CHOC Follies raising serious money

There are a few plays John Vaughan will probably never direct for Children's Hospital of Orange County's annual fundraiser.

Something like "Waiting for Godot," for example, unless he found a way to write Godot into the script, plus 60 or 70 other speaking and singing roles.

Vaughan, who has directed the CHOC Follies production for 16 straight years, always has a wide cast with whom he can work. As many as 100 volunteer actors sign up for each show, which means that he and playwright Christopher Leonard aim for plenty of razzle-dazzle: musical production numbers, interweaving plot lines and whatever else can keep the merriment going.

"I would never want a show with two main parts in it," Vaughan said.

Or, perhaps, two words in the title: This year's CHOC Follies production, which will open Thursday at the Robert B. Moore Theater at Orange Coast College, is called "Viva CHOC Vegas! Guys, Gals and Romance in the Land of Lady Luck."

The press materials for "Viva CHOC Vegas!" advertise it as a twist on "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Guys and Dolls." According to Vaughan, it's more like the story of the Frank Capra holiday classic grafted onto the setting of "Guys" — the story involves an angel, hoping to earn her wings, who is sent by Gabriel to find three lonely souls in Las Vegas and match them with romantic partners.

The angel and her three intended targets — a sheik, a gambler and a showgirl — make up a small part of a cast that ranges in age from late teens to 80s. Throughout the show, the actors fit in 17 songs, most of them standards with new parody lyrics. (Vaughan cited "Weird Al" Yankovic as an inspiration.)

However goofy the show may be, it has a serious purpose. The last 15 CHOC Follies shows raised nearly $6 million combined for the children's hospital, and executive producer Gloria Zigner said she expects the total to surpass $6 million this year.

Even before the curtain rises on opening night, the show will already have amassed a hefty sum: To join the cast, each actor must raise $1,000, which some do through personal donations and others through public fundraisers.

Proceeds from this year's show are slated to pay for the construction and operations of Seacrest Studios, an interactive broadcast multimedia center that allows patients to indulge their creative side while recuperating, according to a release.

"Every year, we're getting the money for something else," Zigner said. "But it's all for the children's hospital."

Twitter: @MichaelMillerHB

If You Go

What: "Viva CHOC Vegas! Guys, Gals and Romance in the Land of Lady Luck"

Where: Robert B. Moore Theatre, Orange Coast College, 2701 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa

When: 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday

Cost: $35 to $65 for Thursday and Saturday matinee; $50 to $75 for Friday and Saturday night ($125 includes after-show cast party)

Information: (714) 509-4140 or

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