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Dinner theater's latest show is the hottest ticket in town

By BARBARA L. FREDRICKSEN

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 10, 2001


The honchos at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre were surprised that their current show, Some Like It Hot, turned out to be such a big hit with audiences. Unlike the theater's other three blockbusters -- La Cage aux Folles, Can-Can and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas -- the musical version of Some Like It Hot isn't all that well known.

Even so, the size of the audiences has grown by leaps and bounds since the show opened on Jan. 5, which shows what word of mouth can do. The show has its last three performances today and Sunday.

I dropped by for a second look on Wednesday afternoon, and the house was almost full. I liked the Show Palace version of the show the first time I saw it, but the second time around (when I didn't have to concentrate on taking notes and observing details for a review), I just loved it. The dialogue is clever, the characters are spunky, the music is marvelous and the dancing is dynamite.

The leads are terrific, but a second look gave me a chance to notice and appreciate some supporting actors, which was really fun.

Hudson's own Sara DelBeato as Sweet Sue, the leader of the all-female orchestra, is a marvel. She's still in high school, but she has the poise and stage presence of someone twice her age and a voice that just won't quit. Her big number near the end of the show, When You Meet a Man in Chicago, is perfect for her style and range, and she belted it out like the seasoned pro she's becoming. Someday we'll all brag about seeing this talented performer before she became famous.

Dancer Troy LaFon is another one to watch. He has been in 10 productions at the Show Palace, and he gets better with each one. LaFon, who plays a sidekick to a big-time Chicago hood in the current show, has an easy-going, swinging style that can't be taught or learned; you either have it or you don't. He's one of those rare tap dancers who make tapping look smooth and effortless, even as their feet are flying.

Director Steven Flaa brought in an Equity actor to be the lead tap dancer, but LaFon outdid him at every turn.

Aaron J. Wooten, who plays several roles in this show, is another homegrown boy who shows tons of promise. He's a ringer for Donald O'Connor, and I can't wait to see him in a role that will really give him a chance to show what he can do when he has the stage to himself.

Everyone connected with the show that I chatted with was bemoaning the end of Hot's run. The actors like their characters and the show, but they also love the standing ovations they get at every performance.

This is a show made for this market. It has flashy dance numbers, gawky men dressed as women, great jokes, a Florida connection and gentle gibes at old guys.

During November Song, the line of old geezers on a Miami hotel veranda leering at the sweet young things in the all-girl band always gets gales of laughter.

The next show, Hello, Dolly, doesn't open until Feb. 16, but it has already sold more than 7,500 tickets and could set a new Show Palace attendance record. Director Flaa says it's coming along great. Music director Bill Cusick calls Dolly one of Broadway's "war horses" that always wows the audiences.

Even so, I'm betting it's Some Like It Hot that people will be talking about this time next year.

If you haven't seen The Art of Recycling, an exhibit in the lobby of the West Pasco Government Center, it's worth checking out, especially for kids. The exhibit is clever and fun and has a lot of good messages.

We ran a list of show winners earlier this week, but since then, those who went to the reception voted on a "People's Choice" award. Winners of the title and $200 each were Pasco-Hernando Community College student Benjamin Mallett's "Go With the Flow" and Ridgewood High School student Meaghan Kelly's "Recycling is Monumental."

Mallett's piece is a fanciful sea horse made out of a big wire spoke wheel, pieces of curved fencing and a wire mane. Ms. Kelly's is a 700-pound replica of the Statue of Liberty draped in some kind of stiffened fabric and painted a green the color of tarnished copper.

On the morning I spent browsing through the exhibit, I noticed that nearly everyone who came in the door went over and touched the statue's tummy. It has that kind of appeal.

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