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Actors put on fundraiser for a song

A show to raise money for performing arts programs lets local actors belt out their favorite tunes for a worthy cause.

[Times photo: Janel Schroeder-Norton]
In the cast of Actors' Night Off, Singers' Night On, from left, Patti Eyler, Adrienne Phillips, Elizabeth Brandel, Sara DelBeato, Susan Haldeman and Matthew McGee, in the background.

By BARBARA L. FREDRICKSEN

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 27, 2001


A little more than a month ago, Show Palace Dinner Theatre actors Tom Bengston and Matthew McGee approached theater owner Nick Sessa with an idea: Let the cast from the current show, Carousel, put on a fundraiser for a worthy cause.

"The actors wanted a chance to sing songs they may not get to sing otherwise," Bengston said. "It's turned into something pretty wonderful."

For one, many of the tunes are really good songs from shows that didn't make it on Broadway, so most people will probably never have a chance to see them on stage otherwise.

For another, it's a opportunity for Show Palace regulars to see their favorite actors being themselves and singing the songs they love.

Perhaps most of all, the show will raise money for performing arts programs for young people through the Pasco County Arts Council, specifically the Pasco Youth Ensemble musical group and various drama classes given at and through the Pasco Art Center.

"We're doing songs from some familiar shows like Gypsy, Kiss Me, Kate and Evita," said Bengston. "But the singers also picked out songs from mostly unknown shows."

There's even a brand new number, That's Why We're Here, composed by Joe Camper, the former manager of the Musicana Theatre in Clearwater, now an employee at the Show Palace.

"It's a fun little number we use to open the show," Bengston said. "It's very specific and explains exactly why we're doing this."

Other numbers include You, There in the Back Row from 13 Days to Broadway. It will be performed by Elizabeth Brandel, who plays Carrie Pipperidge in Carousel.

"It's a great song," Bengston said. "It's just that the show was a little stinker."

Patti Eyler (Dolly in Hello, Dolly) will sing Fifty Percent from Ballroom, the musical version of Queen of the Stardust Ballroom. Bengston, McGee and Steven Flaa (director of Carousel) will sing The Three B's from the 1941 musical comedy that had June Allyson's first big role, Best Foot Forward.

Other songs are from Starting Here, Starting Now; I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change; Children of Eden; and a new song from the revival of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, to be sung by Sara DelBeato.

"And we're doing some new takes on some old tunes," Bengston said. "Some of it is kind of wacky."

Gary Wyatt will accompany the singers on piano, and members of the Pasco Youth Ensemble will perform before the start of the show.

The show will be presented cabaret-style, with waiters circulating during the performances to take drink orders.

About 250 people have already bought tickets to the show, and the Knights of Columbus Council No. 5869 of Port Richey has donated an additional $200, said Nick Sessa.

At a glance

WHAT: Actors' Night Off, Singers' Night On!

WHERE: Show Palace Dinner Theatre, 16128 U.S. 19, Hudson

WHEN: 8 p.m. Monday; doors open 7 p.m.

TICKETS: $15, reserved seating. Call 863-7949 in west Pasco; elsewhere, toll free 1-888-655-7469

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