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Live theaters plan changes dramatic and small

By BARBARA L. FREDRICKSEN
Published February 15, 2004

This year at Richey Suncoast Theatre promises to be one of the most exciting in the theater's history.

"We're going to pay off the mortgage and start on a design for the interior of the building," said Charlie Skelton, president of the theater's board of directors.

The designer is a North Carolina firm that specializes in theater restorations and refurbishments, Skelton said.

The theater won't be restored to what it looked like when it was built, which was rather utilitarian. Instead, the board wants the interior to be in the Moroccan-art deco style of the exterior and the downtown New Port Richey area where it sits.

The redecoration isn't expected to get under way until at least 2005, Skelton said. That will allow time to build up funds and refine whatever plans the North Carolina design firm submits. Skelton has sent complete draftsmen's drawings of the theater's footprint and interior, as well as photos of the exterior and the area to give the designers enough information to start their preliminary plans.

In the meantime, Richey Suncoast plans to install a triangular platform in front of the balcony from which lighting and sound boards can be operated.

"Where our lights and sound people are now, up in the old projection booth (of the theater), it's hard to hear the sounds in the theater itself," Skelton said. The platform, which will be cantilevered from the balcony in the northeast corner of the auditorium, will be entered from the balcony.

"We've already gotten an engineer and a designer to check it all out to make sure it can be done safely," Skelton said.

Richey Suncoast hopes to launch a series of acting and playwriting programs for children, the 52nd Street Project. The "Playmaking Program" will teach eight weeks of playwriting and eight weeks of plot and character development. Then writers and actors will write and perform a play together.

In other theater news, the Angel Cabaret Theatre in New Port Richey plans regular visits from comedians provided by Giggles, a quasifranchise comedy club, and perhaps other agents.

The first shows, starring Tampa Improv veterans Spike Rizzo and Johnny B, are set for Friday and Saturday. Another tentative round of standup comedians will appear in April, said Dee Etta Rowe, co-owner of the Angel.

"They have comedians from New York and elsewhere," she said. "We had them here for our Fiesta Italiano in October and they went over well."

The Angel might have more male strippers, like the ones who danced there in late January, she said. The first two shows sold out, mostly to schoolteachers and members of Red Hat societies, she said.

"People like coming to our place because it's comfortable, not a bar, you can have a dinner and the prices are reasonable," she said. The Magnificent Men Male Revue, with dinner, was $24.95, almost $10 less than a regular theatrical event. For Giggles, dinner and show are $19.95.

"We may do some of own revues and some other special concerts," Ms. Rowe said. "We'll continue to have our regular shows, with the specials in between."

Meanwhile, Pasco County's largest theater, the Show Palace Dinner Theater, continues to set attendance records with the blockbuster musical Chicago, which closes Feb. 22, and presales of Showboat, which opens Feb. 27, according to co-owner Nick Sessa.

[Last modified February 15, 2004, 01:15:45]


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