Festival of New Musicals at the Winter Park Playhouse

WINTER PARK — Lovers of theater and musicals, take note: the 2022 Florida Festival Of New Musicals has arrived, and it’s your opportunity to catch 6 brand new shows currently in the development stage. Consider it akin to an exciting sneak preview before the show has its grand debut.

The annual Festival is even more appealing because the performances are being staged at The Winter Park Playhouse, which as usual recruits first rate acting talent to perform in each one.

This four-day festival kicked off on Thursday and continues through Sunday, showcasing the six never-before-produced musicals from around the country. The creators of each musical are given roughly an hour to showcase their show, which is read and sung concert-style by the actors without staging. Each reading is followed by a 15 minute “talk-back” session with the writers for audience feedback. Then it’s on to the next show.

And yes, the authors of the six shows are here in Winter Park, and you do get a chance to mingle with them in-between shows.

To see the shows being performed at the theater located at 711 Orange Ave. Suite C in Winter Park, note that general admission tickets are $10 and a “Festival Fun Pass” is $50 for all 6 shows. For more information and to purchase festival tickets, call the box office at 407-645-0145.

Freeline Media caught  up with two of the shows performed so far.

The Goldilocks Variations

Playwright Steve Wolf and composer Charles Baker of Washington state came up with a clever concept for this very funny show: what if the classic 19th century British fairy tale Goldilocks And The Three Bears got a serious revision, with the tale being told from the same perspective as …. Rashomon?

Yes, that Rashomon, the classic Japanese drama by Akira Kurosawa that examined the nature of truth by viewing one story from four different perspectives.

If that makes this show sound dry, arty and overly intellectual, fuhgettaboutit!

The original story, after all, did have four main characters in Goldliocks, the girl who sneaks into the bear’s cottage to sample their food and sleep in their beds, and Daddy Bear, Mama Bear and Junior Bear. In this version, the bears — having skipped dinner to go watch Mayor Humpty Dumpty toss himself off the wall, come back to discover their door is open, their food has been eaten, and somebody is upstairs. What really happens at that point?

Quite a bit of inspired lunacy, with Goldilocks and those bears all having a different “take” on what happened, with tensions mounting after Goldilocks’ mother calls the police and a TV crew arrives looking for drama.

Add to the mix the fact that Junior Bear has some secrets, including something he did just before the bears left their home, and about his future. And it doesn’t hurt that Mama Bear has a tendency to get wicked sassy!

This is a funny and clever show, and the casting is ideal: you’re in for a treat watching Mahalia Gronigan as Goldilocks, Desiree Montes as Mama Bear, Matt Horohoe as the papa bear and Raleigh Mosely as Junior Bear, with fine support by Chase Williams and David Thome. Expect to do plenty of laughing at this one, which will be performed on Sunday at 11 a.m.

Khan!!! The Musical

Throughout the history of musical theater, playwrights and composers have found inspiration in unique material — classic novels, little known older plays, or legends. So why not the 1982 film Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan?

That movie, featuring Admiral James T. Kirk and Spock tackling the genetically engineered tyrant Khan Noonien Singh, was one of the most popular in the film series, and let’s face it, the entire Star Trek franchise has such a legion of fans that a musical comedy version seems like a no-brainer. Billed as an “Unauthorized Parody TREK-tacular!” this show by playwright and composer Brent Black (with additional material by Alina Morgan) seems like the work of a fiendishly devoted Trekee.

Your own personal love for or disinterest in the Star Trek world won’t matter much. It’s the year 2366, and Data the android becomes our narrator for this saga about Kirk confronting his old nemesis Khan, who has escaped from exile and is eager for revenge, while Kirk is also dealing with the struggles of becoming middle aged.

This show features a huge cast of 13 performers, and in addition to the show’s tribute to Star Trek and inclusion of virtually every major character (Spock, Uhura, Scotty, Bones, Chekov, etc.) it delights in pop culture references. One of the standout moments is when Khan first appears and sings a song that was hilariously inspired by Frank N Furter’s “Sweet Transvestite” number in The Rocky Horror Show. If you know that play or the movie version, you’ll love this number.

It’s clear that Black has enormous affection for the Star Trek world, and even as he satirizes the show, his appreciation for it comes through loud and clear. As usual, the Playhouse’s casting is spot on, with particularly good performances by Robert Justin Dressner as Kirk, Joe Falocco as Spock, Adam Fields a total riot as an over the top Khan, and Adam Biner simply hilarious as Data and multiple other roles.

Khan!!! The Musical will be performed today at 7 p.m.

The schedule for today’s Festival is:

Naked at 11 a.m.

Stone Crossed at 1 p.,

Ciao Bambino at 3 p.m.

Thirty Seconds at 5 p.m.

The schedule for Sunday’s Festival is:

The Goldilocks Variations at 11 a.m.

Naked at 1 p.m.

Stone Crossed at 3 p.m.

Ciao Bambino at 5 p.m.

Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright, and author of the book When I Woke Up, You Were All Dead. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com

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