Festival of New Musicals at the Winter Park Playhouse

WINTER PARK — Betwixt and Between is a new musical now being developed, based on the novel Hobberdy Dick by K.M. Briggs. It mixes a lot: history, comedy, nostalgia, family drama, suspense and even ghosts into this tale about an old English manor. And the musical, still in the development stage, is getting a first reading by a large and very gifted cast of actors and singers as part of the Florida Festival of New Musicals.

The book and play are set in the year 1652 in a rural English manor presided over by a hobgoblin (unseen in the play) who protects Widford Manor, usually with mischief. Then a merchant’s family from the city moves in, and the drama begins: Mr. Widdison is a Puritan who is intolerant of old-fashioned pagan ways, and he’s married to a woman who’s a pretentious social-climber. There’s also a family treasure, long buried on the property, and plenty of magical moments along the way.

The musical version, called Betwixt and Between, was written by Kate Hanenberg and Ned Paul Ginsburg of New York, with music by Ginsburg and Mary Lloyd-Butler. The show’s introduction at the Florida Festival of New Musicals, being performed this weekend at the Winter Park Playhouse, gives us a staged reading of the first act, which is a highly ambitious effort to juggle multiple characters and storylines.

 

What is Betwixt and Between About?

Directed by the Playhouse’s artistic director Roy Alan, with the music performed by Josh Ceballos, Betwixt and Between employs 11 actors to bring this seemingly large-scale musical to life. It largely succeeds, thanks to the use of veteran Playhouse pros like Dave Thome as George Batchford the manor’s gatekeeper, Zach Nadolski as Samuel Widdison and Cami Miller as the hilarious servant Mrs. Dimbledy. Together, the entire ensemble provide the reading with a pretty high quality and a very classy amount of humor, drama and, of course, enchanting singing.

The play sets out to tell the story of how the Widdison family seems to change the dynamics at Widford Manor, and how the hobgoblin Hobberdy Dick tries to get in their way. At times it can be a bit challenging following all the characters that the authors attempt to introduce in act one, while still moving the storyline along. But there’s no question that it’s an intriguing tale, and the songs by Hanenberg, Ginsburg and Lloyd-Butler are wonderfully composed.

Where Can You See This Festival?

The Florida Festival of New Musicals is being performed at the musical theater at 711 Orange Ave., Suite C in Winter Park. Call 407-645-0145 for details and more information.

Today’s schedule of shows is:

* Good Girls Only (11 a.m.)

* Grace And the Island Of Misfits (1 p.m.)

* Flaming Volcano Bed & Breakfast (3 p.m.)

* Betwixt and Between (5 p.m.)

* No Need For Trojans (7 p.m.)

Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Of Cats And Wolves.” Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.

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