On the Town: An evening spent in tribute to Gene Bua

Stepping into the spotlight on the Colony Theatre’s stage, Toni Bua thanked the venue’s capacity-plus crowd for coming out to honor her late husband, Gene Bua, this past Wednesday evening.

“It means the world to me that you are here tonight, sharing and enjoying Gene’s life through what he loved so much — creating music and entertaining audiences with joy, delight, and his outrageous sense of humor,” said Toni.

Gene Bua, who died in November after a 13-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, may be remembered by some as the lead singer of Gene Bua and the Cardinals, who recorded the 1950’s hit song “Golly Gee,” or from his starring role in the Broadway revival of “The Boys from Syracuse.” Many more knew him for his work in the 1960s as Bill Prentiss on the long-running CBS daytime drama, “Love of Life.” Since the early-1980s, Burbankers best knew Gene for his establishment of the Gene Bua Acting For Life Theatre on Magnolia Boulevard in which he mentored thousands of singers and actors — not just on how to hone their craft, but their very lives.

The Buas wrote and performed numerous musicals that were specifically geared to uplift and give hope to at-risk teens and people of all ages who were battling substance abuse and striving for recovery. Their best-known production, “Pepper Street,” was the longest-running musical in Los Angeles and served as the catalyst for the creation of Youth Suicide Awareness Month. Honored by the White House, the United Nations and six California mayors, including former Burbank Mayor Michael Hastings, who attended last week’s tribute, the Buas also founded the Here’s to Life Foundation to sponsor and promote self-esteem, compassion and positive life choices through art and entertainment to teens at-risk, and others, who need an uplifting, inspiring, transformational experience.

Last week’s memorial concert included tributes and songs by those who had been mentored by Gene Bua. It was hosted by Tracey Bregman of “The Young & The Restless” and Kenny Morse, who starred as Prince Edward with Gene Bua in the 1969 film, “The Adventures of the Prince and the Pauper.”

The evening included film clips and a hysterical presentation of Gene Bua meeting with God at the pearly gates, but perhaps the most poignant moment came when Gene Bua’s son, Justin Bua, took to the stage with his daughter, Akira, and offered up an uncanny impersonation of his father that had the audience in hysterics, as well as a touching and tear-inducing poem. The evening ended with a grand finale that asked attendees to leave with the spirit of adventure bolstered by the words Gene Bua offered to everyone he encountered on a daily basis: “It’s never what you think it is. Anything can happen.”

Among those who made the tribute a success included Maya Machado Waterman, Shelley Whizin, Alan Feinstein, Paul Nakauchi, Chase Matthews, Jill Schoelen, Tamara Baar, Paul Mirkovitch, Suzanne Snyder, Richard Fulvio, Peter Pergelides, Lisa Conrad Cohen, Kym Foley, Kristina Laue, Sasha Carter, Pamela Clay, Roxy Jamin, Karen Minutelli, Eliza Swords, Caia Coley, Ivan Rutherford, Donna Kei Benz, Amanda Lynne, Richard Hatch, Emilio Borelli, Brandon Jarrett, Ashley Argota, Daniel Alexander, Nancy Cardona, Bruce Gunnell, Nate Light, Cynthia Jamin, Matt Sandlin, Patricia Sill, Nancy Cardona, Joe Tong, Kathy Paradise, Bobby Richards and Ferdie Visco.

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DAVID LAURELL can be reached by email dlaurell@aol.com or (818) 563-1007.

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