Living in Orlando, there are many opportunities to get involved with musical theatre for people of all ages. There are children’s theatres, professional theatres, community theatres, and theme parks. For non-performers, there are many shows to choose from when deciding what to see, on any particular weekend. What is lacking is the opportunity for people with varying abilities to perform.

Central Florida Community Arts’ Upbeat! Musical Theatre Program exists to fill that void. This is just one example of how CFCArts is bringing arts equity to populations of all ages and all abilities. The program is designed for people of varying abilities to take the stage and succeed in a production. Done in partnership with the Down Syndrome Association, Upbeat! provides a safe space for young adults with Down Syndrome and varying abilities to be themselves, create community, be a part of a produced show, and be successful performers.

Every Upbeat! Production is unique as roles are modified to highlight the strengths of each individual. This season they are performing a modified version of “A Christmas Carol.” Our two most verbal students, Allison and Clarissa, open the show as the two Narrators that guide the storyline. Scrooge is played by Michael, an excellent actor and singer. Natalie and Annie have mastered their lines, “Merry Christmas” and “It’s Christmas Day,” and speak them clearly in their corresponding scenes. Abigail, the Ghost of Christmas past, is a fashionista with strong opinions about costume and makeup. She insists that blue glitter is essential to the role. John plays the Ghost of Christmas Future. It is a non-speaking role that requires excellent body language and physicality. Andrea, a captivating young dancer brings to life the moment the gravestone appears before Scrooge’s eyes. Sam, as Tiny Tim, very convincingly concludes the show with the quintessential line “God bless us everyone”.

Although the end product is rewarding in itself, the participants in this program get so much more than an opportunity to be a part of a production. They experience the therapeutic effects of music as they learn to sing together. They experience cognitive exercise and develop critical thinking skills as they learn the story and organize themselves to be able to tell it. They experience physical exercise as they warm up and dance. Finally, non-performers experience the magic of the arts. They experience a very special production put together by a very talented group of performers. They have the opportunity to see why Central Florida Community Arts so strongly believes that the arts are essential to all.

Learn more about Central Florida Community Arts here: https://cfcarts.com/