The work of a renowned theater producer from Winter Park has come full circle.
On Nov. 17, the Winter Park Playhouse will host the regional premiere of “Daddy Long Legs” — an off-Broadway musical produced by Michael Jackowitz, who grew up in Winter Park.
Based on the classic novel that inspired the 1955 movie, “Daddy Long Legs” tells the story of a witty and winsome young orphan, her mysterious benefactor and the deep friendship that develops.
“It’s a show that Heather and I saw in New York a couple years ago,” Winter Park Playhouse Artistic Director Roy Alan said. “We immediately fell in love with a very special piece.
“The book is all letters — it’s purely correspondence,” he said. “This show is all about the letters that are written and how this young woman grows from an 18-year-old orphan and through her years in college becomes this very intelligent woman who becomes a writer and novelist. Watching her grow through the course of the show is just mesmerizing.”
Jackowitz fell in love with theater while growing up in Winter Park. He remembers when the stage captured his imagination as a child, watching productions of “The Fantasticks” and “Pippin” at Theater on Park when he was in the fourth grade.
He fell in love with “A Chorus Line” after he saw it in seventh grade.
“That’s what really blew me away,” Jackowitz said. “I played that record so many times, and my mother was ready to kill herself, because I played it over and over. That was the first time I saw the theater was a major thing.”
He also recalls how he discovered his calling for working behind the scenes. Jackowitz was attending Winter Park High School at the time and was cast in several roles in Ann Derflinger’s drama class, as well as outside of school at the Jewish Community Center. During his junior year, he auditioned for a show and wasn’t cast, so Derflinger asked him if he could work the soundboard instead.
“I kind of got thrown into doing the soundboard of a show we were doing, and I didn’t really know how to do it, but I didn’t want to tell her that,” Jackowitz said. “We’re in the first performance, and I totally did it wrong, and the sound was terrible. I remember she came marching up the aisle and came bursting into the sound room and said, ‘What are you doing!’ She went crazy.
“It became very clear to me that you take this very seriously,” he said. “She is what made me kind of switch and realize this is an art, it’s a craft. …. That inspired me to get better and to do it and I did.”
Jackowitz continued his work behind the scenes during his college years before starting his career as a producer. In 2009, Jackowitz launched “Daddy Long Legs” — a production that received critical acclaim for its story and music. It’s been performed throughout the United States and as far away as Japan, South Korea and Canada.
The producer said he is excited for his newest work to make it to Winter Park.
“It’s like a big full-circle moment,” Jackowitz said. “We just tried to do a little three-member consortium in 2009. That three-member consortium became a six member-consortium, and then that became an 18-city tour, and then we went to Broadway. Now for it to end up in my hometown at the regional premiere is very exciting.”