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Actor readies dinner theater

Former Broadway singer Jimmy Ferraro will open the Angel Cabaret Theatre in Southgate Shopping Center in mid-October. The 200-seat dinner theater in the former Mae's Fabric Store slot will be Ferraro's fourth theater venture in Pasco County in the last decade.

"I plan to offer new and exciting productions," Ferraro said in a news release. "Many of these shows will be making their first appearance in this area." The first show, Nite Club Confidential, will star Ferraro's wife, Dee Etta Rowe, who also performed on Broadway and continues to do dinner theater at venues across the United States. Ticket sales will start on Aug. 13, according to the release.

The theater will occupy 7,633 square feet of the 275,309 square feet in Southgate, according to Kelly Franzino, the Jacksonville-based leasing agent for the center's owners, New Plan Excel Realty Trust of New York. It's one of several new tenants in the center, she said. Others are Lady of America Fitness Center, near the new theater, Cahill Realty and Spinnaker Resorts.

To get the former fabric store space ready for shows, Ferraro will have to build a stage, dressing rooms and restrooms. He plans to have dinner catered by an outside company, according to Mary Jane Haskell, who owns Southgate Cafe next door.

"He asked if we could do (the cooking) for him, but I can't because I close at three and have to prep for the next day, so I don't have time," Ms. Haskell said.

Ferraro, a native of New York, got his theatrical start as a young man at Richey Suncoast Theatre in New Port Richey more than two decades ago. He left the area to perform in New York, where he landed a role on Broadway in the classic, Fiddler on the Roof. He went on to tour nationally with the Broadway company of Fiddler.

Ferraro returned to the area to be near his parents in 1990 and began producing plays at the Holiday Inn east of Brooksville. He and his wife opened the Flamingo Dinner Theatre in Bayonet Point in January 1991, where they presented plays and musicals for a year.

After more stints in professional theater on the east coast, the Ferraros once more returned to the area to open the 55-seat Angel "garden cafe" Theatre in Holiday in May 1994. Four years later, Ferraro closed the Angel Theatre to become artistic director at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre in Hudson, an affiliation that lasted until October, when Ferraro left for health reasons.

Ferraro's big, splashy musicals were credited with doubling, then tripling attendance at the Show Palace. Since his departure, Steven Flaa has been acting as artistic director.

The Angel Cabaret will feature full-length Broadway musicals, revues and comedies, according to the release. Ticket prices have not been announced.

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