasts one blockbuster after another—Mamma Mia!, The Book of Mormon, Flashdance, Once, War Horse, Evita, Jersey Boys and Ghost.

Central Florida’s theater scene is not for adults only; imagine the fun when the kids preview their Halloween costumes and sing along as the Orlando Repertory Theatre presents Mr. Richard & The Pound Hounds Halloween, a concert the weekend before the big night. If you like children’s shows that teach a lesson, check out PIP-SQUEAK: An Anti-Bullying Magic Show, in which magician/comedian Tony Brent gently uses humor to help children identify the signs of bullying and learn to cope with, prevent and stop it.

The Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival, will stage its 24th annual event in late May, providing performing and visual artists the opportunity to show their work in an uncensored, unjuried environment while giving 100 percent of ticket sales back to them. An annual 13-day bacchanalia (but including a G-rated Kids Fringe) with over 500 performances in multiple venues in and around Loch Haven Park, Fringe provides experiences with entertainers from around the globe.

The Bach Festival Choir will sing A Child of Our Time. (Courtesty of Bach Festival Society)


The Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra presents its first opera of the new season, The Barber of Seville, in late October. Returning guest conductor Joel Revzen, principal conductor of the Arizona Opera, says, “Everyone will enjoy this comic masterpiece, filled with familiar tunes, brilliant singing and unexpected twists and turns in the plot.” Another musical treat this season is A Louis Armstrong Tribute in February, featuring Byron Stripling on trumpet and vocals, with Andrew Lane conducting.

If you enjoy listening to music outdoors, bring your blanket and a picnic basket to catch the Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra’s alumni concert in the Grove at the Mead Botanical Garden Amphitheater in Winter Park this December. The event will honor FSYO alumni and their achievements. Delight all your senses while enjoying this concert, surrounded by the beautiful sights, sounds and smells of the garden.

The self-proclaimed mission of the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park is to “inspire the human spirit through great classical music, featuring powerful choral performances.’’ This explains its collaboration this November with the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Florida, the Negro Spiritual Scholarship Foundation and the Interfaith Council of Central Florida to present A Child of Our Time at the Knowles Memorial Chapel, Rollins College. A secular oratorio by Michael Tippett, with a strong pacifist message of understanding and reconciliation, the work was inspired by the assassination of a German diplomat by a young Jew in 1938, and the vicious retaliatory pogrom by the Nazis called Kristallnacht.

The Amway Center has an impressive lineup scheduled through Christmas: pop opera trio Il Volo on Sept. 22; Sarah Brightman, Oct. 8, Michael Buble, Oct. 30; Nine Inch Nails, Oct. 31; Josh Groban, Nov. 9; Eagles, Nov. 23; Fresh Beat Band, Dec. 15; and Justin Timberlake, Dec. 19.

Nicholas Marks seems confused about whether his instrument is a Spanish guitar, a drum or a baton to be twirled, tossed and tapped; but not since Tommy Emmanuel rocked the Plaza “Live’’ Theatre has anyone stroked the strings so masterfully. The best part? You can see this America’s Got Talent performer play flamenco pop with a Gypsy rhythm for free several times a week at Downtown Disney.

Season Spotlight

Arcadian Broad, 16, stands at the threshold of greatness. (Roberto Gonzalez)

Orlando Ballet’s youth movement adds spark to its 40th anniversary celebration.

This season, Orlando Ballet’s 40th anniversary coincides with Artistic Director Robert Hill’s fifth anniversary. The double celebration by the company of 18 members and four apprentices has special surprises planned in a season of classic holiday favorites and experimental contemporary performances.

Two dancers, Arcadian Broad, 16, and Lily Zerivitz, 12, are rising stars in a group whose average age falls in the mid-20s. They have been instrumental in helping Hill realize his vision of making classical ballet relevant to wider and younger audiences.

“I get people to come see one of our contemporary programs where we really go edgy with the movement, technique and athleticism,” Hill says. “And then they fall in love with the art form and the dancers, and they keep coming back for the traditional, classic pieces.”

