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A Sunday salon

Class with sass from Theatre Project SCV

Posted: May 22, 2008 5:12 p.m.
Updated: July 23, 2008 5:03 a.m.

Sally Struthers was special guest at the salon Sunday at All Corked Up. The event raised funds for and awareness of The Theatre Project SCV. There will be two more salons, on June 29 and July 20.

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One of the best things about the Santa Clarita Valley is the way we experience "class." We can present it when the need arises, certainly recognize it and appreciate it when we see it, and definitely enjoy it. After that we fall back on the sofa and plunk our boots on the coffee table. No need for pretensions here.

This past Sunday offered a perfect example of this when The Theatre Project SCV shared its first salon soiree of the season at All Corked Up, and the event's headliner, Sally Struthers, set the tone, which might be described as "class with sass."

The well-received Salon Series is coming around for its second year.

Though the three-event series does raise funds, even more it raises awareness - of The Theatre Project SCV, its goals and current offerings. The endgame is to develop a regional theater company in the SCV that offers Broadway-caliber productions at affordable prices.

Andrea Slominski, co-founder of the organization with Mark Salyer, said, "We just want to be producing something of very high quality for people to see, to note the level of our talent and the excellence of our programs."

All Corked Up was the very first Corporate 100 sponsor of The Theatre Project SCV, and owner Jay Schutz was happy to be hosting the salon, noting that the type of theater the Project intends to bring to the SCV is "much needed."

"We want to be involved in any way we can be to move it forward. We're proud to be part of it," he said.

On with the show
With the afternoon-into-evening salon kicking off at 4 p.m., the cool confines of All Corked Up provided a haven from the blistering temperatures outside. The sell-out crowd packed the room - and the fact the tables had been pushed together to provide space for an impromptu "stage" meant you had to plan your routes carefully. But this only served to make the intimate event more "down-home" as supporters, most of whom knew each other well, rubbed elbows and sampled fine wines and appetizers.

Keyboardist Rebecca McNamara opened with "Alexander's Ragtime Band," and after brief introductions by Slominsky and Salyer, the show began, featuring songs by Irving Berlin.

First up was Julia Gregory singing "Shakin' the Blues Away," and, when she was through, the guests were happy to drop their cheese and carrots and applaud enthusiastically.

Victoria Oscar fared likewise with a powerful performance of "Blue Skies."

Christopher Youngsman then stepped up front and center, with Sally Struthers swinging in to join him. After a little banter, the good friends performed "You're Just in Love," with Struthers taking notes as the therapist to Youngsman singing his love-enhanced outlook on life. At the end of their "session" she told him to make his check out to the SCV Theatre Project Mental Health Center - and the audience ate it up.

Struthers then offered to take questions, and when the fans were a little hesitant, she produced some quips to warm them up, such as: "If Darth Vader married Ella Fitzgerald, she'd become Ella Vader" - rimshot, ba-rhump-bump.

Then the questions got rolling, and no holds were barred. Totally open and totally genuine, Struthers was alternately sassy and introspective. When one guest asked her how she felt about being only five feet tall, she admitted she'd like about four more inches. Than she added an anecdote: "My father used to tell me, 'Sally, some day you're going to have to sue the city for building the sidewalks so close to your (behind).'"

Other questions were about her work with programs to benefit children around the world, and, especially about her career and days on "All in the Family." All were answered with candor and often with humor.

A touching moment was provided when a guest from the back asked her if she remembered talking about a high school basketball player while on "The "Tonight Show" in the 1970s. She certainly did, then recognized that athlete, all grown up, as Kelly Thomas, son of her longtime friend Judy Thomas. She called him to the front and hugs and reminisces ensued - all to the delight of the crowd.

After Struthers was finished, and as she greeted her guests and friends around the room, Salyer noted how pleased the Project was to have her for the afternoon. "We're going to try to get her on our stages," he said, referring to other shows down the road.

For her part, Struthers was very pleased with the event, and especially so of the turn-of-events in meeting Thomas again.

"Something like this happens every time I'm asked to do a benefit. People I haven't seen or kept track of come back into my life," she said.

With Struthers making a well-deserved exit to attend a family event, the show continued. Youngsman and Gregory sang "I'll Share it All with You." Then Gregory channeled Judy Garland in "Better Luck Next Time."
Oscar then rocked the house with "There's No Business like Show Business." Youngsman sang "Count Your Blessings."

Kate Steele and Ross Helwig performed a touching scene from the Noel Coward play "Design for Living" and then the whole cast brought the audience into their closing "God Bless America."

When the applause finally died down, everyone knew they had experienced something special - and all in a relaxed, informal atmosphere. It was class, SCV-style.

Two more Sunday salons are scheduled this summer, on June 29 and July 20. For more information on the SCV Theatre Project and its programs, visit www.theatrescv.com or call (661) 633-3550.

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