New Plays Chosen for Festival Of New Musicals '24

WINTER PARK — After reviewing multiple shows, the Winter Park Playhouse has selected the six musicals that will be showcased for the first time this summer during the annual Florida Festival Of New Musicals.

“Excitement is in the air,” the Playhouse noted as the theater announced the schedule for the 7th Festival of New Musicals, which will be held June 20-23 to showcase new musical theatre in the works, “one of very few in the nation and certainly the only one of its kind in the Southeast region,” the theater added.

What is the Festival Of New Musicals?

The 7th Annual Florida Festival of New Musicals was first launched in 2018, created to advance and elevate the original American art form of musical theater by fostering the development of new musicals. The Playhouse, which frequently brings in brand new musicals making their Central Florida debut, also aims to boost the artistic growth of theater writers and composers.

This four-day event will showcase six new musicals currently in the development stage. The Festival also enables the writers and composers to get exposure to not only the public, but the news media and to regional theater producers and directors.

A one-hour version of each chosen musical will be fully read and sung concert-style, without staging, by professional actors and musicians.

“Audiences will have the unique and exciting opportunity to see musicals in the early stages of development and provide feedback about the new musical after the reading,” noted the theater company at 711 Orange Ave.  

What Shows Got Chosen for Festival Of New Musicals ’24?

At this summer’s Festival of New Musicals, audiences can see the following musicals.

Carolina Rising 

This musical features a a book and lyrics by Bryan Leys, with music by composer Kevin Kuhn, both New Yorkers. The score will be a mix of country, bluegrass, blues and gospel numbers.

The Playhouse describes the musical as: “This kickin’ new country western musical follows a woman’s journey from local troublemaker to passionate activist, while balancing her feelings for two very different men.  Inspired by a true story, the hero, Crystal Ann McKay, won’t be bowed or broken. She’s a firebrand who learns that “Yankee don’t mean enemy” and teaches that ‘country don’t mean dumb’.”

Cheer Wars 

Fellow New Yorkers Gordon Leary wrote the book and lyrics to this show, with Karlan Judd providing the score, in a musical inspired by William Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 1.

What to expect? “Halle Bolingbroke is all but guaranteed to become the next captain of the New London Lady Leopard Varsity Cheer Squad. It’s her senior year, she’s been cheering all of her life, and her mom, Doretha, is both the former captain and current coach. Halle isn’t feeling all that cheerful about her mother’s brand of cheering, though, so she has taken a job at the local truckstop diner. Doretha will stop at nothing to maintain her cheer dynasty, but when her old rival, Nuella Percy, resurfaces with her cheerleading machine of a daughter, Charmain, the two women face off in a quest for captain hood, power, and cheer itself. “


Morro Bay, Calif., is sending Central Florida audiences a musical featuring book and lyrics by its native son Michael Kaplan, while Kaplan composed the score with Jeff Mar of Cambria, Calif.

Those who see this show can expect “A coming of middle-age musical comedy. A fussy eater who hates vegetables is mistaken for the guest of honor at a Food and Wine Festival. When he becomes infatuated with the woman running the festival weekend, he has to try and play the part of the honored guest as best as possible, despite the challenges involved.”

In Emily’s Words

Jerry Tomsko of Astoria, New York adapted Emily Bronte’s novel Wuthering Heights, writing the play and the lyrics and composing the music on his own.

The synopsis: “This original musical tells the story of English novelist Emily Brontë as she writes her magnum opus: Wuthering Heights. Emily’s imagination knew no bounds, and in spite of having seen very little in the world, she was able to craft a sweeping melodrama that has left a legacy nearly two hundred years after her death.”

Julie Bunny Must Die! 

For years, musician Ned Wilkinson has been a reliable performer at The Winter Park Playhouse, working along with the theatre’s musical director Christopher Leavy to provide live music to their productions. Now Wilkinson, who lives in Winter Park, will have his own show at the Festival Of New Musicals, a production he wrote and composed the music for.

The play is described as “Cartoonist Adam Chase wants only to create and sell his independent comic book “Julie Bunny: International Spy” but his real life situations and his imaginary characters threaten to knock him off course. Will these stumbling blocks stop him from success? Will help arrive in time? This whimsical musical marries reality and fantasy, while exploring what it takes to bring art to life.”

Promise You’ll Shoot Me 

Michael Rogers of Montclair, N.J., and Bill Wandel of Howell, Mich. co-authored the book for this show, with music by Bill Wandel, also of Howell.

Audiences can expect the following: “The Kevorkians, a secret club of senior citizens living at the Four Seasons Retirement Home, have botched their attempt to dispatch one of their own. Failing in their promise to end each other’s suffering, the group is at their wit’s end when swashbuckling Eddy bursts onto the scene and situational comedy ensues. In the end, the Kervorkians  navigate the curve balls of old age and by embracing hope, friendship and love, they learn that the golden years can really be golden.”

Enjoy the shows!                 

Where Can I See The Festival Of New Musicals?

Tickets are now on sale for the 7th Annual Florida Festival Of New Musicals, which will be held June 20-23 at the Winter Park Playhouse, 711 Orange Ave. in Winter Park. 

Tickets cost $10 per show and a 6-show “Festival Fun Pass” is available for $50. To purchase tickets, get the Festival schedule and receive more information, visit online or call the Box Office at 407-645-0145. 

Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the terrifying book “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at

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