Orlando Fringe 2017 review: 'Wanzie With a Z'


Michael Wanzie is famous as the king of Orlando's gay-friendly theater scene, having established the Parliament House as a le gitimate theatrical venue and selling more Fringe tickets than any producer in the Festival's history. But if you walk into Wanzie With a Z expecting a lighthearted revue or one of his popular parodies, like The Lion Queen, brace yourself, because this unsparingly introspective autobiography showcases a vulnerable side of Wanzie that few of his fans have seen.

Wanzie narrates his own life story with this assistance of his younger selves, Mikey (Josh Lefkowitz) and Mike (Joshua S. Roth), as he travels from 1950s suburban Connecticut to the 1964 New York World's Fair to 1970s Walt Disney World. There's some delicious dishing about Wanzie's early career as a Jungle Cruise skipper and plenty of name-dropping about Orlando theater history, which may not connect with uninitiated viewers. But the meat of the show, a devastating account of his lover's death from AIDS, will make you bawl even if you've never heard of Wanzie before.

Director Kenny Howard makes full use of Doug White's multilevel set, and the banter between Wanzie's bickering selves keeps the anecdotes moving along at a healthy pace. The play almost stumbles into schmaltz at the 11th hour with an unnecessary final song, but ultimately succeeds in striking enough emotional chords to make it a strong early contender for the best of this year's festival.

Wanzie With a Z
Wanzie Presents & D Squared Productions
Orange Venue

Friday, May 19, 8:45 PM
Saturday, May 20, 2:45 PM
Sunday, May 21, 10:15 PM
Tuesday, May 23, 10:30 PM
Thursday, May 25, 10:30 PM
Saturday, May 27, 8:15 PM
Sunday, May 28, 11:30 AM

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