Archikulture Digest
6th Annual Festival of New Musicals (II)

Sixth Annual Festival of New Musicals (II)

Winter Park Playhouse • Winter Park, Florida, • June 22-25, 2023

But wait! There’s more!

• •

A Beautiful Place

Directed by Bert Rodriguez

A Nazi knocks on your door at midnight and demands you pack a small bag, grab the kids, and follow him. He has a gun, a dog, and friends. Oh, yeah, you’re Jewish. What could possibly go wrong?

I mean “What could possibly go wrong for the gun guy?”

That’s what happens to this unfortunate little family. The daughter insists on bringing art supplies too, as they are already out of food to pack. The destination: Auschwitz, and it’s as bad as you have heard, but the Nazis put up a very good Potemkin village and fooled the Swiss inspectors. With no food, but a bit of scrap paper, dozens of children make art that gets stashed in an attic just before they all cease to exist.

It’s not a promising topic for a musical, but there’s enough pathos and historical brutality to make a interesting show. Yes, we have music, but it’s more a backdrop to the story than its focus. While we all know the ending, the journey is captivating and moving. It’s also an excellent counterpoint to the more silly romances in this Festival of New Musicals.

The Couple Company, The Musical

by Jeff Patrick Johnson

Want a sexy date? And the internet hasn’t been invented yet? There is still hope. Back in the middle of the last century, you would go to a dating service to line up a potential mate, or at least a fling in Miami. In this punchy little musical, a young filmmaker struggles to make a short film for entry into the L.A. film party. When a death in the family takes him to New York, there is a small inheritance. But the money is burdened by a mysterious partner and some legal mumbo jumbo that could only happen in a musical. Not all is lost — while hanging around NYC, our hero invents video dating and becomes almost internet rich. This is a fun, zippy show that maintains a breathless pace and is high on my list of “Finish the script and get it on stage somewhere.” For instance… Winter Park!

The Useful Citizen

by Katya Stanislavskaya

Alms are a privilege, not a right, and in post-Civil War New York, wealthy women had few entertainment options other than charity. But charity creates paperwork, and while everyone on The Millionaire Mile remains very high minded about feeding those poor folks, the poor must first pass a morality quiz.

And there lies the rub: Our heroine wasn’t legally married to that Irishman who ditched her after an accident left him with a bad hand. When he leaves her “to find work,” she’s caught between caring for her daughter and working to feed the child. No day care for her. True, there were “charitable” institutions, but they were as judgmental as possible, and those high minded women were fine with selling the excess kids to the wealthy as in-house slaves. Those “adoptees” were lucky to sleep in the basement or attic, and days were filled with exhausting tasks.

This story both touches and offends the viewer. It’s a strong, moving tale, and while technically a musical, it’s more a morality play about wealth and the role of women in society.

Winter Park Playhouse

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