Holiday events in Orlando

ORLANDO — In a city that thrives on tourism, the holidays can be big business in Greater Orlando, which is why the local theme parks, community theaters and other popular entertainment venues have special programming coming up to help get residents and visitors alike into the holiday spirit.

There are going to be changes this year, brought on by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the need for continued social distancing. But that hasn’t stopped major holiday programs from being scheduled for both November and December.

Here are some of the events coming up for those who love the Christmas Spirit.

Dickens Comes to Mad Cow

Mad Cow Theatre has been closed since the pandemic started in March, but has been broadcasting new productions as virtual online events. They’re continuing this trend through a special filmed version of Charles Dickens’ holiday classic A Christmas Carol starting on Saturday, Nov.  28.

The story of Ebenezer Scrooge will be performed by Jefferson Mays, who will recreate 50 roles from the Dickens story, which was staged exclusively for this production and captured live. And as Mad Cow noted, “By purchasing tickets through the link below, you will be directly benefiting Mad Cow Theatre and our mission to continue bringing live, professional theatre to the Central Florida community and beyond.”

To see this production, visit the Mad Cow Theatre website.

Scrooge Comes Alive at Fringe

While Mad Cow Theatre will provide a virtual online production, Orlando Fringe has a live outdoor show coming up called A Fringemas Carol: A Live Socially-Distanced Dickens-Inspired Journey. This isn’t a virtual production, but a live show that takes place outdoors from Dec. 11-13 in Loch Haven Park.

The cast will include Tymisha Harris, Mykai Eastman, and Jac LeDoux in the Scrooge role, while John Gracey, Joshua Huff, and Gabi Hockensmith play narrators who help tell the story. At each stop along the way, patrons will meet Jacob Marley, played by Michael Wanzie, and the three ghosts, played by Katie Thayer, Nico Allen, and Gabriella Juliet.

Lindsay Taylor, the Fringe’s theater producer and co-director of the event, said this production has really brought Orlando’s theater community together.

“Local artists are interpreting many of the most memorable scenes in the story, and it’s inspiring,” she said, while Kenny Howard, who is co-directing it, added, “It’s so wonderful to work and create art with these incredibly talented people.”

During this outdoor event, ticket holders will be led in small groups to different stations in Loch Haven Park where this Christmas Carol story is being told. Each group will be led by their own Scrooge. Everyone moving through the event will be placed in small, easy-to-distance groups.

Being outdoors is not the only social distancing measure being taken. Ticket holders and all cast members and crew will be required to wear masks at all times unless they’re seated at an area that sells drinks. All guests will also be screened at a temperature check station when they arrive, and there will be sanitizer stations available.

“We are offering six performances on each of the three nights to make sure we can adequately distance our patrons and keep them safe,” said Fringe Executive Director Alauna Friskics.

Heading Home for the Holidays

Tickets are also on sale for Home for the Holidays: A Midnight Clear, the annual holiday concert by the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, which will be held on Saturday, Nov. 28. at 3:30 & 7:30 p.m. OPO has been performing this holiday concert for years at the Bob Carr Theater, but since that downtown concert venue has been closed since March, the annual Home for the Holidays concert is now being performed outdoors at Orlando’s Festival Park in the Milk District.

Guest Conductor Victor Vanacore will lead the OPO musicians and Holiday Singers in reviving popular songs from the holiday season, and the $10 tickets include a socially-distanced seating area inside Festival Park. Chairs or tables won’t be provided, so bring your own lawn chairs.

VIP tickets will be available, and that includes a cocktail table and chairs.

Going Live With the Shakes and Laura Hodos

After being closed since March, the Orlando Shakes is returning to live theater with a holiday cabaret starring Laura Hodos. It will be held in the Darden Courtyard at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center, 812 E. Rollins St., from Dec. 18-23.

Hodos, who has performed in past Orlando Shakes productions like Man of La Mancha and A Christmas Carol, will perform seasonal tunes in what the Shakes is promising will be “a night of music that is sure to warm your heart and spread Christmas cheer.”

This event will be sold as general admission with socially distant tables starting at $30 per person. Tickets will go on sale Nov. 20.

A Winter Wonderland In Winter Park

It isn’t just community theater groups and local orchestras getting into the holiday fun. Starting on Friday & Saturday, Dec. 4-5, the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce is kicking off its holiday festivities as well.

Winter On The Avenue will be from 5–9 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 4, with activities that include:

  • The annual tree-lighting
  • Strolling carolers
  • Jazz on Park Avenue
  • s’mores-to-go
  • Holiday Popcorn Flicks
  • Snowflake stilt walkers
  • Christmas crafts
  • A holiday art contest
  •  and an appearance by Santa Claus.

The next morning at 9, its the 68th Annual Ye Olde Hometown Christmas Parade, with a route that’s been expanded to begin at Canton, proceed down Park Avenue and turn right on New England. Throughout it all, safety measures will be in place, including masks and social distancing.

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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