CHOC, CHOC Children's, CHOC Follies, Dale Sklies, Doug Austin, Gloria Zigner, Guys and Dolls, It's a Wonderful Life, John Vaughan, Lee Martino, Lois Augustine, Paul Musco, premiere children's hospitals, Sandy Segerstrom Daniels, SueAnn Cross, Viva CHOC Vegas
“It was Paul Musco’s idea to do a Guys and Dolls in Las Vegas theme,” CHOC Follies Director John Vaughan told me at the cast party following the second show at Orange Coast College’s Robert B. Moore Theatre. Musco, an avid Follies fan, was the Wizard in a former Follies featuring a Wizard of Oz theme. “The show is really a twist between Guys and Dolls and It’s a Wonderful Life,” Vaughan further explained. I can only tell you there was a fair share of chorus girls, gangsters and innocents in the cast, so I guess that’s an apt description!
The crazy tale of “Guys, Gals and Romance in the Land of Lady Luck,” as the subtitle suggested at this year’s 16th annual CHOC Follies’ “Viva CHOC Vegas” show, was a hoot, with 92 community members volunteering their time to raise money for CHOC Children’s, one of the premiere children’s hospitals in the country.
The show’s plot featured a girl named Lufthansa (Susan Crouse), whose dream is to earn her wings – I told you it was a little crazy! In order to do so, Archangel Gabriel (Steven Hirsch) tells her she must go to Las Vegas and find loves for three people – Sheik Ahmed Al Desirey (Paul-Dean Martin), Lucky Fettuccini (Shawn Hoctor) and Chita Swindle (Juliet Schulein). She is aided by a bevy of angels and thwarted at every turn by a devil-like character named Babylon (Nancy Livingston), who was hilarious as a look-and-sound-alike Mae West. On Lufthansa’s quest, she is met by an assortment of characters, including show girls, gangsters, Vegas entertainers (Elton John, Bette Midler, Don Rickles, Joan Rivers, Donnie Osmond, Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton), music superstars Beyonce and Taylor Swift (with a chain of boyfriends!), even Barbara Walters and Katie Couric, and, last, but not least, members of the Royal Family – Prince Charles and Camilla and Prince William and Kate.
Song and dance along the way is always part of the show’s charm. Opening with “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” with the entire cast, the show also featured such gems as “Walk Like an Egyptian,” “If You Follow Your Heart,” “Anything Goes” (also a great tap dance number!), “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” and “New York, New York.” When Lufthansa finally unites her three people with the loves of their lives – the Sheik with Cheerwine Smooch (April Molina), Chita with Jean-Luc St. Amour (Dominic Lopez) – don’t you just love those names?! – and Fettucini with Roxie (Tamara Bullock), the finale stretched over several songs, including a great “Blow Gabriel Blow” number with soloists Kathleen Duffy, Laurie Compton, Sheila Nicole, and Kerry Melachouris. A more serious “Wind Beneath My Wings” number showed a touching CHOC Children’s video featuring soloists Samantha Goldstein, Mia Maffei and Diane Marshall, and a rousing “Viva Las Vegas,” changed to “Viva CHOC Vegas” for the occasion, brought down the house with the famous Elvis, played by Tony Wong, making an appearance.
The inspiration behind the evening, Gloria Zigner, who is CHOC Folllies founder and executive producer, was introduced by Vaughan, and the show’s co-chairs – Sandy Segerstrom Daniels, Dale Skiles and SueAnn Cross, who were all in the show – were in turn recognized, as well as the show’s music director Doug Austin and choreographer Lee Martino. The show’s Associate Producer Lois Augustine told the audience that the monies raised from the four shows, which drew more than 2,500 ticket holders, would benefit the operations of CHOC Children’s in-house radio station called Ryan Seacrest Studios. The net proceeds turned out to be $500,000, with the Follies contributing more than $6 million to CHOC over the years. Pretty impressive!