I'm not really comfortable saying that a memorial service for a friend who has died was "enjoyable." There's something that sounds a bit disrespectful to use such a word in connection with such a sad occasion.
But in the case of the late Charlie Skelton, whose memorial was held nine months ago at Richey Suncoast Theatre after his unexpected, sudden death on July 4, the words enjoyable, fun and funny are as apt as the ones we were all also feeling: heartbroken, melancholy, sorrowful.
The theater was jam-packed, the seats full, people standing against the walls, people sitting in the aisles, filling up the lobby and spilling out into the street. Everyone had a good "Charlie story," about how he changed their lives, saved their lives and saved the theater when it was on the cusp of going under.
It was a good, warm feeling, a gathering of kindred spirits. No wonder it lasted for more than three hours, with many not wanting it to end, even then.
Now, the theater is hoping to keep that feeling going, with what the board plans to make an annual event, a Reunion Party at 6 p.m. June 8 at the theater.
It starts with a potluck dinner at 6 p.m., a show at 7 p.m., and dessert and visiting around 8:30 p.m. Everyone is invited, especially those who have been in a show as cast and/or crew, their families, their friends, and those who have seen a show there or hope to see one someday, or who love theater anywhere. Yup, that just about covers everyone.
To cover costs, the theater is asking $5, plus a covered dish to share with others. Marie Skelton, Charlie's widow and co-rescuer of the theater, says there is a signup sheet in the box office for those who are coming to say what they plan to bring to eat. "We don't want 50 macaroni and cheese casseroles," she said.
Anyone who would like to perform can sign up, too — sing, dance, magic act, musical instrument, short scene from a favorite play — anything that will fit into the 90-minute show planned for the evening.
To sign up, call the box office at (727) 842-6777 and leave a message. Someone will call you back.
A really good bargain
You've heard of big sales events at J.C. Penney, Macy's, Beall's and Dillard's?
Now the Show Palace Dinner Theatre is having a sale, only it's for its two summer shows: Neil Simon's comedy Barefoot in the Park (July 5-28) and the off-Broadway musical I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change (Aug. 16-Sept. 15).
Instead of the usual $49.50 for dinner and show, tickets to these two are $32.95, plus tax, a savings of almost $18 a ticket, or three for the price of two (go ahead, take your mother-in-law along).
The buffet will be lighter, brunch-style food instead of the usual multi-meat, multi-vegetable, multi-dessert fare served during the "high season." The menu hasn't been set in stone yet, but it's safe to say it will be creative and satisfying — just right for the warm Florida summertime — and plentiful.
I've often wondered why the Show Palace hasn't done something like this earlier. The smaller shows cost less to produce (Barefoot has six characters; Love/Change can be done with four) than the sprawling musicals that can have up to 46 players (think Oklahoma!, Seven Brides/Seven Brothers, Showboat) and complicated set changes that require a huge crews. Only I always assumed that the theater would keep its current prices for smaller shows and increase them for the biggies.
Patrons can only celebrate that it's the other way around: a price reduction. Call (727) 863-7949 for reservations.