It's been a couple of weeks since the 2017 Orlando Fringe finished, which is just enough time to tally the numbers on the 26th annual performing arts festival. Attendance was down slightly at 70,400 versus 72,000 in 2016, and the total number of tickets distributed slipped 4 percent to 50,184. But thanks to a new higher top ticket price, a record-setting $452,641 in sales was returned to the artists, up $28,195 from last year. Despite the departure of executive director George Wallace, this year's festival was fairly flawless, from the mostly rain-free skies to fresher food options on the lawn.
My only real complaint is a good problem to have: Fringe has grown far too large for me to enjoy it all. I didn't see even half of the 166 participating productions, and never made it to the BYOV venues at Savoy and Breakthrough Theatre. If Fringe is going to keep adding venues and performers, it will need to expand its audience accordingly or producers will struggle to turn a profit.
Despite the daunting range of entertainment, the Orlando Sentinel's Matt Palm and I were able to decide on our annual Critics' Choice list without much debate. The big winners, as announced at the Memorial Day closing ceremony, included Animal Engine's Petunia and Chicken for Best Comedy, Beth Marshall Presents' Commencement for Best Drama, Johnnie Maier's ThanksKilling for Best Musical, and Willi Carlisle's There Ain't No More: Death of a Folksinger for Best Show of the Festival. Tara Travis, Martin Dockery, Ryan Adam Wells, Rob Gee and Adam Francis Proulx were honored for their solo shows, and acting awards went to Marlon Andrew Burnley, Leesa Castaneda and the cast of Wanzie With a Z, with David Karl Lee taking home Best Director for O-Town.
If you missed any Fringe favorites, watch for popular shows to pop back up at January's Winter Fringe, if not sooner; Ominous George, which won Best Score for Steve Schneider's hard-rocking songs, will have an encore June 25 at Maxine's on Shine (ominousgeorge.tix.com).
Next to Normal, through June 18 at Valencia East ... Superior Donuts, through July 2 at Theater on the Edge ... Animal Crackers, through July 2 at Mad Cow ... Geezers, through June 19 at Breakthrough.
The Final, Final Farewell Tour of Delores & Dick DelRubio, June 16 at Starlite Room at Savoy ... Rent Boy: The Musical, June 16-July 1 at Parliament House ... A Night With Winnie, June 16-19 at the Abbey ... Josephine: A Burlesque Cabaret Dream Play, June 29-July 13 at the Venue.