“And now, right here on our stage…” is the way Ed Sullivan famously introduced an eclectic array of performers on his long-running Sunday night variety show.
And now, beginning this Friday, the Comox Valley’s own “really big shew” (as Ed Sullivan would say it) comes to the Filberg Centre for three fun-filled dinner theatre performances.
Even Topo Gigio, the beloved little Italian mouse that ended most episodes of The Ed Sullivan Show with his squeaky voice pleading, “Eddie, kiss me goodnight,” makes an appearance at the Filberg this year.
If you saw last year’s show directed by Gloria Herauf and performed by the Beach Street Players, called The Best Little Broadway Show in the West, you will be familiar with some of the other characters in this year’s show put on by the same gang.
The annual Have A Heart weekend of fundraising dinner theatre shows is organized by the Strathcona Sunrise Rotary Club, with help from fellow Rotarians and other volunteers from local community groups.
Veteran musical director Herauf has been working tirelessly on the production for many months, and has chosen a fantastic collection of familiar and favorite songs to be showcased.
The cast members, both returning and new this year, have rehearsed for countless hours to give it their all, and they love being part of this musical comedy production to raise money for worthy local causes.
This year’s beneficiaries are the Comox Valley Hospice Society, local projects of Strathcona Sunrise Rotary Club which include Scouts Camp Gilwell, and numerous community programs supported by Comox United Church.
The show is all about lighthearted fun, laughter, and enjoying great musical numbers performed by some truly impressive local talent. Walter Jordan, who joins the cast for the first time this year, is a wonderful addition with his golden tenor voice. His operatic rendition of Besame Mucho, as the voice of Topo Gigio, is moving and powerful.
Just a few years ago, at over 60 years of age, he finally overcame intense shyness about singing in public. Since then he has joined choirs and has taken voice lessons with Jackie Lambeth, a popular local vocalist and returning cast member who plays a lead role once again this year.
“Jackie is just terrific,” says Jordan. “And Gloria is a very inspiring director to work with. If it is possible to help someone to do better than they thought they could, she is the person who will do it. She brings out the best in everybody.”
Back in the cast for this year’s show is Ken Newman, who also performs locally with Lambeth under the banner of Serendipity Jazz.
Before he moved to the Comox Valley, he sang in choirs in Edmonton, and he has played the piano for a long time. But when asked whether he has had any formal voice training, or if he is just a natural singer, he quips: “No, to both of the above!”
Newman’s sense of humour is always at the ready.
He plays the cameo role of comedian Red Skelton in the act of this year’s production that takes the backwater bumbling Tumbleweed folks to the bright lights of New York City and right onto the stage of The Ted Swellyven Show. Rotarian Marty Douglas bravely takes on the role of Ted, and does a fine job.
Laurel Erhart, a returning cast member, says that while, A Really Big Tumbleweed Show! is a continuation of last year’s story, “it is really a variety show with some awesome talent that will appeal to a wide audience.”
Brilliant vocals by 19-year-old Shaleena Faust add a youthful touch, while Emily Lonsdale brings another fresh face and lovely young voice to the stage.
Dinner shows are this Friday and Saturday and there will be a brunch performance Sunday. Tickets for Saturday night sold out early, but tickets for the remaining shows are still available at Laughing Oyster Bookshop and Blue Heron Books.
For more information, call 250-702-7057.