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Orlando's artistic seasons run in reverse to the usual ecology: hibernating in the summer, flowering in the fall. And if you attended Sept. 19's Red Chair Affair (the last I stage-managed, after several years of service), you know there's a big crop coming up this harvest time. Here's a sampling from my personal schedule of must-see theater, with a sprinkling of theme-park promotions piled on.

Mad Cow Theatre has started its 13th season with The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (through Oct. 18); I haven't seen this well-reviewed production yet, but the song performed by the cast at the Red Chair Affair was delightful. I'm even more interested in the next outing, John Kolvenbach's Love Song (Oct. 2-25). I know next to nothing about the script — a dark romantic comedy about a recluse who falls in love with his burglar — other than that it originated at Chicago's prestigious Steppenwolf Theatre Company. The cast includes several of my favorite actors to work with — Josh Geoghegan, Alexis Jackson, Christian Kelty — and my friend Michael Marinaccio makes his bovine directorial debut. Call me biased, but I'm buying a ticket.

Greater Orlando Actors Theatre follows its summer in the Cherry Street digs with the Steve Martin—penned Picasso at the Lapin Agile (Sept. 25-Oct. 17). The titular painter is played by Kevin Sigman, who was Frank N. Furter to my Riff Raff more than a decade ago, I am oddly unashamed to admit. His verbal sparring partner is pre-E=mc2 Einstein, essayed by Adam Boarman in this Ashland Thomas—directed comedy. GOAT then goes forward with Frank Wildhorn's musical adaptation of Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical (Oct. 30-Nov. 28). I've admired director Paul Castaneda's scrappy style of small-budget theater, but as anyone who's seen David Hasselhoff's infamous DVD-documented performance knows, this show is all about the gliding furniture.

The Fairwinds Broadway Across America — Orlando series brings Fiddler on the Roof to Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre (Sept. 29-Oct. 4) just as you remember it: with the seemingly immortal Topol (star of the 1971 film) still in the titular role on what is ominously billed as his "Farewell Tour." Well, maybe not quite how you remember: The female role of Fruma Sarah (Lazar Wolf's widow, who haunts Tevye's "Dream") is played by actor Sean Patrick Doyle, late of the off-Broadway hit Wig Out! (Insert your own awkward joke about cross-gender casting here; I'm fresh out.) Oprah Winfrey's The Color Purple comes in once the shtetl shuffles on (Nov. 3-8); I'm holding my breath until In the Heights and Spring Awakening in 2010.

In an obvious case of naked nepotism, I'm giving a nod to Rollins College for my colleague John DiDonna's production of Antigone (Oct. 1-3). It's a bit of a spiritual sequel to the production of its Sophoclean sibling Oedipus, which he and I produced in 2005 (and which rocked, if I may immodestly say so). Plus, I hear good things about the star, Chelsea Swearingen. Plus, it's performed outdoors under torchlight, so if it sucks: hey, picnic!

For some Fringe flavor far from May, I'm looking forward to Brian Feldman's Under the Covers invisible vocal pseudo-performance at the Orlando Museum of Art (Oct. 1), and Mark Baratelli's conducted-in-absentia Daily City Taco Truck Taste Test #4. (I'll have some lengua for ya!)

Then, on Nov. 13, I'm torn between attending the opening of producer Beth Marshall's Crimes of the Heart at the Garden Theatre in Winter Garden (Nov. 13-29) or Checkerboard Productions' musical Songs From an Unmade Bed at Mad Cow Theatre (Nov. 13-15).

Finally, over at the theme parks I always anticipate Universal's Halloween Horror Nights (through Oct. 31); I'll be covering this year's "Silver Screen"-themed edition in next week's column. And I can't wait to ride Space Mountain again on Nov. 22, after its much-needed months-long rehab.

But I'm really salivating over the annual Epcot International Food and Wine Festival (Sept. 25-Nov. 8). This year my annual gorge-around-the-world ritual will be supplemented with a visit to Mexico's brand-new gourmet tequila bar; I'll dutifully deliver a full report, provided I can remember any of it.


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