“Phantasmagoria” is back for more eerie Halloween tales of terror

Phantasmagoria

“Phantasmagoria VIII: Chain of Fire” opens on Oct. 13. (Photo by Chris Bridges)

ORLANDO — Phantasmagoria.

If you hear that word in Orlando, it’s likely to mean something special, something unique, to a whole lot of city residents. And the first thing they’re likely to note in their minds is that it must be Halloween season.

“Phantasmagoria” is the long-running series of theatrical shows that have been performed every October for nearly a decade. The show, created by writer, director and actor John DiDonna, features a troop of 40 performers who entertain audiences with circus-like tricks while also recreating eerie tales of terror from the vaults of classic literature. The shows offer a unique mix: dance, music, large-scale puppetry, and acrobatics. Classic authors like Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft and Mary Shelley have all been given their due by the Phantasmagoria troupe.

There is also a traditional VIP event after each show, where audiences who purchase the VIP tickets can see some extra neat tricks being done by the performers.

The series has become so successful that it’s also been performed at the Orlando International Fringe Theater Festival, and DiDonna has also taken it out on the road, with shows in Atlanta, Baltimore, and other cities.

And not surprisingly, now that it’s October, “Phantasmagoria VIII: The Chains of Fire” is arriving right on schedule. Continue reading

Polk County Sheriff revives its Haunted Jail Tour with “The Ghost of Calvin”

Haunted Jail Tour

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is bringing back its popular Haunted Jail Tour.

BARTOW — For decades, people who committed crimes spent time in the old Polk County jail in Bartow. Some even passed away there.

And today, questions linger about whether a ghost or two has stayed behind in that old jail building … waiting to see who comes to visit.

That includes one inmate by the name of Calvin, who committed suicide in that jail … but did he ever really leave?

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is bringing back its popular 2017 Haunted Jail Tour, and the theme this year is “The Ghost of Calvin.”

Noting that the spooky event was “back by popular demand,” Carrie Horstman, the public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff, said the tour will benefit The United Way of Central Florida.

This is an opportunity this Halloween season to see what’s truly scary about the jail (outside of the obvious – how unpleasant incarceration is, so be sure to stay on good behavior at all times.)

The tours will be held on the final two weekends in October. Volunteers for the sheriff’s office will be leading guests through “The Ghost of Calvin” tours from 6-11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 20-21, and Friday and Saturday, Oct. 27-28 at the PCSO old jail at 455 N. Broadway Avenue in Bartow, directly across the street from the Bartow Police Department. Continue reading

A dark and powerful “Man of La Mancha” comes to Orlando Shakes

Man of La Mancha

Laura Hodos as Aldonza, Matt Zambrano as Sancho, and Davis Gaines as Don Quixote star in Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s production of “Man of La Mancha.” (Photo by Luke Evans.)

ORLANDO – Davis Gaines cuts a truly commanding presence as Cervantes, the tax collector, playwright and dreamer in the legendary Broadway show “Man of La Mancha,” now being performed at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater, that he’s thrilling ever moment he’s on stage.

Gaines has a marvelously towering voice from the very start, when he performs the show’s classic opening title song, “Man of La Mancha (I, Don Quixote).” For the next two hours, he beautifully balances humor, pathos and more than a bit of tragedy in his performance. He’s particularly good when matched up against the equally stunning Laura Hodos as his imaginary love, Dulcinea. The two of them could have carried on the entire show themselves and been a pure delight to watch.

This beautifully mounted production of the 1964 Broadway hit by Dale Wasserman was directed by Nick DeGruccio, and his approach made me feel like I was watching the show for the first time. In several of the past productions that I’ve seen in Central Florida, the cast and directors emphasized humor, as the befuddled dreamer Cervantes and his loyal sidekick Sancho Panza were portrayed as comedic figures whose actions verged on slapstick. Continue reading

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