Orlando's Best Theater and Performing Arts Venues

The cast of Broadway & Beyond close the show on stage at the opening night of Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts; Broadway & Beyond on November 15, 2014 in Orlando, Florida.
Gerardo Mora/Getty Images for Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts

While many people travel to Orlando to see Universal Studios or Walt Disney World, this central Florida city is also a bustling hub of theater and performing arts, with several venues around the area to catch local productions and traveling Broadway shows.

Theater venues around Orlando typically announce their season schedule in April or May, and the season usually starts in October and runs through the following June. The 2018 to 2019 theater season, for example, will start up around the first of October 2018 and end before July 1, 2019.

From Broadway smash hit musicals like "Hamilton" and "Hello, Dolly!" to holiday performances of classics like "A Christmas Carol," there's something for everyone to enjoy coming to Orlando area theaters and performing arts venues for the 2018 to 2019 season.

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    Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, Orlando, Florida, United States

     Douglas Sacha/Getty Images

    Replacing the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre in downtown Orlando, the Dr. Phillip's Center for the Performing Arts first opened in November 2014 and now serves as the epicenter of theatre in the city.

    Each year, Broadway in Orlando makes the Dr. Phillip's Center its home for the season. You can catch eight the touring productions during the 2018 to 2019 season, including "Hamilton," "Anastasia," "Fiddler on the Roof," "Dear Evan Hansen," and "Hello, Dolly!"

    Additionally, the Dr. Phillip's Center hosts a variety of shows and events year-round including movie and documentary screenings, concerts and dance performances, and even performing arts festivals. Tickets for these shows typically go on sale two to three months before the performance date and are available on the Dr. Philip's Center website.

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    The Garden Theatre in Winter Garden offers an entertainment experience unique to West Orange County, Florida. The original 1935 theater has been renovated into a new performing arts venue offering theater, dance, music, movies, and education.

    The 2018 to 2019 theatre series started on August 24, 2018 with a production of the musical "Gypsy" followed by a stage production of "The Birds" in October, "A Christmas Story" in November and December, "The Legend of Georgia McBride" in January and February 2019, "1984" in March, "Billy Elliot: The Musical" in April and May, and "Flashdance: The Musical" to end the season in July.

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    The Mad Cow Theatre has been a staple of the downtown Orlando theatre scene for over 20 years and has come to be known as one of the area's most respected professional theatres. Presenting a wide range of compelling works, including both classical and contemporary plays and musicals, the Mad Cow Theatre also hosts the annual 18 Days Cabaret Festival.

    Season 22 kicks off on September 19 and includes shows like "Once," "The Royal Family," and "Heartbreak House."

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    The Orlando University of Central Florida (UCF) Shakespeare Theater is a professional theatre company that produces classical and contemporary plays and musicals as well as special children's productions. Performances are held at the renovated theater in the Loch Haven Cultural Campus.

    The 2018 to 2019 season will mark the 30th anniversary of the Orlando Shakespeare Theater and will kick off with a production of the Broadway musical "In the Heights" in late September. Other shows in the 30th season include "The Jungle Book," "The Mystery of Irma Vep—A Penny Dreadful," "A Christmas Carol," "Hamlet," "Richard II," and "Jack and the Beanstalk." Additionally, the annual PlayFest, which features staged readings of new shows, will take place in early November 2018.

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    Another UCF Orlando partnered theatre, the Orlando Repertory Theater (The Rep) has become the area's leading children's theatre since its founding in 1926 as Orlando Little Players. The Children's Theatre provides family-oriented performances based on classic and contemporary literature appropriate for children, families, and educators.

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    Originally constructed in 1963 as Orlando's first two-screen movie theater, the Plaza LIVE was converted into one of the city's best concert venues in the 1990s.

    Boasting the third-largest seated venue in Central Florida, the Plaza LIVE hosts everything from family-friendly concerts and Christian performances to musicals and comedy acts. Unlike other venues on this list, the Plaza LIVE's performance "season" continues year-round, so there's always something to see on the lineup no matter when you visit Orlando.

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    The Athens Theatre is a small hometown theater in DeLand offering classes and a nice selection of seasonal plays and children's productions. In operation for over 25 years, the Athens Theatre presents as many as 17 shows per season.

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    Started in July of 2002, the Winter Park Playhouse is Orlando's professional musical theater and the only one of its kind in Central Florida. Conveniently located on Orange Avenue in Winter Park, the theater offers first-rate musicals along with special events and performances throughout the year. The 2018 to 2019 Mainstage Series season includes "Gigolo: A Cole Porter Revue," "Winter Wonderettes," "What a Glorious Feeling!" and "Heartbeats."

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    The Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center is a historic theater that first opened in 1923 as Sanford's Milane Theater. Since then, it's gone through several renovations and rebrandings including the Ritz and Helen Stairs Theatres and now the Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center (since 2008). As Sanford's premier entertainment venue, the Wayne Densch Center offers music, plays, and many forms of live entertainment.