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Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival

17 William Street, Suite 304
Auburn, NY 13021
(315) 255-1305
[email protected]

About Us

Our Mission Statement:

The Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival’s mission is to provide a diverse offering of theatre experiences at the highest levels of artistic integrity, to share our passion for the arts, to increase local and regional tourism and serve as a catalyst for economic development.  The Festival is committed to developing and producing quality productions of both classic and contemporary works, developing new musicals, delivering professional in-school arts education programming, training emerging artists and deepening an appreciation and understanding of the powerful role the arts plays in our community.

More Information on the Festival:

The Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival, produced by Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, premiered in 2012.

The Festival showcases "Broadway in the Finger Lakes," at three venues in "History's Hometown" of Auburn, N.Y.

You can experience a diverse offering from "On, Off, and Beyond Broadway" annually from May through October. First and foremost, fans of Broadway's biggest and most celebrated shows can get all the glitz and glamor of the Big Apple at the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse in Emerson Park on the banks of Owasco Lake.

For more adventurous theatre goers, the MGR Downtown Series at the Auburn Public Theater presents some of off-Broadway's funniest and edgiest offerings.

Finally, musicals in development get a kickstart at Theatre Mack at the Cayuga Museum of History and Art in The PiTCH series' open forum where creative teams and fans interact to try to create the next great musical.

Auburn is already home to a thriving theatrical community, and the region boasts internationally-renowned wineries, luxury spas, crystal blue lakes, great restaurants, and historical treasures.

Altogether, Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival will offer you the best of everything that contemporary musical theatre has to offer. So start planning your trip now. Your seats are waiting.



Merry-Go-Round Playhouse is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.


Our History:

The Merry-Go-Round Playhouse was founded in 1958 as the Auburn Children’s Theatre by Susan Riford and members of the Auburn Service League.

Initially, the Theatre provided weekend dramatic classes for local children and in 1961 an in-school program was added. That in-school program grew into a state-wide touring children's theatre by 1965.

In 1974, the program - now referred to as the Youth Theatre Program - was fully professionalized.

Meanwhile, in 1970, Mrs. Riford received permission from the Cayuga County Legislature to convert the then empty carousel building in Emerson Park into a theatre.

The building once contained a classic merry-go-round - owned by the Padlick family - that delighted area children for many years. That merry-go-round was sold in April 1972 to the Nassau County Historical Society. Subsequently, the Society sold off parts of the merry-go-round while some parts still remain in storage. The military band music organ is on display - and in working order - in Tampa, Florida. That organ will soon be on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. according to Auburn citizen Ann Padlick.

The building was cleaned and painted by dozens of volunteers after the merry-go-round was removed and a stage was added to the east side of the building.

In the summer of 1971, the first Merry-Go-Round Playhouse season was held. The first years were a "decidedly home grown effort, but successful" according to accounts at the time. The Merry-Go-Round Playhouse became a professional summer stock theatre in 1975 and much of the casts and artistic staff traveled up from New York City's Manhattan for the summer season.

In the fall of 1981, Mrs. Riford retired. Ed Sayles took over at that time and was the Producing Director until June 2014. Under Sayles' direction the Playhouse has become nationally recognized for excellent quality of both its musical and youth theatres. Merry-Go-Round Playhouse attendance has grown from 9,000 in 1982 to over 60,000 annually. The Youth Theatre has become one the largest in the country and performs for over 125,000 students each school year. The budget of the Playhouse and Youth Theatre has grown from $180,000 in the early 1980s to over $5 million.

Brett Smock was named Producing Director in June 2014 after Sayles' retirement. Sayles is now the Producing Director Emeritus of the Festival.

A $3 million dollar renovation was completed at the Playhouse in 2004. That renovation included an expansion of seating capacity of the Playhouse from 365 to 501, the addition of a full fly system, the creation of an orchestra pit, and the stage size was nearly doubled.

Also in 2004, the Playhouse finished formal agreements with Actors Equity Association, the American Federation of Musicians, and the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers to perpetuate the high caliber of the shows being produced.

The Playhouse launched the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival in 2012. The Festival uses two additional performing spaces in downtown Auburn to supplement the Playhouse's season. The MGR Downtown series utilizes the newly renovated space at the Auburn Public Theatre for "off-Broadway" productions, while The PiTCH series (for a generation of new musicals) is held in the newly renovated Theatre Mack behind the Cayuga Museum of History and Art.

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Produced by Merry-Go-Round Playhouse

Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival
17 William Street, Suite 304
Auburn, NY 13021
(315) 255-1305
[email protected]