New Plays Chosen for Festival Of New Musicals '24

WINTER PARK — Get ready, fans of new musicals: The Winter Park Playhouse just announced the six winning plays that will be performed at the 6th annual Florida Festival of New Musicals this summer, after a panel of professional judges spent 6 months reviewing the 31 works that had been submitted by writers and composers around the world.

The festival will be held from June 22-25 at The Playhouse, 711 Orange Ave. in Winter Park.

What Is the Florida Festival of New Musicals?

The annual Florida Festival of New Musicals was 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 writers and composers.

This four-day event will showcase six new musicals that are currently in the development stage and haven’t been produced on stage yet. 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.

The first act of each musical will be fully read and sung concert-style by the actors who will be chosen from auditions in the spring. What’s exciting about the Festival, the Playhouse noted, is that “Audiences will have the unique and exciting opportunity to see musicals in the early stages of development and offer valuable feedback to the writers in post-reading talkbacks.”

Tickets for these live performances are $10 each, while a “Festival Fun Pass” is available for $50 and gets you in to see all 6 shows. Tickets went on sale today, and can be purchased by calling the box office at 407-645-0145.

The Playhouse also noted in a news release that it had “partnered with local hotels that will be offering special discounted rates during the festival.  Links and discount codes can be found on the theatre’s website or by calling the box office.”

 What Shows Were Chosen for this Year’s Festival?

The six new musicals selected for the 2023 Florida Festival of New Musicals are: 

Bats On The Moon

Book and Lyrics: Kenny D’Aquila (Vero Beach, Fla)

Music: Joel Spineti (Old Lyme, Conn.)

“When the editor of the Sun, a fledging NYC newspaper, proclaims that a renowned astronomer has found proof of life on the moon, chaos ensues.  Is it fact or fiction? Based on true events, Bats on the Moon is a fun and fanciful story about life in the early days of journalism – its twists and turns, drama, ambition and intrigue.  How will this discovery impact the public and change life here and now?”

Gabriel, Blow Your Horn

Book and Lyrics: Bryan Leys (NYC)

Music: James Campodonico (Bloomfield, NJ)

“A light-hearted fable of good, evil, and shades in between. It’s Judgment Day and the Angel Gabriel is assigned to demolish the planet Earth at midnight.  But his old girlfriend, Lilith, who is now working for the other team, is doing everything in her infernal power to stop him!”

Young Dr. Jekyll 

Book: Philip David Stern (Burlington, VT) & Lisa Hopkins (Burlington, VT) Additional Book: Tim Wells (Burbank CA)

Concept, Music and Lyrics: Philip David Stern (Burlington, VT) 

“The infamous Dr. Jekyll never died. After he was committed to an asylum, his two young sons, Harry and Arthur, were left to fend for themselves in London. The young Dr. Harry Jekyll is on the verge of a mind blowing discovery – an “intelligence” elixir.  He is confident this will earn him the notoriety of his heroes Newton and Copernicus and erase the stigma of his last name. The story gets tangled up with a besotted roommate, a meddling landlord, a Smart Tart that contains the potion, and a triple threat French songstress. Science or will power, if you really believe something, can it come true?”

A Beautiful Place

Book: Linda DeArmond Grady (Prescott, AZ) & Michael Grady (Prescott, AZ)

Music: Craig Bohmler (Phoenix, AZ)

Lyrics: Steven Mark Kohn (Chagrin Falls, OH)

“A story inspired by the life of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis who taught art to the children of the Terezin ghetto during World War ll. In 1942, Friedl and her husband Pavel were a part of the thousands of Czech Jews deported to Terezin.  A critically acclaimed Bauhaus-trained artist, Friedl packed her one suitcase she was allowed, with paints, paper and books on art. With patience and scarce resources, she taught the children to use their imaginations, rediscover beauty and transform the world in which they now found themselves living.”

The Couple Company, The Musical

Book, Music and Lyrics: Jeff Patrick Johnson (Boston, MA)

“It’s Hollywood, 1976. UCLA film school grads Sonny Wells and Chanelle Williams videotape bar mitzvahs while trying to get their screenplay produced. When Sonny’s mother passes, he finds himself the new owner of her lonely-hearts matchmaking agency in Boston. His inheritance comes with a stipulation: in order to sell ithe and Chanelle must stall their film-making careers and operate the wacky singles service for one year. What have they got to lose? Plenty; they’re about to learn that some dreams come true… at a price.”

The Useful Citizen

Book, music and lyrics: Katya Stanislavskaya (New Paltz, NY / Odessa, Ukraine) 

“An intriguing examination of America’s relationship with poverty vis-à-vis morality.  Set in post-Civil War New York State, this musical loosely follows historical figure Josephine “Effie” Lowell.  A privileged Civil War widow, Effie dedicates her life to being a “useful” citizen and becomes a renowned charity reformer.  As she claws her way up in a world ruled by men, she learns that some of her reforms actually hurt the people they were intended to help.”

Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright, and author of the book A Christmas Eve Story. Contact him at

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