Third Annual Florida Festival of New Musicals (Part 1)

Third Annual Florida Festival of New Musicals (Part 1)

Third Annual Florida Festival of New Musicals (Part 1)

Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park, FL

For a project even the faithful at WPPH doubted, the Festival of New musicals is back for its third year with half dozen new scripts and a decent house that laughed, cried, applauded and patronized the bar. For Musical Theater, that’s about as good as it gets.

Please note that these are “developmental readings” which means the authors are not ready to turn these loose on the world. There may be significant difference between this FFNM production and any future productions.

As my many ex-New York friends constantly remind me: everything’s better in New York. The theater, the bagels and the art museums. While that may be true, why did they move to Florida? Oh yeah, they could afford to pay rent. New York may have been reasonable at some distant time, and that’s where we start this multi-generational female story of migration, isolation, acceptance and of course, ultimate triumph. “Good Girls Only” follows an ensemble number loosely based on a brown stoned called “The Rehearsal Club.” Here an aspiring actress could live cheap and swap stories with her peers. This place operated for most of the 20th century, until real estate prices ate it up.

A cast of six actresses take us through the decades an old brown stone that housed aspiring actresses for a good chunk of the 20th century. They range from a black actress who cleans house until she makes it big at Paris’s Follie Berget to the girl who marries the milkman and becomes an ice-cream mogul. My favorite was the woman who worked at a prototype “Playboy Club.” Each story lines gets a happy ending, perhaps a bit happier than the real life might provide but then, this is musical theater. The crowd favorite song covers the Rehearsal Clubs cat, trust an animal to upstage the human talent. “Good Girls Only” provides solid entertainment although as an ensemble piece, it lacks an urgent through line that gives us the strongest stories on stage. Perhaps a big blow out tap number might bring it all home.

Into every theater season a holiday show must fall, and here we have a reprieve from musical ghosts and heart-warming yet precocious children. Well, a sort of reprieve – “Grace….” does riff off the old “Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer” tv special. Somehow it slipped into the public domain, and this group of writers makes good use of the original script. We open with a harried toy store manager. This year’s hot toy is in short supply, and while younger Grace wants to leave retail and become an astronomer, she’s sent to fetch more King Missile toys. A blizzard whisks her to the Island of misfit toys. Here we meet a single-color rubrics cube and a five-alarm easy bake oven, and they hope to be next seasons hot toy. Hope that works out for you all.

Cute songs, an imprisoned Santa and large abominable snow man deliverer the gags with a good infusion of kid friendly humor and sly inserted cracks for mom and dad. It’s a set heavy, costume heavy project, but it has immense “cute” potential. It also runs about 90-minutes, so it’s more for middle school and above, any tiny ones ought to be crying by the middle of the first act. It’s almost the Christmas show I’d like to see. Perhaps it will drift in that direction.

WPPH’s own Ned Wilkinson gives us this surrealist story set in a small B&B in Athens, GA. Two couples show up for the opening: a cranky business woman and her duck loving hubby take the room on the right, and a good old boy and his wife on a long overdue vacation take the one on the right. There hostess prepared for the visit by acquiring an advanced digital assistant with an almost omniscient view of her house and guests. When reality start to disappear outside her walls, the only thing left to do is make flaming rum drinks. Flaming rum drinks may not solve any problems, but the problems they create are much more interesting. And they make the time pass while we wait for the divine beings to throw down curses and homework

This may be the biggest potential hit of this festival, it’s a small cast, upbeat music and a silly premise that begs for and over the top production dance sequences. The only risk is the introduction of a Siri-like digital assistant: She may go obsolete before the real curtain rises.

winterparkplayhouse.org

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