Loch Haven Park
900 E. Princeton St.
$8 for a button, plus $5-10 per show
The 2011 Orlando Fringe Festival got off to a rollicking start Monday night, as hundreds of enthusiasts packed the Orlando Shakespeare’s Margeson Theatre to witness samplings of nearly 30 of the more than 100 shows that will materialize during the event’s annual run in late May. Hosted by the festival’s producing artistic director, Beth Marshall, and the scathingly funny playwright-producer Michael Wanzie, the boisterous crowd was treated to the good, the better and some of the best of this year’s 20th anniversary offerings.
As usual, there will be a gaggle of one-man shows, off-beat improvisational affairs and avant-garde dance troupes that will struggle to fill their venues during Fringe. But this time around, if Monday’s smorgasbord is any indication of what is to come, there also appears to be an unusually large number of scripted plays and large-cast musicals. And – as is customary – the talent runs the gamut from the competent professional, to the young and gifted, to the struggling wannabes.
Picking winners and losers among the shows is never an easy task and the chief delight of the Fringe Festival lies in its eclecticism – there are productions to please absolutely every taste. Each year there are breakout performances from individuals and groups who have never before been seen in the local market competing for attention with returning veterans who’ve proven their mettle over time. That said, the following short list contains some of Monday evening’s shows that this Fringe aficionado will endeavor to catch:
The Five Minute Professor: The Olde Cup and Saucer, a tea room in Altamonte Springs, presents its first production for Fringe. Every Thursday afternoon on the Phillips Phile radio show (on 104.1 FM), Bill Keevan plays the Five Minute Professor, everybody’s teacher from hell, taking more pleasure in insulting his students than instructing them. For Fringe, the professor will lecture the audience on a range of topics, and no two shows will be the same.
Captain Discovery: The Edible Musical: Jeff Ferree returns to Fringe as Captain Discovery. Last year he put on a sci-fi puppet show; this year it’s a musical. How can you not enjoy a puppet show featuring edible puppets? Each attendee will leave the show with an edible souvenir puppet.
13, The Musical:
Orlando Youth Theatre presents Jason Robert Brown’s Broadway musical about a teen trying to navigate life as the new kid in his junior high school. The tuneful teens in this show would rather sing and dance than sit and text.
Clockwork Hobo, a collaboration of Orlando actors and Fringe veterans, presents this original piece about a screenwriter who finds that a character he has created takes on a life of its own. Written by Bill Corbett (writer for Mystery Science Theatre 3000 and Rifftrax) and Joseph Scrimshaw (Joking Envelope), the show makes its debut at Fringe this year. Anything starring Philip Nolen is worth the price of admission.
I Love You (we’re f*#ked): 55BC presents Kevin Thornton in this musical about a gay man recounting his love life. The preview audience only saw a video commercial for the show, but this guy’s funny.
Any Title That Works: Paul Strickland presents philosophical musings in this thoughtful comedy monologue. Who’d have imagined it?
My Friend in a Sketch Show:
Minimalistic Theatre of Orlando, featuring Jim Doyle and others, do a show about writing a sketch show. A take-no-prisoners satire sure to offend everyone.
Suckers: A Freaky Little Musical:
Zombie Productions – a collaboration between Fringe veterans Tod Kimbro and Michael Marinaccio – presents a reworking of Kimbro’s terrific score for this goth-rock musical.
Bitches of the Kingdom: The Oops Guys bring this musical review featuring storybook princesses complaining about the exploitation they suffered while starring in Disney movies. Tell the truth, can there ever be enough shows that skewer Disney?
Finally, although it wasn’t shown as part of the preview, Michael Wanzie and friends will be staging [title of show], an Obie-winning, off-Broadway hit that made it to Broadway and beyond. Sure to sell-out.
Get your buttons, mark you calendars and get ready to Fringe. YEAHHHH!