VENICE, Fla. - The curtain is about to go up on one of Venice Theatre's most popular productions. For the past 18 years, the Loveland Follies have packed the theatre; and they're expecting to play to a full house again this weekend.
The purpose of the Loveland Center is to empower adults with developmental disabilities, to help them become confident adults who not only receive services from the community, but also give back by providing services for others.
This weekend the service they are providing is entertainment. Loveland Follies presents "It's a Really Big Shoe: The Life and Times of Ed Sullivan”.
"I'm the lead actor of Ed Sullivan," says actor Mark Pagliaro. It takes a lot of confidence and charisma to play the starring role. Mark is a veteran of the follies and he has plenty ty of both. "When I first got on stage I was nervous as the devil. But now each show I do get better and better; and now when I'm out here, the audience goes absolutely crazy."
18 years ago, Loveland Center for adults with developmental disabilities started producing follies starring their clients. "To help them live their lives to the fullest and to gain more independence," says activities director Regina Cahill.
And Cahill, who has worked on every show, says the Loveland clients benefit immensely. "It helped with their self-esteem, their self-confidence, we have people who were afraid to make eye contact who are now singing solos and doing acting roles."
Mary Ann Casady has been in the follies before. This year she plays Judy Garland and Joan Rivers. And she loves it. "Cause it’s awesome, it's wonderful…you just know that you're going to get loved."
And the fun continues even after the curtain goes down. "People give you a hug and say good job, you were great wonderful."
Well known Suncoast director Becky Holahan is a frequent director at the Venice Theatre. She says working with the performers from the Loveland Center is always one of the highlights of the year for her. "They are creative, they're funny, they're spontaneous, they know drama when the moments come and they really know how to connect to the audience."
And she says this year's show is terrific. "Tickets are selling like hot cakes, so you better your tickets while they last."
Performances are Thursday, May 30th through Sunday, June 2nd.