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CTG ‘Dracula’ silver anniversary

Ground-breaking production started holiday tradition

Posted: November 18, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: November 18, 2012 2:00 a.m.

From left, Jon-Michael Keith, Michael Thompson, Steve and Toni Sarro and Rick and Barbara Huntington. The Sarros hold a photo of themselves in the roles of Dracula and Lucy.

 

Professional actors working on Broadway, or in a touring company of a popular musical, are familiar with long runs and performing in the same show, with the same cast, sometimes for years.

However, community theater performers are more familiar with the brief, yet intense, experience of rehearing a show for six weeks, performing in the show for four or six weekends, then moving on — to another show, or back to real life.

It is rare that actors and crews from a community theater production, or any production, meet up again 25 years later to celebrate.

However, Toni Sarro, who performed in the Canyon Theatre Guild production of “Dracula” 25 years ago decided she would reunite the cast of the ground-breaking production

Sarro, who was Toni Tatum at the time, has a special reason for being nostalgic when it comes to “Dracula.”

It was while performing in that production that she met her husband, Steve Sarro.

“Our chemistry was instantaneous. We became a couple almost immediately, I think from the second rehearsal on,” said Toni Sarro. “So most of our acting in the romantic scenes wasn’t really acting.”

Steve Sarro, son of CTG core members Joe and Carmen Sarro, was a familiar face to CTG audiences.

“I had been in many shows at the CTG since 1970, I couldn’t even count how many,” Steve Sarro said. “But I always wanted to play Dracula after seeing the Frank Langella version.”

The idea for the “Dracula” reunion came when Toni Sarro ran across the video made of the show.

After it was transferred to DVD she tried to get friends to watch the show with her, but couldn’t find much interest.

She decided to track down the original Dracula cast and crew. The more she searched, the more determined she became.

As director of “Dracula,” I was the first called by Toni Sarro. I wasn’t much help in her search, as I had not kept in contact with any of the cast.

In the end, only one cast member eluded her.

Don Myers, who played Butterworth, was rumored to live in New York, but Toni Sarro was never able to make contact.

A party, held on Oct. 27 at the Sarro home in Newhall, reunited most of the cast and crew.

Rick and Barbara Huntington, CTG veterans who played Van Helsing and Miss Wells, respectively, still live in the Santa Clarita Valley, as do Brad and Laura Peach, who worked behind the scenes.

Shannon Greedy, who played Renfield, had just moved back to the SCV after years living in New York. Unfortunately Greedy became ill and was unable to attend the party.

Jon-Michael Keith was found living in Orange County. His commute to the party was the longest, but he was the first to arrive.

Michael Thompson, initially reported as deceased, was found very much alive and living in Simi Valley with one of his daughters.

Thompson, who suffered a stroke several years ago, has lost some of his powers of speech, but arrived at the party fit and in good health.

After greeting each other and noting that 25 years is a long time, we sat and watched a slide show of images captured during rehearsal, set building and production.

Toni Sarro had also created several photo albums for our perusal.

Our after-rehearsal and after-show hang out had been El Chaparral, next door to the Bank of America in Canyon Country, which had closed just weeks before the reunion party.

However, Toni Sarro, ever resourceful, had ordered food for the night from El Presidente, the sister restaurant of El Chaparral.

The group then gathered and watched the DVD of “Dracula.” As the director, I was surprised at how well it held up, and I also made note of several things I wish I had directed differently.

As “parting gifts” the Sarros presented each guest with printouts of the play review that appeared in the Oct. 16, 1987 edition of The Signal’s Escape.

“It’s a drive to the Canyon Theatre Guild’s stage on Sierra Highway, but the current production of ‘Dracula’ is worth every mile or penny’s worth of gas,” wrote The Signal’s reviewer.

In the cache of memories was a document, a newsletter from the CTG that proclaimed “Dracula” knocks ‘em dead ... and breaks all records doing it.

“The final totals are all in and ‘Dracula’ breaks all records for the Canyon Theatre! A total of 975 people saw this tremendous production, this includes 12 performances and a play-sale.”

“Dracula” earned the most money and had the largest audience of any CTG production up to that date. It’s an accomplishment I will always cherish, along with my Goldie award for Best Director.

“This was a ground-breaking production because of the special effects used and the theme,” Sarro said.

After the 1987 success of “Dracula” the CTG mounted an annual Halloween and Christmas show.

 

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