The ballet’s success is evidenced by last season’s record high attendance. Contemporary music, choreography and costumes in original Hill pieces like Battle of the Sexes and Vampire’s Ball featured breakout performances by Broad and won the attention of wider audiences. This season’s production of Tribute will also feature Broad and combines elements of Hill’s best work into one retrospective. Additionally, collaborative performances like The Nutcracker, with accompaniment by the Orlando Philharmonic, were well received last season; the Tchaikovsky classic will be performed again December 19-22.

Broad, a triple threat dancer/musician/singer, made his national television debut at age 13 as a semifinalist on NBC’s America’s Got Talent.  By 15, he was back home in Orlando, discovered by Hill, and seriously pursuing ballet.

Artistic Director Robert Hill heads up a talented company of 18 members and 4 apprentices. (Roberto Gonzalez)

Broad confesses he wasn’t a fan of ballet at first, but with Hill’s guidance he has flourished in the style while maintaining his competitive mindset. “I’ve changed directions so many times that I can never think that I’m done,’’ he says. “I’m not at my best yet. I still have work to do. I want to try to reach the next level.”

By combining his multiple talents, Broad will be the primary artistic influence behind this season’s production of Beauty and the Beast, acting as both choreographer and composer.

Hill says, “It takes people a great deal of time, practice and experience to be able to understand how to structure a piece. And here Arcadian is going to compose, record and choreograph Beauty and the Beast. The other dancers respect him because he knows what he’s doing and his talent goes way beyond ballet. The best thing I can do beyond the dancing is to teach him how to be a disciplined, respectful and delightful human being.”

Broad attributes his swift progression with Orlando Ballet to the support he’s received from Hill and his fellow dancers. “Ever since I started to focus on my training and the actual process of doing things the right way, I’ve seen the most improvement, and that began to happen as soon as I got here,” he says. After training for two months, he was promoted to OB II, the school’s company of dancers who perform in main stage productions. Not long after, he was hired as a permanent member of the company.

“All that I am now is pretty much [because of] Orlando Ballet’s training,” Broad says. As a student in the Orlando Ballet School and as a member of the professional company, he has learned that success is a team effort. This is an outcome of Hill’s personal style, which emphasizes big and fluid movements and, more importantly, allows for input and artistic suggestion from his dancers.

Lily Zerivitz, another dancer who has benefited from Hill’s personal attention, was hand-picked to play the part of Clara in The Nutcracker at age 11. Zerivitz began studying dance as a student of Orlando Ballet School when she was 3, and last season joined the company as an understudy. She spent weeks watching the older dancers rehearse and would dream about the show every night. Then, out of the blue, Hill said to her, “Little one, you’re on,” and she was given a regular performance three days later.

“I’m still so honored,” Zerivitz says. “After The Nutcracker, my dancing just got better and better. It’s a great environment here; basically it’s my home.”

Season highlights: Seminole Paintings (below) at The Mennello and European masters at Orlando Museum of Art. (Bill Roughen)

Visual Arts

Central Florida has bountiful art inside myriad galleries, but Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer is taking it outside with a new public art initiative called See Art Orlando. A series of eight sponsored pieces of sculpture are being installed through October downtown, with most of them in and around Lake Eola Park.

Courtesy of Mennello Museum

The Orlando area has its share of art festivals, from the large and world-famous—like the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival and Mount Dora Arts Festival—to the more intimate variety. But where do the winners of art festivals around the country showcase their wares? That would be the Festival of the Masters at Downtown Disney, where 150 award winners gather for an event that includes live entertainment, children’s activities and culinary delights.

Once your itch for outdoor art has been scratched, head back inside this January at the Orlando Museum of Art for Rembrandt, Rubens, Gainsborough and the Golden Age of Painting, an exhibit from the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Ky. View portraits, religious paintings, landscapes and more to understand how changes in religion, science and the European economy of the 17th and 18th centuries led to a cultural explosion of artistic creativity.

