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Persistence brings Broadway stars to Carrollwood Cultural Center

CARROLLWOOD — Saturday night brings the biggest show yet to the 2-year-old Carrollwood Cultural Center, but the person who worked to bring two Broadway legends to the stage won't be there to see it.

On the piano will be Donald Pippin, the longtime musical director of Radio City Music Hall, the winner of a Tony for Oliver! and a legendary Broadway composer, arranger, musical supervisor and conductor.

At the microphone will be Ron Raines, known for playing villain Alan Spaulding on the CBS soap opera the Guiding Light and for his starring roles in Broadway productions of Chicago and Showboat.

Their concert consists of songs from composers such as Frank Loesser, Jerry Herman, Irving Berlin and Cole Porter. In between songs, they'll chat about their lives in the business.

"It's a very personal show," Pippin said from his home in Brewster, N.Y., about 50 miles from Manhattan. "We're not stuffy formal guys up there on stage at all."

But they are famous in a way the Carrollwood Cultural Center has not seen before.

"This is the biggest star power we've had," executive director Paul Berg said. "Both Donald Pippin and Ron Raines are names in New York. For us to be able to get them here in Carrollwood is quite a coup."

How the center managed to book these two stars leads, like so many other stories at the center, to the late Mary Ann Scialdo.

Scialdo, who died July 1 at 67, was the center's artistic director. A child prodigy in New York, she studied piano at the Juilliard School Pre-College Division and spent a lifetime teaching, performing, recording and touring.

In 1999, she moved from New York to Northdale, where, although she was Catholic, she became the pianist and organist at Keystone United Methodist Church for about a decade. It was there that she met Jean Stillwell, who sang in the choir.

After hearing that Stillwell and Pippin are first cousins, Scialdo suggested bringing him to the cultural center.

"I thought, 'Holy cow. Don's never going to do anything like that,' " Stillwell said. "I just didn't feel like imposing."

About a year ago, however, she put the two in touch. What ensued, Pippin said, was a series of friendly calls, maybe one a week, where the two talked about music, Juilliard, show business — and the idea of a concert at the cultural center.

From the start, Pippin said he was impressed by Scialdo's knowledge and energy. He didn't even learn that she was sick until after she had died of cancer.

"I never would have guessed that she was dying of cancer," said Pippin, who last spoke to Scialdo about two weeks before her death. "It never showed in her voice. She never sounded tired. She never seemed down."

Scialdo, who was putting together a local production of The Music Man in the last months of her life, was determined to pull off an ambitious show that would help raise the center's profile.

"Mary Ann worked this for months," said her sister, Vicki Cuccia. When it came together, "she was elated. She wanted Tampa people to see New York talent."

Scialdo especially wanted members of the Broadway Kids, the local musical theater group she led, to see Pippin, who was musical director for the 1963 Broadway production of Oliver!

They'll get that, and not only on Saturday. At 4 p.m. today, Pippin will hold a master class for serious vocalists at the cultural center. The class is limited to 10, but Pippin said anyone is welcome to watch. Students in the class will perform better with an audience, and aspiring singers in the audience will benefit from watching the class even if they're not ready to take it.

"Just for us to be able to have artists of their caliber is pretty exciting," Berg said. "And for them to agree to do a master class, it's just something that doesn't come along every day."

Richard Danielson can be reached at Danielson@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3403.

Fast facts

If you go

What: "Legends of Broadway" featuring Donald Pippin and Ron Raines in concert.

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Carrollwood Cultural Center, 4537 Lowell Road, at Lowell and Casey roads in Carrollwood Village

Tickets: $100, $75 for center members

Information: Visit

carrollwoodcenter.org or call (813) 269-1310.

Persistence brings Broadway stars to Carrollwood Cultural Center 09/09/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 5:30am]

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