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February 26, 2010

Variety show leaves ’em singing after a night of fun

Cleveland--For Browns fans, thinking back 35 years might be painful, remembering that the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Minnesota Vikings 16-6 to win Super Bowl IX.

But they might take comfort in remembering that 1975 was the year that Cincinnati beat Boston 4 games to 3 to win the World Series. It was also the year that Jimmy Hoffa went missing and a gallon of gas was a whopping 57¢, less than half the cost of a gallon of milk.

That year also saw the birth of the Womyn’s Variety Show, the flagship event of Oven Productions.

The 35th show opened on Saturday night February 13 in Kangesser Hall at Park Synagogue in Cleveland Heights, where it has been held for three years.

A full chorus opened the show with “Faith Comes Out of the Closet,” followed by two other songs by Windsong, Cleveland’s Feminist Chorus.

Iris Bishop was back as emcee and kept the crowd of just under 425 women informed with her thoughtful introductions of each performer, mixed with her ever-present good humor and comic timing.

Bishop took delight in detailing both the clinical and playful answers to her question, “What do you call your privates?” Perhaps this was more to mess with the sign language interpreter than to amuse the audience.

The line-up included performances by Susan Hagan, Carol Smith, Alexis Antes, Jane Tobias, first-timer Char Portman, Sue Kestranek, Maura Rogers and Robin Stone as well as the duo of Peggi Cella and Gene Epstein.

Elizabeth Berrey and Jan Held presented spoken-word pieces and the groups Telling Point and Backbone, from Oberlin, rounded out the show.

This year’s event featured a skit called “Variety Show Idol”--or “American Midol,” as some referred to it--with look-a-likes imitating American Idol’s panel of judges including Randy, Ellen and Simon. Like Hoffa, Paula was nowhere to be found.

Event producer Marcia Sindelar said she was happy with the show and noted that it “runs so smoothly because we use pretty much the same crew every year.” Volunteers are welcome and accepted each year but “the core group for the Variety Show and the party have been here for years,” she added.

The show ended with the cast and audience joining together for an exuberant performance of “We are Family,” while exiting the auditorium and filing, some in full voice, into the adjacent party room for the Fabulous Party.

“It was an incredible experience,” said Carly Mesnick of Lakewood. “I’ve never gone before.”

Of the party, she exclaimed, “I loved that everyone was on that dance floor!” She also appreciated that many of the performers stayed for the party and mingled with the guests.

“It was a great experience to meet all the people that performed up close and personal,” she added.

Sindelar agreed. “It was a lot of fun,” she said. “We still had quite a crowd at 1 am when we had to close it down.”

This marked the second year of the Variety Show’s raffle, made up of donations primarily from women-owned businesses, along with others such as the Cleveland International Film Festival.

Proceeds from the raffle, along with any other money remaining after expenses are paid, will go toward producing next year’s event. The date for that has been set for February 12, 2011.

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