Orlando buzzes with the excitement and the energy of the theme parks. But there’s also a cultural side beyond the parks, which might be a surprise for first-time visitors, that for decades has embraced theater, art and music with events and venues for every taste. While many of our long-established artistic venues celebrate double-digit birthdays this season, the newest kid in town is making the biggest splash, as the ribbon was cut today on the $514-million Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, which will affect the downtown Orlando skyline and its arts community for a long time to come. The 2,700-seat Walt Disney Theater—the main performance space—is now open along with the 300-seat Alexis and Jim Pugh Theater. A 1,700-seat acoustic hall is expected by 2018.
More than 1,000 arts patrons, members of the media and civic and community leaders were on site for the ceremony this morning.
Jim MacPhee, senior vice president of Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts, said his company was proud to be part of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts through their sponsorship of the Walt Disney Theater.
"Walt Disney was all about creativity and bringing a story to life with a focus on technology and with the belief that art is for everyone," he remarked on behalf of Central Florida's 70,000 Disney employees. "We saw it as an opportunity to honor the legacy of our company's founder."
While Orlando City Mayor Buddy Dyer discussed the building's impact on downtown's growth and its quality of life for residents, Rich Maladecki, CEO of the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association, focused on the center's impression on tourism.
"Central Florida has the assets to attract more than 50 million visitors a year, and the opening of the performing arts center adds to our brand," he said. "The Orlando experience is truly world-class, and our cultural tourism will be enhanced by the many performances held in this building."
The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts will host 300 special events over the coming year. This holiday season, you can be among the first audiences in this spectacular new venue that's one of just 37 of its caliber in the world.
- Sheryl Crow, Nov. 8: This nine-time Grammy winner is coming to Orlando for a free outdoor concert to benefit the grand opening of the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center with songs from her most recent album, “Feels Like Home.”
- Emmylou Harris, Nov. 14: A 13-time Grammy winner and Country Music Hall of Fame member brings an intimate performance to the Alexis and Jim Pugh Theater.
- Jazz Roots, Nov. 20: This spectacular concert celebrates the musical genius of Ray Charles featuring a full gospel choir and award-winning saxophonist and vocalists.
- Carmina Burana, Nov. 22: The Bach Festival Society of Winter Park and the Orlando Ballet remount Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, one of the most powerful and popular pieces of classical music.
- Phantom of the Opera, Dec. 3-14: Cameron Mackintosh’s new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s phenomenal musical success, “The Phantom of the Opera,” takes the Walt Disney Theater stage. The beloved story and thrilling score will be performed by a cast and orchestra of 52, making this Phantom one of the largest productions now on tour.
- The Nutcracker, Dec. 19-21: The Orlando Ballet and the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra bring this classic Christmas story to life with Clara, the Mouse King, Sugar Plum Fairy and other storybook favorites.
- Book of Mormon, Dec. 26-Jan. 4: Written by the creators of “South Park,” this irreverent musical and Broadway smash focuses on two missionaries sent to Uganda where they try to convert the population with hilarious consequences.