Right after the terrifying drop-tower descent into a dumpster fireplace that was 2020, I was hopeful that 2021 would see Orlando’s arts and attractions bounce back again briskly with the enable of COVID vaccines. But as this 12 months comes to a near, it turned out to be an even far more disorienting roller coaster in the dark, with temporary bursts of optimism undermined by Delta- and Omicron-formed dips. Though the effect of the coronavirus is specific to continue into 2022, the superior information this vacation time is that Orlando Global Airport’s passenger quantity is on keep track of to approximately get to 2019’s pre-pandemic peak, which portends properly for the region’s vacationer economy, as effectively as the arts corporations that count on it. With that hopeful recovery on the horizon, let’s glance again at the earlier year’s peaks (in addition a number of valleys) in Orlando’s cultural landscape.
Searching again in excess of the earlier 12 months at Orlando’s themed points of interest, it truly is apparent that 2021 was the calendar year Common Orlando captured the hearts and minds (or at least wallets) of many park partisans. While Mickey’s new choices ended up late and/or lackluster, Common launched the calendar year with a foodstuff-centric, socially distanced Mardi Gras celebration, then accelerated into spring with a shockingly clean and swift debut for Islands of Adventure’s Jurassic Entire world Velocicoaster, which simply landed atop of my list of preferred local thrill rides.
Nothing at all new has been officially announced for 2021 yet, but Revenge of the Mummy is acquiring a significantly-required refurbishment and Shrek 4-D and Anxiety Aspect Are living are last but not least dealing with the wrecking ball, with rumors of a new Minions Villain-Con walkthrough and Harry Potter digital reality practical experience ready in the wings. Very best of all, right after staying place on pause last 12 months, development on the Epic Universe expansion has resumed, and each leak from Alicia Stella (orlandoparkstop.com) about the upcoming theme park’s sights — like a Kuka robotic arm dim trip featuring Frankenstein and Dracula — only would make me extra keen for 2025 to get there.
Driving the scenes, Universal leading executives Tom Williams and Invoice Davis declared their retirements, and turnover amid Universal’s creative departments has resulted in new alternatives during the total market. This was most effective noticed for the duration of Orlando’s reinvigorated Halloween season as Halloween Horror Evenings celebrated its 30th anniversary, Patrick Braillard — who developed numerous of HHN’s very best mazes — moved on to helm haunted functions at the Oviedo Mall and SeaWorld, offering Common its stiffest seasonal competition in decades.
Ironically, most likely my favourite attraction encounter of 2021 was not a multimillion-greenback permanent addition to any theme park, but a shameless income-grab pop-up cafe on International Push. As a longtime lover of cult film director Kevin Smith, I failed to assume just about anything could ever best ingesting an outrageously overpriced burger from his fictional Mooby’s fast-food stuff chain, which quickly took around Tin Roof at Icon Park back again in March. That was, until eventually I obtained to job interview the man himself (who is way additional loquacious than his Silent Bob alter moi) ahead of his hilarious May possibly Q&A appearance at the Dr. Phillips Center’s Frontyard Pageant.
Speaking of the Frontyard, that regular-environment socially distanced out of doors venue — which was getting dismantled as I wrote this column — was just a person example of nearby arts companies pondering outside their standard box in buy to convey are living functionality again to lifestyle all through 2021.
Orlando Shakes created a phase in their rear courtyard and shifted reveals back to the Lake Eola amphitheater in which they at first bought their start off. Resourceful Town Assignments dazzled with immersive outdoor activities (like “Down the Rabbit Gap” at Mead Botanical Yard) that I relished even additional than their expanded Immerse road festival, which is rumored to be leaving downtown Orlando following year. Appear for CCP’s “Dragons & Fairies” stick to-up at Leu Gardens in January. And although not every single energy was thriving — RIP, The Place of work murder secret strolling tour — it was encouraging to see so a great deal continued innovation in the facial area of COVID.
Of class, during the next half of 2021 we saw an increasing variety of productions returning to indoor phases, with varying levels of basic safety safeguards as venues attempted to navigate Florida’s limits regarding vaccination requirement. With immunization cards or negative take a look at benefits in hand, and masks around faces and mouths (besides though sipping beverages), reside audiences returned to the Winter Park Playhouse, Timucua Arts Basis and I-Travel evening meal theaters. We even received to welcome a manufacturer-new theater in the type of Donald Rupe’s Renaissance Theatre Organization, which has manufactured a massive splash inside of Orlando Ballet’s former rehearsal corridor with unique interactive shows.
Orlando’s return to “normality” culminated in November’s resumption of the Broadway touring series at Dr. Phillips. It’s a disgrace that momentous event was not marked with a much more entertaining musical than Tootsie, but the star-studded lineup — such as Audra McDonald and London’s Royal Philharmonic — that is set to inaugurate the Steinmetz acoustic hall in January should additional than make up for it.
Last but not least, although 2021 observed several sizeable shakeups among the management of nearby arts companies — including the departures of Central Florida Local community Arts founder Joshua Vickery and Orlando Ballet artistic director Robert Hill — nothing pretty as opposed to the way Mad Cow Theatre’s backstage drama spilled out into the public once yet again.
Pursuing numerous a long time of issues from employees about abusive techniques and absent paychecks, Central Florida Leisure Advocacy arranged artists talking out in opposition to the notable downtown theater, major to the denial or restriction of Mad Cow’s requested grant funding. The enterprise responded by attacking their critics on social media and using the services of Bethune-Cookman professor Julius John as their new artistic director, but metropolis of Orlando associates publicly discussed ideas to transform Mad Cow’s place more than to the Orlando Fringe Competition, which would use it to host underrepresented artists on a year-round foundation.
Even immediately after an eviction observe was posted in early November demanding that Mad Cow straight away vacate their metropolis-owned location, the herd refused to depart and ongoing holding performances by the vacations. Help save some of the popcorn you popped to adorn your Xmas tree and keep tuned to this soap opera, since this display is absolutely sure to be extended into the New 12 months regardless of whether we like it or not.