A look back at a year of triumph, tragedy and transformation in Orlando’s theaters and theme parks | Arts Stories + Interviews | Orlando

2022 turned out to be a tumultuous calendar year complete of tragedy and triumph, no matter whether you might be talking about environment events or Orlando’s theaters and concept parks. Here is a quick search back at a few of my most memorable moments checking out sights and arts above the past 12 months.


As the buzzing display flooring all through November’s International Association of Amusement Parks and Points of interest demonstrated, Central Florida’s tourism marketplace has bounced again over pre-pandemic highs. Those people resurgent crowds had been in particular apparent throughout Walt Disney Environment, in which Epcot’s Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind coaster eventually opened immediately after eons of design, and turned out to be well worth the wait around. (The ride’s short term Christmas tune was a lump of coal, on the other hand.) I was even more psyched to see far more Disney actors again at perform as big-scale exhibits like the Getting Nemo musical, Pageant of the Lion King and particularly Fantasmic! returned searching as excellent or much better than just before.

At the same time, the speedy raise in rates and standby wait instances (mostly tied to the added-charge Genie+/Lightning Lane line-skipping provider) resulted in even the most pixie-dusted passholders turning from former CEO Bob Chapek. People exact lovers who are now applauding Bob Iger’s short-expression return may possibly want to mood their anticipation by rereading my interview with director Abigail Disney, whose documentary The American Desire and Other Fairy Tales premiered at the Enzian (with a unforgettable Q&A, hosted by yours truly). Just one point Iger certainly won’t do is cancel the conversion of Splash Mountain into Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, so get your previous licks on the Magic Kingdom’s problematic log ride before it closes on Jan. 23.

For the first time in about a ten years, Universal Orlando concluded the calendar year with no opening a significant E-Ticket attraction, except if you rely Revenge of the Mummy, which still has not thoroughly reopened from its prolonged refurbishment. And the modern early retirement of crucial Universal Inventive executives — including chief artistic officer Thierry Coup, who endearingly apologized for the Speedy & Furious simulator — throws the park’s long-phrase potential into flux. But strategies are presently fixed and underway for additions in excess of the future couple of several years, from the Villain-Con Minion Blast interactive shifting walkway changing Shrek 4-D to the rapidly increasing Epic Universe growth. After all over again, I put in 2022 refreshing orlandoparkstop.com for Alicia Stella’s newest updates on these jobs and a lot more.

Ironically, maybe the two most effective new points of interest at Common are not inside its topic parks, but at CityWalk. Universal’s Wonderful Film Escape Room (which I hope to evaluate early up coming year) has gained raves for its reasonable re-creations of sets from Back again to the Foreseeable future and Jurassic Environment. And the repurposed Crimson Coconut Club turned my favored retro watering hole throughout Halloween and the holiday seasons, many thanks to classic decor and character appearances. My would like to Santa is that it stays open up nightly year-spherical.

SeaWorld last but not least opened Ice Breaker, a tween-friendly launched coaster that failed to live up to the hoopla for me. Ideally Pipeline, their upcoming stand-up “surfing coaster” will produce, or at least not demolish delicate organs. On the other hand, sister park Busch Gardens Tampa exceeded my expectations with Iron Gwazi by transforming the park’s worst woodie into its finest hybrid metal coaster. But frankly, my taste for extreme thrills has been dulled due to the fact the tragic dying of Tyre Sampson, who fell from the Orlando FreeFall Tower at Icon Park a few months just after I rode it. The Peppa Pig Theme Park, which opened in February at Legoland Resort, may possibly be more my velocity for appropriate now, but it is awkward attending a preschoolers’ park as a childless grownup.

Beyond the landlocked attractions, I put in most of my family vacation time earning my sea legs, considering the fact that (at least until constraints were not long ago lifted) cruises provided the most coronavirus safeguards of any vacation system. I acquired to appreciate MSC’s pristine personal island on Ocean Cay and the pampered luxury of their moderately-priced Yacht Club, as effectively as to prevent their chaotic standard purchaser provider. And I barely experienced time to master the structure through my recent two-night press voyage on Royal Caribbean’s Marvel of the Seas, currently the world’s premier passenger cruise ship, which features 7 “neighborhoods” stuffed with large slides, a surfing simulator, a carousel and a zip line — not to point out scores of dining establishments and bars, such as a single tended by robots and an additional that lifts into the air.

