Really, has it been 10 years since Jimmy Ferraro and his wife, Dee Etta Rowe, quietly shuttered their Angel Cabaret Theatre in Port Richey and returned to the thing that first brought them to theater: acting and singing on stage?
Indeed it has. But now they're back, living in Weeki Wachee, and opening their own theater again, this time called Jimmy Ferraro's Studio Theatre, in the former Tri Arts Printing shop on Main Street in downtown New Port Richey.
"We'll do small plays and musicals" in the cozy, 68-seat theater that has been completely renovated by contractor Keith Snyder — the same man who did their Angel Cabaret Theatre back in 2001. Snyder took one look at the interior and told Ferraro, "I think this can be a little gem."
"I said, 'Keith, I am leaving it in your hands,'" Ferraro said. "He has just been working constantly since then."
That was in mid March, shortly after the Ferraros saw the small "for rent" sign in the store's window and decided to convert it to a performing and teaching venue. Snyder stripped the interior down to the walls and built a small lobby, a box office, a concession booth, spacious and accessible restrooms, all painted deep rose with white trim, and designed an auditorium with a nice-size stage, dressing room with vanities and mirrors and a suspended sound and light gallery with spiral staircase. Seating will be in individual, padded arm chairs.
The new theater will open June 6 with Church Basement Ladies, a 2005 musical comedy that "has been sweeping the country," Ferraro said, and already spawned four sequels. Set in a 1950s Minnesota Lutheran church basement, it's the story of the women who bond and bicker at the cook stoves downstairs while weddings, funerals and other celebrations go on upstairs.
"It's perfect for this market," Ferraro said. He has brought in longtime associate David Craven to direct the five-member cast that includes Rowe as Mavis, the good-humored, handy one; Linda Copperfield as Vivian, the hyper-critical matriarch; Nicole Cavalani as Karin, the runaway bride who has never lived that escapade down; Katie Miesner as Signe, Karin's ambitious daughter; and Pete Clapsis as Pastor E.L. Gunderson, who referees spats and tends to his flock.
The past 10 years
For the last decade Ferraro and Rowe have been touring and acting in musical productions from Denver to Sonora, Calif., and points in between.
Even though they both loved every minute of it, "it was grueling," Ferraro said. For eight of those years, Rowe played two characters in Menopause, the Musical in their home base of Denver and on tour, while Ferraro was company manager for five of those years. In between, he played Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof (his favorite role ever since he played in the Broadway revival in 1981 at Lincoln Center's New York State Theatre under the direction of the late Jerome Robbins), Sancho in Man of La Mancha, and various other roles at several theaters.
The pinnacle for both came in the 2012 national touring production of Fiddler, with Ferraro playing Tevye and Rowe his wife, Golde.
A show highlight comes with the song Do You Love Me? when Tevye asks Golde if she does indeed love him after 25 years in a marriage arranged by their parents.
"We celebrated our 25th anniversary on stage," singing that song, which affirms Golde's love and prompts Tevye to muse, "It's nice to know."
"It was wonderful to spend those moments together — a show so close to my heart," Ferraro said.
After that, it seemed time to come back home, settle down and get busy on a new project that would appeal to their many friends and followers in the area.
"This is what we're supposed to be doing," Ferraro said.