Letter from the Editor: Star Turns

Privileged to be in the presence of stars.

In the summer of 1993, I had been arts and entertainment editor at the Orlando Sentinel for only a few months when I received an invitation from Civic Theatre of Central Florida, then the premier community theater group in town. Would I be able to attend an afternoon performance by Civic Kids, its new troupe of young performers? I gladly accepted, taking in an enjoyable medley of mostly show and film tunes delivered by a group of energetic, talented youngsters before an enthusiastic audience of mostly family and friends.

Only later would I learn that among those singers was 9-year-old Mandy Moore, an Orlando resident who would achieve pop music superstardom in just six short years. Today after an impressive singing and film career, Moore is part of the ensemble cast of NBC’s This Is Us, the family drama that’s one of the most popular shows on television.

Which goes to show that you never know when you might be watching a future star at work. Then again, sometimes you do. As I viewed The Florida Project at the Enzian theater recently, I was watching a star whose future is now: Brooklynn Prince is only 7 years old, but her performance as the leader of a group of impoverished kids trying to eke out an existence on the fringes of Orlando’s tourist mecca is generating a lot of awards buzz.  The remarkable thing is that Prince is acting like a kid, but she’s also a great actor, who knows exactly what she’s doing. Whether the Central Florida native can become the youngest performer ever nominated for an Oscar remains to be seen (nominations will be announced January 23). But while you’re waiting, read Roger Moore’s fascinating interview with The Florida Project director Sean Baker and screenwriter Chris Bergoch, beginning on page 24. Also part of the package is a delightful Q&A with Prince and co-star Valeria Cotto in which they dish on the excitement (and boredom) of shooting a film, along with an outrageous critique of jelly sandwiches, among other things.

Also is this issue, we showcase another group of stars—the more than 600 community healers who appear on our annual Finest Doctors list. We’ve asked 10 of the doctors to share with readers some memorable moments in their careers. Writer Susan Jenks looks at advances in robotics, and we have a large Premier Doctors section in which local physicians and practices outline their specialties and services.

Another perpetual star—Santa Claus—gets some ample ink this month. Writer Cheri Henderson actually got an interview with the jolly guy, and you’ll find that in our “Story of a…’ feature. Meanwhile, “Extra Pulp” columnist Laura Anders Lee offers her take on a “White Christmas Lie” that we can all buy into. On the culinary front, Dining Critic Joseph Hayes assesses the huge local impact of Chef Tim Keating, who has been a star on our restaurant scene for many years. Consider yourself privileged if you’ve sampled his creations.

Finally, it’s time once again to vote for your favorites in our annual Dining Awards poll. The categories range from barbecue to brunch, Latin to late-night dining. And you also get to make your picks for Best Restaurant, Best New Restaurant and Best Chef. Deadline to vote is Feb. 1, and your name will be placed in a drawing to win dinner for two at a top local restaurant just for voting.

Categories: Column