What impressed me most was the Wonder’s amusement — the athletic ice-skating clearly show 365, the corny comic-book musical Effectors II and most of all the stunning diving spectacular Powerful — which all utilize world-course performers and bleeding-edge effects that equal or exceed nearly anything on Broadway or the Vegas Strip. The dwelling porting of this history-breaking vessel in Canaveral (as a substitute of Miami or a further important port) is an additional solid signal of self esteem in Central Florida tourism’s comeback from COVID.

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image by T. Charles Erickson

The Dr. Phillips Center’s Steinmetz Hall finished the calendar year on a substantial take note with the amazing Hadestown

Undertaking ARTS

Any appear back at the 12 months in Orlando’s accomplishing arts local community has to start with acknowledging the beloved members who remaining us in 2022, including actor and radio identity Doug Ba’aser Universal exhibit director Adrian LePeltier and Steve Singhaus, the last member of the magnificent household that integrated his late spouse, Marcy, and his brother Sam, aka “Overlook Sammy.” One more decline that pretty much felt like a loss of life was the departure of Blue Star and her founding workers from HAOS, the Church Avenue venue that furnished an oasis for LGBTQ-helpful entertainment throughout the pandemic.

The theater information was not all adverse, as the Dr. Phillips Middle started out 2022 with the prolonged-awaited opening of its Steinmetz Corridor, celebrating with all-star displays that includes Michael Feinstein, Jennifer Hudson and a lot more. Unfortunately, the audio and sightlines in the “acoustically perfect” venue haven’t always lived up to their billing, but CFCArts’ large orchestra finally confirmed it off to its complete possible with last month’s Classic(al) Rock concert of Julian Bond’s arrangements. Future door at the Walt Disney Theater, 2022’s Broadway touring offerings provided numerous — like Cats and 6 — that ended up considerably superior than I predicted, and finished the 12 months on a superior be aware with the incredible Hadestown.

Better however, I was heartened by the resilience of our hometown thespians, as previous favorites returned in fantastic type (this kind of as Theater on the Edge with Say Goodnight, Gracie) and emerging firms expanded their ambition. Aaron Safer’s rebranded New Technology Theatrical slayed with Michael Knight’s satirical Gothic Manor Minor Radical Theatrics raised the bar for community theater with the assistance of director Travis Eaton and Donald Rupe’s Renaissance Theatre proved with Nosferatu and the Place of work Getaway Bash that independent immersive grownup entertainment can be a substantial strike here.

Eventually, I won’t be able to conclude a review of 2022 with no addressing the elephants in the place: the implosions of many Orlando arts institutions. The FBI’s investigation into the Orlando Museum of Art’s show of purported Basquiat paintings (and the subsequent sacking of its newest director) built headlines around the world, but the meltdowns at two main theaters hit nearer to dwelling for me. Soon after apparently creating strides toward diversity and equity underneath inventive director Joseph Walsh — like acclaimed productions of The Mountaintop and Elegance and the Beast with administrators Felichia Chivaughn and Roberta Emerson — he abruptly exited, and was quickly adopted by most of the workers. Singer Fernando Varela’s Victory Productions (very best known for presenting vocalists at the Villages) has been subcontracted to restart the Garden’s aborted time in 2023. Meanwhile, the board is consulting with the Edyth Bush Institute about reforms, but concerns keep on being about any very long-phrase modifications.

Chivaughn and Emerson, as leaders of the Central Florida Enjoyment Advocacy group, had been also associated in the ongoing marketing campaign to keep Mad Cow Theatre accountable following several years of monetarily abusing artists. In this situation, the exertion bore fruit as Mad Cow was eventually evicted from its town-owned pasture above unpaid charges. The silver lining is that the Orlando Fringe [full disclosure: my wife’s employer] was handed management of the downtown venue, the place it will current yr-spherical programming beginning Jan. 12 with the return of Wintertime Mini-Fest. Right after efficiently internet hosting the 2022 Planet Conference through very last May’s two-week competition, I’m psyched to see what Orlando Fringe can do with the other 50 weeks each year.

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