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Theater partners stage rebirth in Lutz

(ran PC edition of PT)

What do you do when your life's work, and in this case, love, comes to a screeching halt?

That's what happened to Joe Camper, Gary Franklin, Bob Duncan and Gary Wyatt when Clearwater's Musicana dinner theater folded on May 31.

Since then, they have regrouped and the result is the new Stagedoor Dinner Theatre at 15212 Nebraska Ave.

Stagedoor offers Broadway-styled musical revues that customers can watch while they are served dinner. General admission for the dinner and the show is $32 per person, including tax. But for an introductory fee of $29, through Jan. 24, the theater is performing a Swing-Time Serenade Show.

Camper, one of the theater's owners, says the goal is to appeal to everyone "from USF to Grandma," and to provide "family-friendly entertainment with no offensive language."

Already, tour groups have seen private performances on Thanksgiving Day and Dec. 3.

Camper and his partners had finished an eight-week musical production called Broadway Follies when the Musicana closed. They say they were in the midst of a joyful celebration with the cast, complete with food, drinks and laughter, when the chief executive of the theater's Atlanta-based owner announced it was closing.

What a way to end a party.

At the time, company managers told the St. Petersburg Times that the Clearwater market was far too seasonal to support a theater year-round.

But Camper, a writer, producer, composer and choreographer, has joined with bassist Franklin, percussionist Duncan and musical director Wyattto make this end a rebirth in Tampa.

"The four of us are a great team, we know each other so well, as far as the artistic aspects of theater. We really connect," says Camper.

Their new cast includes two former Busch Gardens performers. "We're very excited about the talent here in Tampa," Wyatt said.

Their hopes for the company include: shows every day of the week except Monday; a summer workshop for young people that will focus on acting, movement, audition preparation; and a production created by the students.