Let's save THE GOLDEN APPLE DINNER THEATRE!
Then American theatre can dramatize a changing America, neighborhood by neighborhood, city by city, region by region, in the 21st century.”
–Celisa Kalke, as quoted in American Theatre Magazine, April 2009
I hope this finds you well and I hope you got a chance to read my previous two blogs celebrating the this year's BROADWAY theatre section and The Tony Awards. It was also exciting to hear that this year's theatre season was the highest grossing in theatre history.That's the great news!
Now for the bad news, theatres are disappearing from our landscape around the country, very much like the drive-in movie theatre. Across the country, funding for the arts is being cut. If children are not exposed to the arts and LIVE ENTERTAINMENT, we are losing future artists AND audiences.
“ Oh, you don’t need a my name is lort theatre, you don’t need a board, you don’t need a subscription audience, you don’t need a lot of money. All you need is a room with some people from the same planet that you’re from."
–Andre Gregory, as quoted in American Theatre Magazine, March 2005
There needs to be an appreciation for the art form. There is NOTHING to beat the excitement of neing in a LIVE theatre AND sharing that excitement with others. Year after year, the ratings for The Tony Awards drop. This year was/is no exception. CBS' telecast of the Tony Awards drew 6.9 million total viewers on Sunday, down from 7.0 million for last year's show, but in line with average results for the past five years.
A friend of mine who lives in Seattle, and doesn't have a TV, was in a desperate search to find a Tony viewing party. Alas, there were none to be found! She called theatres, gay bars, restaurants, ect. Nothing was happening! This is the town of The 5th Avenue Theatre, which, if I'm not mistaken, actually won a Tony a few years ago for regional theatre.
Since 1926, the magnificent 5th Avenue Theatre has captivated audiences with music, drama and laughter.
In the early days, people eagerly lined up for first-class vaudeville shows, featuring top entertainers. The Theatre later transformed itself into a popular movie palace. The 5th fell on hard times in the late 70's, but fortunately, was saved from a wrecking ball by a visionary group of businesses and community leaders. Following a spectacular $2.6-million renovation, the theatre re-opened in 1980, more beautiful than ever.What did THEY do this year to celebrate the Tonys?
In 1961, the year I was born, there were only 23 regional theaters in the U.S. at the time that the first national organization of nonprofit theaters was formed. By 2003 the number of regional theaters had grown to 1,800.
Despite this evident success, some critics question if regional theater in the United States is becoming more like the highly "commercial" New York marketplace that many of its proponents set out to get away from. Since the regional theater movement began, there have been questions of how far these theaters will go to stay in business. As non-profits, they rely heavily on donations from patrons and some theaters have been accused of "pandering to the audience", meaning they have subordinated artistic purpose to please their audiences and receive donations. However, nonprofit theaters are under substantially less pressure than the commercial theaters that must sell millions of dollars worth of tickets to break even on a show, and thus constantly appeal to the mass market. While it is true that some regional theaters can not base all season decisions purely on their artistic desires and have to consider financial viability, they have much more freedom than commercial theaters. In major markets like New York and Chicago this issue is much less prevalent as there are dozens of small semi-professional theaters that produce new and experimental work without needing to sell many tickets as they do not pay most of their artists.
Every time, I hear another theater has closed or may be closing, it saddens me like losing a friend. I have such fond memories of my summer stock theatres. Yesterday, I got a call from my dear friend Michael Walters, known to many as the "other" Dame Edna and he was telling me about The dire straits of The Golden Apple Dinner Theatre down in Florida.
Struggling Golden Apple launches ‘save the theater’ campaign
The Golden Apple Dinner Theatre opened its doors on December 18, 1971. The opening performance of STOP THE WORLD, I WANT TO GET OFF, was held as a benefit for the Asolo Theatre, which was facing a severe financial crisis.
They have produced more than 300 plays and musicals in that time. They have presented 5 original plays - one of which went to Broadway. They have also been active producing shows for other theatres around the country and the globe.
Their plays and musicals have been seen all over the world including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, Kansas City, St. Louis, Atlanta, Miami, Houston, Windsor, Ontario, Singapore, Malaysia, Seoul, Hong Kong, and Taipei.
