Reaching for the stars

DP Center Abigail-JUMBO
DP Center Abigail-JUMBO
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Abigail Marotta has taken many stages in the last five years, but her Nov. 15 performance at the new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts will be the biggest so far.

— Thirteen-year-old Abby Marotta will be on stage with big-name singers, actors at the opening of Orlando’s new performing arts center.

OCOEE — When the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts holds its grand premiere Nov. 15, an Ocoee teen will be sharing her talents on stage alongside big names such as Norm Lewis, the current Phantom on Broadway; leading soprano Deborah Voigt; legendary jazz singer Jane Monheit; and Well-Strung, an all-male singing string quartet.

Abigail “Abby” Marotta will be singing a solo, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” in “Broadway & Beyond at the Walt Disney Theater” on opening night. She and three other Central Florida girls were selected during auditions Oct. 9.

Richard Jay-Alexander, renowned Broadway producer and director, hosted the auditions with leaders from the Dr. Phillips Center and, initially, was looking for one girl to star in the production. But, he soon discovered there were so many talented candidates that he couldn’t decide on just one.

Abby sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Journey to the Past” for the judges. 

“I was really nervous; I was pacing back and forth,” she said of waiting for the results. “I had a really bad stomach ache because I was so nervous, but I think my mom was more nervous. It’s a mom thing.”

Jay-Alexander narrowed it down to four, and joining Abby — and the all-star professional Broadway cast — are Naomi Gomez, of Orlando; Sarah Mills, of Oviedo; and Kristen Brock, of Lakeland.

“It’s just great to know that I’m going to be one of the first people to perform on that stage,” Abby said. “I love it. I love to be on the stage.”

Abby is no stranger to the stage. She was 9 when she appeared in her first show, “Annie,” at the Ice House Theatre in Mount Dora. She was one of the unnamed orphans, but her good friend got the role of orphan Pepper, so Abby named her character Salt. She went on to star as Annie in a By Your Side Ministries performance, and she has been in several productions at the Garden Theatre in Winter Garden.

Currently, she is performing in “Annie Get Your Gun” at the Ice House Theatre, and she’s the understudy for Scout in Orlando Shakespeare Theatre’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.” 

Her mother, Ann Marotta, is a quite a fan.

 “I’m always amazed by Abby, because I can’t sing myself,” Marotta said. “When she first started wanting to do this, it was so foreign to me.”

Abby fell in love with theatrics about five years ago when she saw “Wicked” at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre.

“When we came home, she said she wanted to do that, to sing on stage,” Marotta said. “She’s like a wilted flower when she’s not part of a show, and she gets a little limp. And then she gets a show, and that’s her water, and she starts to sprout, and then she’s happy again.”

Abby will be in full bloom Nov. 15, and she will have an entire cheering section. Besides her parents, Joe and Ann Marotta, the audience will include grandparents from Connecticut and Pennsylvania, aunts from California and Maryland, several cousins and her two older brothers, who got tuxedos for the occasion.

Abby hopes this is just the beginning of a long career.

“I really want to be an actress; I want to be on Broadway,” she said. 


“Broadway & Beyond at the Walt Disney Theater”

WHEN: 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 15

WHERE: Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, 445 S. Magnolia Ave., Orlando

TICKETS: $250, $175 and $125 and can be purchased by calling the Dr. Phillips Center Box Office at (844) 513-2014; at the box office, 155 E. Anderson St., Orlando; or online at Box office hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.


There are numerous activities scheduled this week and next to celebrate the opening of the new performing arts center, including a ribbon cutting, media preview and community open house at 10 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 6.  

From noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 8, guests can take self-guided tours and purchase tickets for upcoming shows and events. At 8 p.m., nine-time Grammy winner Sheryl Crow will perform a free show in the Seneff Arts Plaza.

A community open house and family festival takes place from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 9.

“Broadway & Beyond at the Walt Disney Theater” begins at 8:30 p.m. Nov. 15.


The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is a non-profit organization dedicated to developing and operating a new state-of-the-art performing arts center in downtown Orlando. The two-block community space features the 2,700-seat Walt Disney Theater, 300-seat Alex & Jim Pugh Theater, Seneff Arts Plaza, School of Arts, the DeVos Family Room and other event rental spaces.

Future expansion plans include a 1,700-seat acoustic theater, rehearsal room and commercial development spaces.


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