It's the time of year for looking back on 2013's memorable moments and trends from Central Florida arts scene.
• Star of the Year: God. We had a lot of religion on our stages this year. Theatre Downtown presented "Godspell" with Vine Theatre. Breakthrough Theatre produced "Jesus Christ Superstar" in its intimate theater. At the Orlando Fringe Festival, not known for a conservative nature, Orlando's Flamenca del Sol set its dance show to music from Catholic Mass. Meanwhile, Mike Delamont's super-funny "God Is a Scottish Drag Queen" gave the Almighty a sense of humor. And though he's not a character, "Heavenly Father" loomed large over the year's top touring production, "The Book of Mormon."
• Favorite couple: Karel K. Wright and Piper Rae Patterson in Mad Cow Theatre's "Collected Stories." No, they didn't play a romantic couple — but the twists and turns in this look at the relationship between a young author and her mentor were felt as deeply as any lovers' entanglement in this gripping piece of theater.
• Favorite couple (traditional): In Orlando Shakespeare Theater's "Taming of the Shrew," Geoffrey Kent deftly kept Petruchio from being a misogynist while Deanna Gibson equally skillfully found the sympathetic side of belligerent Katherina.
• Favorite trend (local): Public art, public art, more public art. In just eight days in November, we saw the dedication of the new Red Tails sculpture/monument outside Orlando Science Center, a ceremony for the upgraded Tower of Light at Orlando City Hall, a party for the eight See Art Orlando sculptures installed downtown and the unveiling of the outdoor Urban Art Museum in the Mills-50 district.
• Favorite trend (nonlocal): Central Floridians and their work shone on a bigger scale this year. Artist Josh Garrick became the first American to exhibit at the world-famous National Archaeological Museum in Athens. Actor Michael Colavolpe toured the nation in a leading role in "Mamma Mia!" UCF graduate Justin Sargent is the final actor to star as Spider-Man on Broadway. (The musical "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" closes Jan. 4.)
• Favorite insult directed at me: A reader, unhappy with one of my negative reviews, summed up his feelings about me with "Anyway, the person who puts 'Les Mis' in his credentials can't be all that sophisticated!" Now, I am from a small, country town — more cows than people, we'd say — so there are plenty of ways to accuse me of being unsophisticated. I wouldn't have put a fondness for "Les Miserables" at the top of that list.
• Best use of blood: The stage dripped, squirted and gushed red in Orlando Shakes' vividly stylish production of "Titus Andronicus."
• Favorite cartoon: "Cartoonish" is generally not a positive word in a theater review, but for Orlando Repertory Theatre's "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" it was the ultimate compliment. The hit show cleverly, creatively and charmingly brought the beloved television special to life.
• Favorite celebrity visitor: Patrick Stewart. The star of stage and screen was both warm and witty, and he didn't shy away from poking fun at himself. Best of all: He donated proceeds from his sold-out Orlando talk to Orlando Shakespeare Theater.
• Favorite scene stealer: The show was called "Mary Poppins," but it belonged to Bert the chimneysweep. With a cheeky wink and a cheery grin, irrepressible Con O'Shea-Creal was the best thing about Disney's touring musical.
• Favorite ode to love: Jester Theater's lovely "Almost Maine" was everything that show should be. Sweet, lighthearted, joyful, poignant.
• Favorite production: A tie between two shows involving theater, music and dance. Both, coincidentally, were collaborations between multiple arts groups. First, Orlando Ballet and the Bach Festival Society produced a visually striking, physically powerful "Carmina Burana." Two weeks later, the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and Orlando Shakespeare Theater staged a sprightly, magical "Midsummer Night's Dream." Both productions showed the Orlando arts scene at its best.
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