Many of their wait staff have been with the Golden Apple family for 25 years or more.
Their Chef, Frank Caldwell, is a well-known Sarasota culinary icon, having served award-winning, taste-tempting delights for over 40 years.
What they have accomplished and hope to continue to accomplish is their mission of presenting first-class Broadway entertainment after a delicious and tasty dining experience in a comfortable candlelit setting. They pride themselves on their two mottoes: Always a Good Dinner, Always a Good Show! and Broadway on the Suncoast!
And, Molly Picon’s name isn’t on it BUT she was there.
Golden Apple Dinner Theatre
The theatre is run and operated by ROBERTA MACDONALD and ROBERT ENNIS TUROFF.
As the favorite leading lady of Golden Apple audiences, Roberta MacDonald has appeared as Mama Brice in FUNNY GIRL, Mrs. Meers in THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE, a natural as show biz trouper Jeanette in THE FULL MONTY and Mama Morton in CHICAGO as well as Dolly Levi in HELLO, DOLLY!, Mama Rose in GYPSY, Maggie in TRIBUTE with Bill Hayes , Lorraine Sheldon in THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER, which she also directed, Margo Channing in APPLAUSE, M'Lynn in STEEL MAGNOLIAS, La Mome Pistache in CAN CAN and Tess Harding in WOMAN OF THE YEAR. She has also appeared in DAMES AT SEA, THE PAJAMA GAME, LAST OF THE RED HOT LOVERS, LOVERS AND OTHER STRANGERS, SOUTH PACIFIC, THE MARRIAGE-GO-ROUND, A SHOT IN THE DARK, THE GIN GAME, LA CAGE AUX FOLLES and RUMORS, as well as many, many more. Her directing credits include CAN CAN, THE BOYFRIEND, THE SOUND OF MUSIC, DEATHTRAP, YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU, OKLAHOMA, SOUTH PACIFIC and FIORELLO! and MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS. Roberta is a graduate of New York's famed High School of the Performing Arts and was the Drama Award Winner of her class. She toured with Jack Carson in CRITIC'S CHOICE, appeared on Broadway in SOUTH PACIFIC and with George Sanders in SHERRY!, and was co-anchor of the "Today Show" on NBC-TV. She is a cancer victor and volunteers at the Community Wellness Center. Roberta has a husband, Bob; a son, Ben; a daughter, Kyle; a granddaughter, Eliot Rose; a horse, burros, swans, dogs, cats, peacocks, Peking ducks, Canadian geese, an assortment of other birds, lives on five acres and has no hobbies.
Robert Ennis Turoff, producer/director, received his B.A. degree at the University of Denver and did postgraduate work at New York University. He has directed over 500 musicals and plays during his dynamic theatrical career.
He has directed such top stars as Morgan Fairchild,
Joan Caulfield, Dick Van Dyke, Chita Rivera, Bill Hayes, Giorgio Tozzi,
Tozzi studied at DePaul University with Rosa Raisa, Giacomo Rimini and John Daggett Howell (although he originally intended to study Biology). He made his professional debut in 1948 the Broadway production of Britten's Rape of Lucretia as Tarquinius. His signature roles included Mozart's Figaro, Phillip II, Hans Sachs, Pogner, and Gounod's Mephistopheles, among others. In 1958 he created the role of The Doctor in Samuel Barber's Vanessa.
Tozzi was the recipient of 3 Grammy's; in 1960 the Grammy Award for Best Classical Performance, Operatic or Choral for The Marriage of Figaro with Erich Leinsdorf, in 1961 the Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording for Puccini's Turandot, with Erich Leinsdorf, and in 1963 the Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording for the Georg Solti recording of Verdi's Aida.
Outside of opera, for many years Tozzi played the role of Emile de Becque in various revivals and road tours of South Pacific. He was also the voice of De Becque in the 1958 film version. In 1980 Tozzi earned a Tony award nomination for best leading actor in a musical for his work as Tony in The Most Happy Fella. He also published a novel in 1992, The Golem of the Golden West.
