On Nov. 6, Orlando celebrated the grand opening of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts with a ribbon cutting ceremony and tour of the brand new facility.
Winter Park Vice Mayor Steven Leary announced a 10-year interlocal agreement between Winter Park and the Dr. Phillips Center at the ceremony that promises $100,000 per year as an annual commitment to support the center and arts in the Central Florida region.
“The cooperation between the city of Winter Park and the Dr. Phillips Center is key to advancing the rich culture and beauty of the entire region,” Leary said during the announcement.
The ribbon cutting marks the opening of Phase 1 of the center, comprised of two theaters, the 2,700-seat Walt Disney Theater and the intimate 300-seat Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater.
The Walt Disney Theater will host Orlando’s Broadway series and is acoustically designed to exceed the highest standards of any current Broadway production.
The Alexis & Jim Pugh theater will play host to smaller community productions, student productions and small concert settings. The ceiling in this theater creates its own show with 34 individual panels of art, resembling stained glass, created by local artist Tom McGrath.
The 1,700-seat Acoustical Theater will be completed in Phase 2, depending on how quickly the funding can be raised. It will be the most ambitious and flexible of the three theaters, with options to reconfigure the space in both shape and acoustics as needed to accommodate symphony, opera or ballet performances. It will be the future home of the Orlando Philharmonic and the Orlando Ballet.
“The leaders of Winter Park believe strongly in this project and we were very proud to make such a commitment to the region,” Leary said.
“...We know that every great region is comprised of great individual cities whose collected value is greater than their individual assets.”
According to Leary the $100,000 commitment represents .25 percent of Winter Park’s total annual budget.
“We felt it was a wise investment on the part of the city and a great example of regional planning in action.”
But some Winter Park residents believe the money should have been used within the city, voicing their disapproval during Monday’s City Commission meeting.
“I was blindsided, I thought we were giving $100,000, but then to find out we’re giving $1 million [total] ... we cut Winter Park groups,” resident Pat McDonald said. “I think it’s appalling.”
Leary said the city could have easily sat back and let others fund the Center, “But instead we wanted to take a leadership role and set an example for other communities in the region to step up and participate in something that is of interest and benefit to us all,” he said.
In addition to its use as a performance venue, the Dr. Phillips Center will also function as an educational center with ties to UCF’s College of Arts & Humanities and a venue for community events, banquets, conferences and private events such as weddings.
The interior spaces are filled with grand details, such as the marble and glass staircase that leads guests to the upper levels of the theater and the DeVos Family Room, with soaring 51-foot ceilings and enormous sliding glass doors that open the entire room to the Seneff Arts Plaza 27 feet down below.
As part of the ongoing Grand Premiere, running through Nov. 22, there will be a variety of ticketed events including a Broadway and Beyond performance on Nov. 15 followed by an after party with dancing, dessert and a toast under the stars on the Seneff Arts Plaza.
The Orlando Ballet and The Bach Festival Society of Winter Park will present a joint performance of “Carmina Burana” at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 22.