Ready or not, here Fringe comes! The 23rd Annual Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival is barely two months away, and pre-fest festivities accelerated March 3 with the Fab Fringe Fundraiser. For the first time the event felt fully at home in the roomy Hard Rock Live, thanks to exceptional emceeing by singer Michael Andrew and his Swingerhead orchestra. Andrew starred in a 2004 musical Nutty Professor adaptation at Fringe, which led to a 2012 production directed by Jerry Lewis himself. The show was Broadway-bound until composer Marvin Hamlisch’s passing left it in limbo, but Andrew hasn’t abandoned Orlando since becoming nationally known.
Andrew played the entertainingly self-effacing host with panache, and kept the pace popping through a nearly three-hour presentation. He graciously shared the stage with a parade of fellow Fringe success stories, both in person (cast members of Fringe hit Disenchanted joined him in a hysterical medley of “Defying Gravity” and “Let It Go” honoring “Adele Dazeem”) and virtually (Chase Padgett and Andy Matchett appeared via video). Other highlights included previews of upcoming Fringe musicals Sharknado, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and Jekyll & Hyde: A Rap Musical, capped by an all-star finale featuring Fringe faves Tod Kimbro, Blue and the Downtowners.
Fringe producer Michael Marinaccio and general manager George Wallace made three exciting announcements during the evening. First, T.J. Dawe and The Screw You Revue are both returning to town after May for upcoming editions of the monthly Fringe Year Round series. Second, a $99 discount pack of 10 Fringe tickets will be offered this year. Finally, Foodies at the Fringe weekends brings affordable small plates from upscale eateries to Loch Haven’s lawn. Sounds like a smart way to separate me from even more of my money this May.
Hay Fever, through March 15 (Theatre Downtown) … Pluto, through March 23 (Orlando Shakes).
33 Variations, opens March 14 (Garden Theatre) … Janine With a J, March 18-19 (Winter Park Playhouse) … Julius Caesar, opens March 19 (Orlando Shakes) … Evita, opens March 25 (Bob Carr) … Wanzie’s Big Fat Variety Show, March 29 (Parliament House).