Could a hometown Broadway star be returning to Orlando for the grand opening of the new downtown arts center?
Officials at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, which opens with a multi-week celebration in November, have been mum on the performers who will headline the grand-opening shows.
But we do have some clues about a possible star for the Nov. 15 debut of the center's Walt Disney Theater — and those clues point toward Norm Lewis.
Lewis, a 2012 Tony nominee, is currently starring as the title character in "The Phantom of the Opera" on Broadway — and the Disney Theater is the Dr. Phillips Center's Broadway-style venue, making him a logical choice. Lewis' other Broadway and London theater credits include leading roles in "Porgy and Bess," "Les Miserables, "Chicago," "Sondheim on Sondheim" and "The Little Mermaid."
The Dr. Phillips Center vice president of programming, Scott Galbraith, told me recently that he didn't want the opening to be "off the rack." He's planning something unique for Central Florida — and Lewis certainly has strong Central Florida connections. He was raised in Eatonville, sang in church choir there and graduated from Edgewater High School.
I accompanied Lewis on a tour of the Dr. Phillips Center construction site a few months back, and he expressed interest in participating in the opening extravaganza in some way. Now, I see on the official ticketing site for "The Phantom of the Opera" that Norm Lewis will not be performing in that show on Saturday, Nov. 15.
"Phantom" is dark on Sunday, so there's plenty of time for Lewis to hop a plane to Orlando on Saturday morning, perform here, fly back to New York the next day and don the Phantom mask again for Monday's Broadway performance. Hmmm.
Still no official word from the Dr. Phillips Center … I'll keep you posted.