Orlando musical to play locally before going Off-Broadway

Donald Rupe’s critically acclaimed original musical, “From Here,” is coming back to Orlando for a series of fundraiser performances before its six-week, Off-Broadway engagement in New York City this summer.

Set in 2016, “From Here” follows the story of Daniel, a 30-something gay man on his personal journey with life, love and family when a tragic shooting at the Pulse nightclub changes everything, including him. Daniel’s character is inspired by Rupe and other friends who lived in Orlando during the days surrounding the Pulse shooting.

Rupe is the writer and producer of “From Here.” He says he titled it “From Here” because he was born and raised in Orlando. Rupe says the all-Orlando cast and crew couldn’t be happier to take the show to Off-Broadway.

“The musical is based in Orlando, it’s about people in Orlando and it’s about events in Orlando,” Rupe says. “We felt really strongly that it’s more authentic when the people who are in the show are talking about things that they know, love and remember.”

The show’s focus isn’t on the shooting itself but the city’s response to the tragedy in the aftermath. Rupe weaves in real-life experiences of what it was like to live in Orlando and be with the community during a time of need.

“From Here” shines a light on how support and love from friends and family can be moving through difficult moments.
Rupe says he feels like the cast and crew are ready to take the show to the next level because of the talent and art that is created in Orlando.

The originator of the lead role from the show, Blake Aburn, plays Daniel, who is a hopeless romantic. He says he has learned a lot about himself over the past five years of playing the character.

“I bawled my eyes out when I found out that this was happening and still to this day, I get choked up talking about it,” Aburn says. “It’s one of those things that you always dream of but you never really think that it could happen and then all of a sudden you’re presented with this crazy opportunity.”

The musical debuted at the 2019 Orlando Fringe Festival and was a huge hit, selling out shows and nearly sweeping in Watermark’s annual Splash Awards, an online “best of” awards that allows our readers to vote on their favorite LGBTQ+-themed shows from the year’s Fringe festival. “From Here” took home the Splash Award for Favorite LGBTQ+ Show, Rupe won for Favorite LGBTQ+ Director and Favorite LGBTQ+ Writer, and Aburn picked up Favorite LGBTQ Lead Performer.

The show has had a few limited runs in Central Florida since then but is now set to complete its first full local run at the Renaissance Theatre Company starting on March 22 and running through May 5 after a previous run was cut short.

“We wrote the show originally in 2019,” Rupe says. “Then everything kind of stopped during the pandemic so it cut our initial performances short. We’ve been working on it ever since, doing different iterations and edits, and the show has evolved over time.”

Aburn says he is very grateful to work with Rupe as they have been colleagues and friends for 12 years.

“He has pushed my career to places that I feel like I never could have done myself,” Aburn says.

“From Here” played a sold-out concert at the famed 54 Below in New York City last January, where Broadway producers and industry professionals in attendance encouraged the Orlando-based cast and crew to explore the next steps, according to a press release.

One of the things Rupe kept hearing from the Broadway producers and industry professionals was that they were very impressed by the performers, the talent level and the skill level.

“It was meaningful to the people in New York that all of us came there to tell our story as a unit,” Rupe says. “So we decided to stick with that and all in all we think it’ll be worth it.”

Kendall Leamy, an ensemble character in “From Here,” says she has been with the show since 2020. She was a part of the show in New York and says it felt like a dream come true.

“I think it feels validating in a way because when you’re a part of something that you know is special, but then taking it somewhere sometimes it feels like you’re a big fish in a small pond,” Leamy says. “Then when you’re going to someplace like New York City, which is like the capital of New York Musical and other people are seeing it, you feel validated in that.”

Rupe is also the co-founder of the Renaissance Theatre Company, and he says the company has accomplished a lot in a short amount of time. “The Ren,” as it is nicknamed, was founded in 2021 and is dedicated to bringing original theatre to Orlando and beyond.

Producing an Off-Broadway show isn’t cheap, the run is expected to cost between $500,000 and $700,000, according to a press release. The team hopes that members of the community and corporate sponsors may jump on board to support the show.

Members from the LGBTQ+ community and the Pulse-affected community will have the chance to say dedications before the show and raise funds to support the organizations dear to them.

“‘From Here’ deals with a lot of themes about the LGBTQ+ community and there is a moment in the show that reflects on how the Pulse tragedy affected people in Orlando,” Rupe says. “So, it’s always been important to me to tie this show to some sort of advocacy.”

Leamy says The Ren is all about giving back to the community because that’s why the theater was created.

“We want to give back to the Orlando community as much as we can because Orlando is our home and this show is a love letter to Orlando, we want to build up the community in the arts and the queer community as much as we can,” Leamy says.

The Ren plans to partner up with organizations like Equality Florida, the state’s largest LGBTQ+ advocacy organization, to raise funds and awareness for their ongoing fight for equality. The Ren proudly spends about 80% of its income to pay local artists.

Rupe says he reached out to community leaders, some people affected by Pulse and people who run LGBTQ+ organizations and invited them to do a dedication at the end of the show. He wants to encourage the audience to donate to organizations while they are there.

The cast and crew have grown with one another as the show is not the same as it was five years ago, Rupe says.

“It’s nice to have history and to be with people who know what the show used to be, have seen it evolve, seen the characters change and the music change,” Rupe says. “So much for the show has changed and it’s cool to be around the same people who are kind of growing up with the show.”

The musical has been called a love letter to Orlando because in the face of adversity, the city came together in support of the LGBTQ+ community.

Rupe says there is so much to be proud of in Orlando because during Pride Month rainbow flags fly high throughout the city. He feels that stories from the city should be shared more as there aren’t that many works of art that talk about the great parts of Orlando.

“This play says some good things about what the city can do even in the most difficult moments,” Rupe says.

One thing Rupe has learned to do with his work is enjoy the moment. He says he wants to take it all in.

“I have hopes that the show will be seen and embraced by a larger audience but really the opportunity to just tell the story and to do it with so many people who I love, to see people thrive in a different place is really enough,” Rupe says.

“From Here” will play at the Renaissance Theatre Company in Orlando from March 22–May 5. Tickets are $40 each for General Admission with Reserved Seating available for $50 each. VIP packages are also available with standard VIP tickets at $65 each and include reserved seating, two specialty cocktails and a concession item. Premier VIP tickets are $100 each and include all standard VIP add-ons plus you will be listed as a sponsor of “From Here” in New York City.

The Renaissance Theatre Company will present a new run of “From Here” Off-Broadway June 29-Aug. 11 at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center. An all-Orlando cast and crew will perform their musical love letter to Orlando at the 191-seat theatre in the heart of New York City’s “Theatre Row” on 42nd Street.

Tickets for the Orlando shows are available now and are on sale at FromHere.com.

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