Jerry Lewis, Frankie Laine, Hans Conreid,
Molly Picon and Bob Denver; and opera stars Dorothy Kirsten, Richard Tucker and Robert Merrill.
In 1971, Bob founded and has served to date as executive director of the delightful Golden Apple Dinner Theatre in Sarasota, Florida.
The Golden Apple is an Equity theatre that has presented over
300 stellar productions in its 38 years of existence, making it the longest-running, continuously operating professional Dinner Theatre in the United States. He is president of Coastal Theatre Productions, Inc., the producing arm of the Golden Apple.
At the City Center in New York he directed the world premiere of the Jerome Moross
minstrel-opera “Gentlemen Be Seated,” and Off-Broadway he guided the revival of the award-winning “Golden Apple” (which won the Drama Critics Circle Award as “Best Musical”) and the Jerry Herman musical “Madame Aphrodite.”
Mr. Turoff’s impressive credits include positions as director of the Town and Country Musicals in Rochester, New York and the Lambertville, (NJ) Music Circus, and director, writer, producer for Allied Concert Series. He served as resident director of the Theatre Under the Stars, Atlanta; National; Opera, Raleigh, NC, for four years; Ford Foundation Opera, New York City Center; Pocono (PA) Playhouse and Casa Manana Musicals, Fort Worth.
Legendary Turoff productions have also been presented in prominent theatre all over the world including New York City Center; Paper Mill Playhouse, New Jersey; Elitch’s Gardens, Denver; Melody Top, Chicago; Casa Manana, Fort Worth and Buckminister Fuller Dome, Hawaii; The Kallang and the Victoria, Singapore; Lyric, Hong Kong; Shah Alam, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and most recently he directed “West Side Story” for an Italian Tour in 2002 including Palermo, Ravenna and Pistoia.
The gifted director has been guest director and professor at the University of South Florida, Tampa, and director and producer of four world premiere productions. He is author of adaptations of “The New Moon,” “Naughty Marietta,” “The Merry Widow,” and “The Vagabond King” and in 1980 he wrote “Cheerful Little Earful,” a musical revue of the songs of Harry Warren. He wrote the book for “Hello, Sucker” a musical based on the life of legendary night-club personality Texas Guinan
Martha Raye (August 27, 1916 – October 19, 1994) was an American comic actress and standards singer who performed in movies, and later on television. She was honored in 1969 with an Academy Award as the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award recipient for her volunteer efforts and services to the troops.
Two days after Martha was born, her mother was already back on stage, and Martha first appeared in their act when she was three years old. She performed with her brother, Bud, and soon the two children became such a highlight that the act was renamed "Margie and Bud." Some show business insiders speculated that the Judy Garland song from A Star Is Born, "I was born in a trunk in the Princess Theater in Pocatello, Idaho" was inspired by Raye's beginnings.
Raye continued performing from that point on and even attended the Professional Children’s School in New York City, but she received so little formal schooling, getting only as far as the fifth grade, that she often had to have scripts and other written documents read to her by others.
Well back to Bob Turoff, He served with the Medical Corps in the United States Army and is a recipient of various certificates of merit. He is a member of Actors’ Equity Association, and a charter member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers and of the American Dinner Theatre Institute.
In desperate need of cash, the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre may close in the next few months without about $250,000 in financial help from the public.
Owner Robert Turoff and his family are launching a “Save Sarasota’s Golden Apple” campaign by appealing to friends and longtime supporters for donations and increased patronage to keep the doors open on the area’s only commercial theater operation.
“Why do we need to continue to exist? What is the urgent, positive, galvanizing need we will fulfill—a need that will energize others and gather them to us? Is there a social need (e.g., to bring joy into children's lives), an artistic need (to see the creativity of specific artists reach its fullest potential)—a need that can be clearly defined, embraced and framed?”
–Ben Cameron, as quoted in American Theatre Magazine, March 2006
“I believe in the American theatre. I believe in its power to inform about the human condition, its power to heal ... its power to uncover the truths arsenal is lort we wrestle from uncertain and sometimes unyielding realities.”
–August Wilson, The Ground on Which I Stand
The Golden Apple is the longest continuously operating professional dinner theater in the country.
Please help save this theatre!
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Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com