Sunday, May 20, 2018
Stage

Hernando Performing Arts Guild opens season with 'George Burns and Friends'

BROOKSVILLE

It will be a trip down memory lane.

Bob Hope, Red Skelton and George Burns are among the entertainers from days gone by whose comedy drew laughs for many decades, using a simple, straight-forward and clean brand of humor.

While the legends all are now gone, folks will have a chance to take a step back in time and enjoy the humor of those famous comedians Saturday evening during George Burns and Friends at the Hernando High School Performing Arts Center.

The show, which stars Peter Salzer emceeing as George Burns, and Lynn Roberts performing as Bob Hope, Red Skelton, Jack Benny and Jimmy Durante, kicks off the 2013-14 Hernando Performing Arts Guild season.

"We're so excited," said Sherry Pedonesi, a director with the guild. "These are entertainers we grew up with. … They are ageless. Everyone knows who they are."

Salzer, of Pennsylvania, is an accomplished actor and voice-over actor who has performed on stage and television and in films. But he never considered performing as George Burns until he answered an ad more than 10 years ago for a show in Atlantic City, N.J.

"They were looking for characters from that era," Salzer recalled. "I told them I could do Al Jolson … and then said I could do George Burns," whom Salzer admits he had actually never attempted before. And, of course, the show wanted him to perform as Burns.

After watching many videos and studying Burns' routines and mannerisms, Salzer gave it a try. It worked, and he has been performing as Burns ever since.

"I thoroughly enjoy it," he said. "I approach the Burns character as an actor. I am not trying to impersonate. I want to be him."

Roberts, of Phoenix, has been a professional entertainer and musician for more than 40 years. He is also the band leader of the Swinging Saxes. His musical shows have often included impersonations of legendary performers such as Benny, Skelton, Durante and W.C. Fields.

That changed 10 years ago, when he decided to perform as Bob Hope.

"I had a couple of agents in Hollywood and Chicago who said they really needed someone to impersonate (Hope)," Roberts said. "Then I had others mention that I should do Bob Hope. I kept him off the stage for two years before I decided I was ready to bring him in."

The performance caught on.

When Salzer and Roberts were at a convention in Orlando about six years ago, they decided to team up.

"We sat down and hatched an idea," Roberts said. "We knew we had a good thing."

The two have been performing the George Burns and Friends show for two years, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Along with Burns and Hope, the show ties in all of the other characters Roberts has perfected over the years. And drawing on his musical talents, when Roberts takes the stage as Durante, he performs ragtime on the piano.

"We tie all the characters together into a cohesive show," Salzer said. "Lynn and I are good friends and like being together, which makes for a very pleasant experience for both us and the audience."

Pedonesi said the guild's entire season promises to be a good one.

The rest of the lineup includes: the Marlins on Dec. 7, a Tribute to Johnny Cash with Bill Forness and One More Round on Jan. 18, comedian Ted Holum and singer Brian Roman on Feb. 22, and the Central Florida Rat Pack on March 22.

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