The Voice of Young People

Orlando Repertory Theatre’s 2017-18 Season

Orlando Repertory Theatre gears up for a spectacular 2017-18 season.

It’s almost showtime again for Orlando Repertory Theatre, but the 2017-18 performance season marks a different focus for the theater in providing quality entertainment for children and their families. This season encompasses shows that reflect the current times young people are living in and offers theatrical opportunities that give a voice to children’s perspectives on life.

Among the upcoming shows are Disney’s Newsies The Musical; Polkadots: The Cool Kids Musical; The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical; Flora & Ulysses; Madagascar — A Musical Adventure; and Judy Moody & Stink: The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt.

“The crucial role of theater, and the arts in general, is to reflect the times we are living in, and I have chosen shows that are told or shown from the viewpoint/perspective of a child, or we see the story through a young person’s eyes,” said Jeffrey Revels, Orlando REP’s artistic director. “Children understand situations a lot more than we give them credit for, and these are shows about young people making a difference.”

The Shows

To start the season off with a bang, Orlando REP is the first theater in the southeastern United States to produce Disney’s beloved Newsies (Sept. 5-Oct. 22), which is based on the real-life newsboy strike in 1899, following a successful Broadway run and recent national tour.
“What we love is that the story shows young people affecting social change, where those who are considered ‘weak,’ stood up to those in power (publishing giants in the industry) and actually affected change when they saw that things weren’t fair,” Jeff said.

Following Newsies’ social change stance is a unique musical that focuses on the civil rights movement, particularly the events inspired by young Ruby Bridges entering a newly segregated school in Little Rock, Arkansas, during the 1960s. Polkadots: The Cool Kids Musical (Oct. 23-Nov. 19) features a girl with purple skin and pink polka dots entering a new town and school filled with people who have blue skin with orange squares.

“It illustrates how a young person can make a difference in the world, where this young girl comes to town and challenges everyone’s world views,” Jeff said.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical (Nov. 13-Dec. 30), based on the treasured children’s classic, is sure to put everyone in the Christmas spirit, as six rowdy and disobedient children learn about the Nativity story while taking part in a local church’s Christmas pageant.
“It has fun and inspirational music, with every character making discoveries along the way” Jeff said.

Up next, from Jan. 29-Feb. 25, is Flora & Ulysses, based from the Newbury Medal-winning book about a young girl grappling with her parents’ divorce until she meets a superhero squirrel named Ulysses.

“Many children have found themselves in the same position [as Flora] and felt alone. In this play — and many others — Orlando REP finds exceptional ways of exploring challenging themes and creating a theatrical experience families can share together,” said Ashley Willsey, marketing director for Orlando REP.

Rounding out the season is a musical adaptation of Dreamworks’ Madagascar (Feb. 26-April 8) and from the popular children’s series, Judy Moody & Stink: The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt (April 9-May 13); Judy Moody is part of a co-commission Orlando REP is participating in with six other theater for young audiences around the country, collectively offering seven different productions of the same show for audiences nationwide.

Interspersed this season are four staged readings comprising Perspectives: A Series of Staged Readings presented in conjunction with the Holocaust Memorial Resource & Education Center of Florida and featuring guest speakers to discuss timely topics with audiences following their performances. Themes of these readings include a young refugee escaping his war-torn country, a Muslim-American teenager attending school in a hijab, high school girls who are undocumented citizens, and a ceremony for the last paving stone over natural earth.

“In any of the productions this season, I think young people watching will see themselves in some role of the story,” Jeff said. “Our vision for every production is all about how we can find the voice of the young person and give them a platform for creating conversations with others. We feel this is our contribution to society.”

Enrollment is currently open for Orlando REP’s youth academy classes and everyone, especially families, are welcome to volunteer at the theater. For tickets and more information, visit www.orlandorep.com. ♥

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