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'A Tuna Christmas' fills you up with belly laughs

Sunday's Times brought me an early Christmas gift.

It was a story on Page 3 of the Latitudes section saying American Stage in St. Petersburg is doing one of my very favorite plays, A Tuna Christmas, the ongoing saga of the residents of the fictional Tuna, Texas, first introduced in 1981's Greater Tuna.

It plays Wednesdays through Sundays through Dec. 28.

Show Palace Dinner Theatre did Greater Tuna in September 2007, and it was a huge hit with the crowds, selling more tickets during its brief four-week run than some shows sell in six weeks or more.

One big reason might have been that it starred Show Palace favorites Matthew McGee and Candler Budd. They do 20 or so different male and female characters: the laconic radio announcers Thurston Wheelis and Arles Struvie, as well as animal lover Petey Fisk, judgmental matron Bertha Bumiller (McGee is always terrific in drag — think Dame Edna), and Bertha's offspring, the sinister juvenile delinquent Stanley, the airhead cheerleader wanna-be Charlene and the dopey, dog-loving Jody, all played by Budd.

McGee and Budd recreate those characters and more (among my favorites are Tastee Kreme waitresses — these are not waiters or servers, they're waitresses — Inita Goodwin and Helen Bedd) in the American Stage production.

Show Palace regulars know McGee and Budd from The Odd Couple, when Budd played Oscar and McGee played Felix, or the blockbuster Chicago, when McGee played the cross-dressing reporter Mary Sunshine and Budd played the sad-sack, cuckolded husband and sang Mr. Cellophane.

The two have played to sold-out crowds at American Stage, too, in 2006's The Big Bang and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) and other shows.

Just about every year, I drive all the way up to Gainesville to see two other talented people do this wonderful comedy at the Hippodrome Theatre. It's worth the drive, as it puts me in a great mood, no matter what else is going on in my life and/or the world.

And with the way things are looking these days (anyone else's 401(k) in the tank?), I might have to go see it twice.

By the way, I went online Tuesday to buy tickets, only to discover that several shows are already sold out. So if you intend to go, I advise reserving your seats ASAP. Call (727) 823-7529 or visit

Shows are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $24 to $39, plus $3 for telephone orders and a varying amount per ticket for online orders, or zero if you buy them at the box office, the price depending on time and day.

And (yippee!) there's a senior citizen discount for ages 50 and older, for which I am now not only eligible, but very grateful.

Homecoming shorts

Since I mentioned my high school homecoming last week, I've learned that lots of people have great homecoming stories.

Two things I noticed about mine, both happening during the long homecoming parade through downtown, when every class ending in "8" had one, two or three floats filled with graduates.

Most obvious was that our class and the one before it were the only ones with benches for seating, an ominous sign of our vintage.

The other was that ours was the last class that was all white. The ones following us grew more racially mixed as the years progressed, and, interestingly, seemed to be having a lot more fun, with boom boxes and dancing going full force as the floats wound through town.

The older I get, the more I realize what we all missed in our painfully segregated schools.

Let it snow … There

As I was working up a good sweat washing my car in the warm sunshine Thursday afternoon, I got a call from my son in Salt Lake City. He had been clearing snow out of his driveway and was on his way to the auto shop to have snow tires put on his car in preparation for a business trip through Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.

The roads are already closed through Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, so he'll have to take the long way around to get from Jackson Hole, Wyo., to Billings, Mont.

He lived in Palm Beach for several years before moving west and loved all the sunshine, but now he's a mountain man through and through and says he can't imagine moving back to Florida.

I'm flying out to Utah in December, where I'll gasp for air in his and his wife's high-altitude, mountainside home, lather pints of lotion of my itchy skin, put on six layers of clothes and huddle in front of the fireplace the whole time I'm there, since they keep their house a bone-chilling 65 degrees year round.

Keep sending in news

To the people who have tried to call me only to get a message: Please note that now I'm only part time, so I'm here a limited number of days, usually Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays until about 3 p.m.

So if you have a Pasco entertainment item that needs to go in right away, please call the Pasco news number (727) 869-6238 or send the notice to

I'll return your calls on one of my "in" days.

'A Tuna Christmas' fills you up with belly laughs 11/14/08 [Last modified: Friday, November 14, 2008 7:21pm]
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