When it comes to the number of summer shows to produce, the Show Palace Dinner Theatre is sort of like Goldilocks and the Three Bears:
Three is too many, and two is not enough.
For years, the Show Palace put on two big shows during the summer season, many times big musicals. I recall one time, for example, when one of those shows was Oklahoma! with a cast of 42, plus a huge crew — a major production by anybody's count.
Each show usually ran for seven or eight weeks, but this didn't always work out to everyone's advantage. On one side, many seasonal residents were gone, and summer visitors weren't necessarily into indoor theater, so some of the audiences were sparse (we won't go into those two years of hurricanes). On the other side, year-round residents wanted more than a couple of shows during the summer, especially those not into hot outdoor activities.
Three shows was tough on the Show Palace staff, what with three auditions, rehearsals, and productions, to say nothing of the logistics of housing and transporting three casts, crews and sets for three shows in just 12 weeks. And not a few diehard Show Palace fans with long vacations missed out on a show they really wanted to see.
So this summer, the theater is trying something altogether different: an all-new musical revue of Broadway, Motown and pop tunes, New York Nights, for the first six weeks of the summer (June 8 through July 15) and a new and expanded version of an all-time favorite, The Fabulous '50s and '60s Revue, to play the last five weeks, Aug. 24 through Sept. 23.
In between, the Show Palace crew is cooking up an incredible schedule. Among the plans are A Show Palace Idol talent contest, with the grand prize of a contract to be in a Show Palace production, plus cash prizes for second and third place; "Karaoke With the Stars," a chance to perform with Matthew McGee, Sara DelBeato, Scott Daniel and doowop master Tommy Mara; some stand-up comics, a traveling troupe or two, nostalgia acts, tribute shows, and some summer surprises. Ticket prices will vary; some shows will include full dinner, others will be show only, and still others will have a light menu at extra cost, and the bar is always open.
Meanwhile, the musical Hairspray opened Friday and continues through Feb. 26, to be followed by Jackpot, the All-New Las Vegas Musical Revue from March 2 through April 22, and Swing!, the high-energy dance show, on April 27 through June 3.
And the 2012-13 season is set and tickets on sale: The Sound of Music Sept. 28 through Nov. 17; A Show Palace Christmas Nov. 22-Dec. 25; the regional premiere of 9 to 5: The Musical from Jan. 4 through Feb. 24; Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat March 1 through April 21; and Doo-Wop Dreams, the Golden Oldies Musical on April 26 through June 16. And ticket prices are the same as now, with three and four-show packages available. Call 863-7949 in west Pasco, toll free elsewhere at 1-888-655-7469.
Friday night was a big night for Troy Lafon. The musical Hairspray marked Troy's 60th show at the Show Palace, the most of anyone at the theater. Troy plays multiple roles in the show, as this very versatile singer-dancer-actor often does. He's like a chameleon, able to play several distinct characters in one show, with the help of makeup, costume, wig and, most important, an abundance of talent.
December was also milestone time for two local performers, Justin Sargent and Teddy Toye, who both appeared in Broadway shows that month.
Justin, a Mitchell High School grad, frequent performer at Richey Suncoast Theatre and cast member of Broadway's Rock of Ages, was in the short-lived musical Bonnie and Clyde, where he played swing (step in for ailing or absent players) and understudy to the star of the show, Jeremy Jordan, who played Clyde Barrow. The Frank Wildhorn musical played for 31 days, plus previews, giving the young singer-dancer-actor some great experience during the 60 performances.
Teddy, a Nature Coast Technical High School grad with performances at Stage West Community Playhouse and the Show Palace, played Harold in the musical Lysistrata Jones, which started previews on Nov. 12, opened on Dec. 14 and is set to close after Sunday's matinee (Jan. 8).
Even though the two Broadway shows the local boys were in didn't have lengthy runs, it's likely their careers will keep on keeping on, as both have terrific talent.