Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer stood at the podium, not long before the symbolic ribbon was cut on the city’s opulent new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, and took a moment to "take it all in." The public, as eager as the Orlando luminaries on-hand for its opening, showed up in droves for the ceremony, many enduring a standing-room-only stint in the sun before getting their peek inside.
The arts center's cantilevered roof mimics the look of a Florida front porch — Photo courtesy of Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts
Orlando residents and visitors have been watching for months as the glittering edifice – its interior “wave wall” of Venetian plaster visible through the exterior’s massive glass-window façade – has fast become a colorfully lit beacon of the arts scene of the city’s future. The future has finally arrived.
The public couldn't wait to get a look inside once the ribbon was cut — Photo courtesy of A.D Thompson
Housed on a nine-acre site, the arts center will, once completed, encompass three performance theaters, an outdoor performance plaza, rehearsal rooms, educational spaces and more.
Its mission, says President and CEO Kathy Ramsberger, is "'Arts for every life.' Our commitment is to be an inspirational, creative place where people love to be and people love to work.”
Already ready for prime time are the 2,700-seat Walt Disney Theater and 300-seat Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater. The former will be hosting its first-ever performance Broadway & Beyond on Saturday, Nov. 15, a one-night-only affair featuring an array of musical theater luminaries.
Still to come is the 1,700-seat Acoustical Theater; its construction will be ideal for symphony, opera and ballet.
The Walt Disney Theater will host "The Phantom of the Opera" from Dec. 3 to 14 — Photo courtesy of Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts
Even with Phase 2 still in progress, the center’s schedule is filling up fast with Broadway Across America performances including Newsies, Pippin and The Book of Mormon. Other upcoming shows include Jazz Roots: 'Georgia on my Mind', a star-studded tribute to Ray Charles and performances by the Orlando Philharmonic and Orlando Ballet, both of which will have a new home at the center.
The edifice, designed by esteemed architect Barton Myers, is stunning all by itself; its cantilevered roof a new icon of the downtown skyline.
The aforementioned Walt Disney Theater boasts exceptional sight lines, aisle space and legroom, and in most seats, cup holders, which means guests can bring drinks from the lobby along with. The Alexis and Jim Pugh Theater, with its colorful abstract ceiling and creative stage capability, will be a go-to for cabarets, cocktail parties, special events and more.
A souvenir cup with images from the ceiling art in the Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater will be available for purchase — Photo courtesy of Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts
Outside the performance spaces, more spectacle is in store. Pink decorative accents are a focus in Harriet’s Ladies Lounge; clear and pink crystal droplets adorn the chandeliers.
Five stationary bars – and six mobile ones – are located throughout; theater-goers can take in city views in a number of places, including the Ravago Terrace Bar. At Harry’s Bar, cocktails are of the order, or perhaps something bubbly off its Kir Menu.
The arts center's concessions feature items from local farms and wineries and, for extra fun, cocktails themed to the center’s running shows will be served.
A grand staircase rises from the Della Phillips Grand Lobby — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
Mayor Dyer cited 2014 as a “landmark year” for Orlando, with mentions of the new SunRail, soccer franchise and stadium alongside the opening of the Dr. Phillips Center, which he called a once-in-a-lifetime day in the city’s history.
“I truly believe Orlando is the city of the 21st century,” he said from the podium. “With the opening of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, we take our place on the world stage.”