The Mennello Museum of American Art will feature Eugene Francis Savage’s Seminole Paintings from September through January. Created during his many journeys into the Florida Everglades to illustrate the Seminole Tribe’s traditional way of life, Savage’s paintings complement the museum’s ongoing exhibit, Arts and Artifacts of the Seminole, featuring clothing, dolls, jewelry and photographs from the I.S.K. and Sara W. Reeves Collection.

In Winter Park, the venerable Morse Museum of American Art will open a small show this October titled Lullaby and Goodnight–Children’s Literature from the Morse Collection, focusing on three children’s book authors and illustrators: Kate Greenaway, Mary Dow Brine and Eulalie Osgood Grover.

A few years ago, the Rev. Helen DeBevoise of Orlando’s Park Lake Presbyterian Church looked across the street at the decrepit remains of the Davis Park Motel and, instead of asking “Why?” asked “Why not?” She and scores of volunteers transformed the motel into Faith Arts Village Orlando, where faith and art come together, encouraging spiritual expression that promotes peace, beauty and inspiration. FAVO showcases Central Florida artists, offering gallery and studio space, along with monthly open-air markets and events.

Sylvester and Tweety will be part of the history center exhibit. (Courtesy of Orange County Regional History Center)


As part of the collaborative effort to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, professor/author/political activist Elie Wiesel will speak at Rollins College in November. The Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Florida will host a Community Book Club event in September, based on Wiesel’s trilogy (Night, Dawn and Day). Night was based on Wiesel’s experiences as a prisoner in the Auschwitz, Buna and Buchenwald concentration camps.

The Orange County Regional History Center has collaborated with the Museum of Modern Art in New York to present The Art of Warner Bros. Cartoons, which includes more than 160 art objects, drawings, paintings and animation cels featuring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Wile E. Coyote and pals.

Otronicon will feature four days of fun games and simulators. (Frank Weber)


If looking at the past makes you eager for glimpses of the future, the Orlando Science Center has just the ticket for January. Otronicon is a four-day extravaganza of interactive technology featuring video games and simulators. Don’t miss the exhibit “Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination,’’ which examines the fantasy technologies depicted in the Star Wars films and the real science behind them.

Are you into innovation, inventions and DIY fun? Orlando Mini Maker Faire is a community-organized, family-friendly celebration where locals show what they are making and share what they are learning across a spectrum of subjects including science and technology, arts, crafts, music and performance. JoAnn Newman, president and CEO of the Orlando Science Center, says, “We’re gathering the ‘makers’ of our community in one place to showcase what they’ve crafted. The act of making is the perfect blend of art and science.”


In February, poet and Rollins College professor Carol Frost will host the school’s longstanding Winter With the Writers Festival of the Literary Arts. The 2014 lineup includes Rollins graduate Laura van den Berg, who teaches creative writing at George Washington University. Her first collection of stories was What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us; her second, The Isle of Youth, set in Florida and concerning women and crime, is forthcoming this November. Joining van den Berg at the festival are former Poet Laureate Charles Simic, novelist Justin Cronin, poet and novelist Alan Michael Parker, and novelist Madison Smartt Bell.

Central Florida is jam-packed with talented local writers, as well. Stacy Barton, the new director of Maitland Poets & Writers, has created a reading series dubbed “Literature Out Loud,” integrating elements of art, music and literature. You’ll find it the second Friday of each month at the Art & History Museum in Maitland.

The Florida Film Festival features appearances by noted actors. (Emily Jourdan)


For 10 days each spring, the Florida Film Festival at the Enzian theater in Maitland showcases outstanding current independent and foreign films. See one or all and enjoy visits from actors, directors, screenwriters and filmmakers in a tropical, old-Florida location.


Beat Generation writer Jack Kerouac hated the term, created by others to describe an attitude he called “beatific.” But producer Beth Marshall can be forgiven for christening her new 1960s-themed show Beatnik, because Kerouac would likely have enjoyed what’s dubbed on her website as a “multimedia performance art evening of poetry, music, dance and theater in collaboration with VarieTEASE dance troupe.” A couple of acts featuring spoken-word demigod Tod Caviness and his YOW troupe dancer/wife Christin Caviness will alone be worth the price of admission this December at The Venue.

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