Cool cats and poodle skirts wanted for good, old-fashioned fun in Temple Terrace – must have a great sense of humor and love ’50s music.
Currently running at The Olde World Cheese Shop Dinner Theater, Lost in the ’50s is a variety show featuring famous talents such as Elvis, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis and Louis Armstrong. The cast pays special tribute to musical legends Richie Valance, Buddy Holly and “The Big Bopper” J.P. Richardson.
Lost in the ’50s was originally scheduled to run through March, but because of popular demand it has been extended through April.
Mark Schwab and Dennis Calnan are co-producers of the show. They sing and perform comedy sketches – such as the famous “Who’s On First” routine – and do celebrity impersonations. Ben Stone handles the lights and sound and adds ’50s flair to the mix with his peppy oldies-style introductions.
Larry Thurmond is the equipment manager and spot operator who adds his own bit of humor to the show by wearing an Elvis wig and singing his version of “Hello Dolly.” Schwab, Calnan, Stone and Thurmond have been working together since August 2004.
“I’ve been entertaining since I was 5 years old,” Schwab said. “The senior industry needed entertainment, so Dennis and I wrote the show Lost in the ’50s. We’ve written all of our own shows.”
Originally, the cast traveled all over Florida, offering performances at golf and country clubs. Schwab dreamed of making it a dinner theater. Eventually, he met Jack Townsend, a local attorney who introduced the cast to Bill and Gail Carpenter, owners of The Olde World Cheese Shop. The match was perfect, and the dinner theater had a permanent home in Temple Terrace. In December 2006, they began by performing a special Christmas show.
Mark Schwab, center, and two guests from the audience wail away on inflatable guitars. MONTAGE PHOTO/SHERRI PROCTOR
Recently added to the cast is Rhiannon Roberts of Land O’ Lakes. She sings and performs in the show, adding a feminine touch to the production.
“I’ve been singing since I was 5 years old,” Roberts said. “My dream is to be a film actress.”
The cast encourages audience participation, which gives the show an unrehearsed bit of comedy. When guests are invited onstage to join the cast, anything goes.
“We’re working on several new shows, including Night of Elegance, which is a love-song show and a Rat Pack show,” Thurmond said. “The average age (at the show) is 50 and older, but it’s definitely suitable for all ages.”
From left to right, Larry Thurmond, Mark Schwab, Dennis Calnan and Ben Stone sing “Hello Dolly” to the crowd. MONTAGE PHOTO/SHERRI PROCTOR
Schwab is excited that the cast is planning to schedule a Guitar Hero contest for PlayStation fans. There will be a cash prize awarded to first, second and third place winners. Judging will include costumes and creativity, as well as the performance itself.
Schwab and Calnan have also created a murder mystery beginning May 3 and runing for three months.
“We are going to perform Who Da Hell, an Italian Mob Mystery Dinner Theater,” Schwab said. “That show will be more of an adult theme.”
Casual attire is acceptable, and the show runs one hour and 45 minutes with a 10-minute intermission. On the last Saturday of every month, there is a show for seniors 55 and older. The 4 p.m. buffet dinner is followed by a show at 4:30 p.m. Tickets are $22.50 individually or $20 each for groups of five or more.
The theater, located in a cozy off-Broadway-style cafÃ© at 11001 N. 56th St. in Temple Terrace, provides a flashback oldies performance and buffet dinner every Thursday night. Dinner is served at 7, 30 minutes before the show begins. Tickets are $25 in advance (recommended) or $30 at the door; for reservations call 813-988-8707.