The Crowd: Follies revving up for another year

It is hard to believe that The CHOC Follies are celebrating 15 years on stage in Orange County.

More importantly, the theatrical extravaganza, starring local talent, has raised more than $5 million net in support of Children's Hospital of Orange County. That translates into immeasurable assistance for children in need of medical care.

In show-business terms ,a 15-year run is unheard of, unless it happens to be something like "Phantom of the Opera."

Gloria Zigner, the Follies executive producer, can hardly believe it herself. Yet a significant element contributing to the longevity and success belongs to her tenacity.

Each season Zigner and company roll up their sleeves and start dialing for dollars. They get the money, they corral the talent and, most importantly, they do it all with infective enthusiasm.

Cast members are required to contribute and/or sell tickets. No problem — each year the cast roster grows and the seats get filled.

"It's a show-business miracle," kids Zigner.

She is quick to credit both her staff and major donors and stars, including Sandy Segerstrom Daniels, Leslie Cancellieri, Dale Skiles, along with Sally and Randy Crockett, Jack Cancellieri, Marie Chance, Debby Gaal, Judi Partridge, and Anabel and John Konwiser. Corporate donors include presenting sponsor XCARET, The Crean Foundation, Abbott Medical Optics, UBS Financial Services, Ernst & Young LLP, and Caring Companions At Home that, among others, have sustained The Follies year after year.

The show is rehearsing for its latest original musical production, "Cinderella and the Crystal Ball," which Zigner describes as "A Cinderella story for the social net set."

The production company is composed of some 100 talented community volunteers and led by the same director/producer team in the capable hands of John Vaughan, Doug Austin and Lee Martino.

"We have all become family," adds Zigner. "Imagine fifteen years and still going strong."

Once again the production will debut on the boards of the Robert B. Moore Theatre at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on March 29, 30 and 31.

As an interesting footnote, proceeds from this season's show are earmarked to construct a broadcast system known as The Voice, which is a project of the Ryan Seacrest Foundation. The Voice is an interactive multimedia center that provides patients with an outlet to engage in creative activities related to broadcast media. It's another step forward in providing children avenues of healing at the ever-expanding and evolving Children's Hospital of Orange County.

Zigner and crew are still very much involved in raising the underwriting funds for this season's "Cinderella."

"We have many levels of sponsorship available," she says, smiling.

Even wicked stepsisters are welcome to donate.

THE CROWD runs Thursdays and Saturdays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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