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The Play's the Thing in Winter Park

By Courtney Clark

The Winter Park Playhouse is a small professional theatre known for its musical comedies, professional talent and community outreach programs. It has been Central Florida's only professional musical theatre since its founding in 2002.

Lisa Melillo, the Playhouse's Director of Marketing, tells us that, "The intimacy of the 123 seat theatre engages patrons in a unique up-close-and-personal experience. This sets The Winter Park Playhouse apart from other theatres in the area."

Within the past year, the shows at the Playhouse have received rave reviews from the likes of the Orlando Sentinel and Broadway World. The Playhouse is also affiliated with the Actor's Equity Association- the professional union of actors and state managers.

The Playhouse offers three programs: The Mainstage Series, The Spotlight Cabaret Series, and REACH. The Mainstage Series is annual, and presents musical comedies and revues from Broadway, Off-Broadway and regional theatre, featuring professional actors and musicians. One such example of a show is Putting it Together, a piece that celebrates the career of the famous Stephen Sondheim. The revue included famous songs from pieces such as Into the Woods and Sweeney Todd.

The Spotlight Cabaret Series occurs monthly. Each event showcases a different professional singer in a New York-style cabaret. Guests can enjoy the Tuscan-inspired mahogany bar while watching the show. Singers include the likes of local singer David Almeida, who has performed at the Mad Cow Theatre, the Garden Theatre, and the Orlando International Fringe Festival.

As a nonprofit theatre, the Playhouse also reaches out to the community through programs such as REACH, which works to bring theatre to underserved elementary schools. The Winter Park Playhouse understands the importance of the arts in schools, but also recognizes that arts are often the first to go in the face of budget cuts. REACH is designed to entertain as well as teach, performing songs such as "Unpack Your Adjectives" and "Conjunction Junction." Children who are not normally exposed to the theatre arts are able to enjoy the performances, stay engaged, and learn in the process.

The Winter Park Playhouse makes a perfect evening or afternoon for both seasoned theatre-goers and newcomers looking for some local entertainment. Melillo says that the theatre is "dedicated to entertaining, uplifting, and inspiring residents and visitors-" and we think it does just that.

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