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Couple brings "fabulous' repertoire to stage

(ran PW, PS editions)

If you're a fan of Broadway, opera and/or ragtime, singer Sharon Lesley and pianist David Ohrenstein's show on Monday at the Jewish Community Center of West Pasco should suit your tastes.

"We call it "Celebration of American Music,' and it's a show that, this year, everybody needs," Ms. Lesley said from the couple's home in Sarasota.

The program includes songs by Rodgers and Hammerstein, comedy songs from different Broadway shows, such as Adelaide's Lament from Guys and Dolls, Comedy Tonight from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and You Can't Get a Man with a Gun from Annie, Get Your Gun.

There are also tunes with patriotic themes and American classics.

"We're also doing Make Believe (from Showboat) with a ragtime beat," Ms. Lesley said. "People really like it. It's becoming one of our signature songs.

"David will play parts of (George Gershwin's) Rhapsody in Blue, and we also have a beautiful medley of other songs," Ms. Lesley said.

As for opera, the couple may give a preview of one they're working on together, based upon the possible romance between Cleopatra and Octavian, the adopted son of Julius Caesar who founded the imperial Roman government in 44 B.C. The opera will be produced by the Sunstate Opera Company in St. Petersburg in May 2003.

"It's an angle that nobody has used yet," Ms. Lesley says of the opera's plot. "This is what may have taken place after the death of Mark Antony."

The Sarasota Jewish Theatre produced another of the couple's works, a musical about Israel's Golda Meir, Our Golda, in 2001.

Both of the Ohrensteins have been involved in music most of their lives. They met after Ms. Lesley moved to Sarasota from her native Kentucky and Ohrenstein moved there from his native Detroit.

"I was between jobs and selling tickets at a theater," Ms. Lesley said. "He bought a ticket from me, and we went from there." They've been married for 20 years.

Since then, Ms. Lesley has performed at several dinner theaters, with Sunstate Opera and on the condo circuit. Her roles included the title role in The Merry Widow at a dinner theater in Ohio and she was in The Sound of Music at the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theater on the east coast. She played in Rose Marie at the Golden Apple Dinner Theater in Venice and was Musetta in La Boheme with Sunstate.

Ohrenstein was accompanist for the late violinist David Rubinoff, who appeared in numerous movies (Thanks a Million, You Can't Have Everything) in the 1930s and had a long and celebrated career before his death in 1986. Since then, Ohrenstein has played many solo piano concerts.

The couple recently went to Honduras to perform for the president of that country.

The Ohrensteins got their stage name, The Fabulous Ohs, almost by accident.

"We called ourselves "The Ohs' because nobody could ever spell Ohrenstein with an "h'," Ms. Lesley said. "We were working in Toronto and our agent up there thought The Ohs was dull, so he called us The Fabulous Ohs. It just stuck."