In a flurry of announcements Thursday morning, the Garden Theater announced its 2023-2024 season, headlined by a TV star. John O’Hurley; announced that he was changing the previously announced name in deference to another local production; and extended the run of Dream Girl, a popular musical now on stage at the Winter Garden Theatre.
The upcoming theater season will see the world premiere of the holiday musical and the U.S. premiere of a musical based on songs by 1980s pop duo Air Supply. The non-profit organization also announced that Broadway performer Justin Matthew Sargent, a graduate of the University of Central Florida, will return to the theater for a special concert celebrating the music of rock supergroup Queen.
Dreamgirls with Brianna Javis has been extended for a week at the Garden Theatre. (Courtesy of Victory Productions)
The main performances in the 2023-2024 season, which will last at the Garden, which will take place in September-May, will again be produced by Victory Productions from the Winter Garden, which took over the staging of theater performances in January. The win was an immediate success with “Rock of Ages” directed by Sargent, who also starred in the musical, and then “Something Rotten!”
Although Dreamgirls has suffered backstage tensions that led to the director’s resignation, theater goers are buying tickets.
While the Garden Theater is being rebuilt, Victory Productions partner faces behind-the-scenes drama in Dreamgirls.
“We are deeply grateful and thrilled by the overwhelming response to our production of Dreamgirl at the Garden Theatre,” said Victory Productions founder Fernando Varela, the show’s executive producer. “This success highlights the thirst for live theater in the Winter Garden and beyond, reflecting the hard work and talent of our cast and crew.”
The show, which was scheduled to close on August 6, will now run for another week until August 13.
“Dreamgirls” are dramatic, but do not reach the top of the charts | Review
A month later, the Garden will open a series of four “Broadway to the Plant” shows, referring to the venue on Plant Street.
The first title was previously announced as Next to Normal, a rock musical about a family struggling with their mother’s bipolar disorder. On Thursday, the theater said it had decided to cancel the production and replace it with a one-person play, Every Brilliant Thing, because Next to Normal was also on another local theater company’s schedule.
‘Every Brilliant Thing’ has been selected to open the season, replacing the previously announced ‘Next to Normal’ in support of the wider art community in Central Florida bringing this title to the stage,” the announcement read.
Orlando-based New Generation Theatrical is set to begin production of “Next to Normal” on September 21st. Had the Garden opened its production as planned, the two performances would have overlapped for a week.
New Generation founder Aaron Safer said Sade didn’t approach him about his decision to swap titles, adding that it’s good for theater makers to consider others’ schedules when planning their own season.
“I always appreciate that theaters are aware of previously announced titles from other companies,” he said.
Justin Matthew Sargent will headline a Queen tribute concert at the Garden Theatre. (Courtesy of the artist)
“Every Brilliant Thing” will star O’Hurley, best known for Seinfeld and Dancing with the Stars. Locally, he also narrated the Disney Candlelight Procession at Epcot. The hopeful play is about what makes life worth living – the little joys and love of others – through collaboration with the audience. It will take place from 8 to 24 September.
In October, Sargent will return to the theater to star in the Queen: Rhythm and Rhapsody special. From October 5 to 8, a trio of dancers will join him on stage to pay tribute to the iconic rock band and its theatrical frontman, Freddie Mercury.
The regular season will resume from November 24 to December. On December 23, the world premiere of “Moonshine and Mistletoe: A Christmas Tale in Appalachia” by DJ Salisbury took place.
The family musical tells the touching story of a fractured Depression-era mountain family who want to get together for the holidays.
In 2024, the musical Sweet Dreams: The Air Supply, written by Sargent and Tony LePage, will premiere in the United States. The concept reimagines Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and takes it to New York with a score of the Australian duo’s pop hits, including “All for Love” and “Every Woman in the World.” Graham Russell, half of Air Supply, wrote new songs for the show. It runs from February 2 to March 10.
Finally, from April 26 to May 19, “Always … Patsy Cline” will hit the stage. The frequently aired show follows the great country singer’s friendship with a Texas fan named Louise and features Cline’s hits “Crazy”, “I Fall to Pieces”, “Walking After Midnight” and more.
Music by Air Supply (Graham Russell, left, and Russell Hitchcock, photo 2009) is featured in the Garden Theater musical Sweet Dreams. (Getty Images)
“Our upcoming lineup of shows promises to entertain, provoke thoughts and inspire,” Varela said in the season announcement. “We are committed to using our global network in the entertainment industry to attract world-class talent. This collaborative approach with our strong local talent enhances the quality of our products and promotes networking opportunities and career growth while continuing to pay all participants a living wage.”
Garden Theater Chief Organizing Officer Keith Davenport said the nonprofit’s annual fundraiser for an encore, which in the past has been led by Broadway luminaries such as Chita Rivera, Joel Gray and Kelly O’Hara, will return during the season.
And he said the company will look for new partners in the community to help other cultural groups and make the most of the historic theatre.
“We are fortunate to be working in an amazing location and we want to share this opportunity with other local arts organizations in performance offerings that expand on our traditional programming model,” he said in the announcement.
Season passes will go on sale on a date to be determined. For more information, go to gardentheatre.org.
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