March Talk of the Town: Children’s Theater, Ethics Probe, and More

Still Young at 30 Years

This year marks an incredible milestone for Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre. The Musical Miracles Youth Repertory Company, the theater’s intensive children’s musical theater program, will be celebrating 30 years of operation this March. Marking the occasion is a two-day production of “The Little Mermaid Jr,’’ based on the classic Disney movie and the H.C. Andersen fairy tale.

Musical Miracles is a year-round program, training up-and-coming actors on the ins and outs of performing arts and the entertainment industry, with many alumni going on to enjoy long careers in acting. “This is our créme de la créme youth troupe,” says Actors’ Playhouse General Manager Brooke Noble. “It’s a great program. We have a lot of people who did the program and are now starring on Broadway, on national and international tours, [and] in TV and film, so it’s really produced some incredible stars throughout the years.”

Childrens theater and more

Among the famous conservatory alumni are Stephen Christopher Anthony (starred as Even Hanson in “Dear Evan Hanson” on Broadway), Angelina Carballo (starred as Annie in the national and international tour of “Annie”); Charise Castro Smith (playwright, actress, tv writer and producer who made her film debut as co-director of the Walt Disney animated film “Encanto”); Kyliegh Curran (starred in the thriller “Doctor Sleep,” in Disney Channel’s “Secrets of Sulphur Springs,” and, at ten years old, in the Broadway role of Young Nala in “The Lion King”); Sean Patrick Doyle (starred as Garv in “The Sitter,” opposite Jonah Hill and Sam Rockwell); Jose Loren (as Kaylie Cruz in the ABC series “Make it or Break It” and as FBI agent Michelle Vega in the CBS series “The Mentalist”); and many others.

If you want to catch the stars of tomorrow, watch the limited-time production of “The Little Mermaid Jr.,” running at the Miracle Theatre on Sat., March 16 at 2 and 7 pm, and Sun., March 17 at 4 pm. Standard tickets are $25 and optional $50 Scholarship Support tickets add extra funds to scholarships for students of the program.

Following the March 17 performance, there will be a special 30th anniversary party in honor of the program, as well as its founder and director, Earl Maulding. Maulding first founded the program 30 years ago, and has since been named a “Champion for Children” by the Children’s Trust. He’s also won the Excellence in Direct Service Award from the Trust, amongst several other accolades. All former alumni of Musical Miracles are invited to come and attend.— Alexander Luzula

Castro Ethics Probe Continues

Still on the proverbial hot seat for a potential conflict of interest involving her permit expediting company and her seat on the City Commission — which allows her to oversee the Building Department — Commissioner Melissa Castro isn’t giving up just yet. Castro’s case has now gone before the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust, where, after an hour of discussion on Feb. 14, not much was clarified. Ethics Commission Director Jose Arrojo issued a formal opinion stating, in his words, that “the Commissioner [is prohibited] from representing any clients in Coral Gables who are seeking relief ” — i.e. a benefit — “from the city that requires a city staff member or board to exercise any official discretion.”

Childrens theater, Ethics Probe, and more

However, at the recent Ethics Commission meeting, the language used was debated at length. At issue was whether a permit constitutes a “benefit” that the expediter is seeking from the city, and whether or not permitting is ministerial or discretionary in nature. “If you’re getting a parking decal, that’s ministerial,” Arrojo said at the meeting, “but if you’re applying for a license because you want to put extra tables in front of your restaurant, that’s discretionary.” Where a permit falls between these two is up to the Ethics Commission to decide. That simple decision could potentially put Castro out of a job, forcing her to either step down from the City Commission or sell her business.

At the next meeting, Arrojo is expected to bring forward a land-use expert that can help clarify matters. Meanwhile, Castro told Coral Gables Magazine she will “100 percent abide by the [Ethics Commission’s] recommendation.”— Kylie Wang

The Best at Burgerliscious

Every year, the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce hosts Burgerliscious, an evening street festival that combines live music and beer with — you guessed it — lots and lots of burgers. A panel of judges that includes the mayor and other important community leaders vote on their favorite for “Best in Bun,” which, this year, was Fogo de Chão. The people’s choice, meanwhile, went to PINCHO.

The Miami-born, Latin-inspired burger joint won for the seventh time with its Jalapeño Delight burger, which is topped with jalapeño jack cheese, jalapeño bacon jam, jalapeño bacon, and cilantro jalapeño aioli. The limited-edition burger is only available in-store through March 3. “It’s such an honor to win an award voted on by the people, and to have won it at Burgerliscious seven times is completely humbling,” said PINCHO co-founder Otto Othman. “We are so proud to be from Miami and to serve up our fusion of flavors [that] people keep coming back for.”

Other notable competitors with Gables locations included Capital Burger, John Martin’s, and newly opened Pisco y Nazca. The 13 total competitors served up their entries for four hours alongside beer and seltzers provided by Sam Adams and Truly. All proceeds from the block party went to fund the programs of the Chamber of Commerce, which supports local businesses in Coral Gables. This year over 1,200 people attended the event.— Kylie Wang

Survey Says… Mostly Happy

The 2023 National Community Survey for Coral Gables has found that residents are more satisfied with the City Beautiful than average Americans in other neighborhoods. The survey, run by Polco and the National Research Center, polled Gableites on their satisfaction re- garding 10 key facets: economy; mobility; community design; utilities; safety; natural environment; parks and recreation; health and wellness; education, arts, and culture; and inclusivity and engagement.

Leading the polls were satisfaction in public safety (96 percent felt safe in their neighborhoods) and natural environment, with utilities leading in the category of future importance. Of the 114 total survey items, 46 received answers better than national ratings, 67 received similar ratings to national, and only one came in lower than average.

Key findings showed that safety and quality of life garnered high scores, with a general rating of 90. Over 80 percent of residents also felt satisfied with Coral Gables’ economic standing — 92 percent said business services were good or excellent — although only 26 percent felt positive about the economy’s benefit for their families. Community design held high satisfaction rates (93 percent said the city’s overall appearance was good or excellent), but only 53 percent were happy with “well-planned” commercial growth, and just 15 percent were satisfied with the availability of affordable housing, lower than the national average.

Three thousand randomly selected households were selected to participate in the survey, giving residents the chance to mail in their responses or answer online. Of those, 452 turned in submissions, and an open-participation survey received an additional 75 responses. This is the Gables’ second time participating in the survey, allowing for comparison to the previous poll in 2021. Since then, 13 items received better ratings (street lighting up 15 percent!), 118 received similar ratings, and two received worse.— Alexander Luzula

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