Friends and colleagues gathered Monday night to celebrate the life of Bruce Bowes, a noted and beloved local sound technician who worked at our area theme parks and for local theater companies, as well.
Not only did the event serve to demonstrate how highly regarded Bruce was, it also was a good reminder of how lucky we are in Central Florida to have so many talented folks among us, many of whom make their living at our theme parks.
The event was in the form of a revue -- full of dance, comedy, singing, etc. -- and so many people wanted to take part, it stretched to four hours long. I arrived at the Shakespeare Center a half hour before it started and there were barely any parking spots left. The Margeson Theater was filled from top to bottom with patrons -- and once the show started, it was filled with laughter, often uproarious.
Among the performances was a sea of familiar faces to anyone who has spent any time in our Disney parks in past years. Some of them I know only by first name -- like old friends you only see from time to time but enjoy every get-together.
Marshall from Four for a Dollar sang a beautiful Ave Maria as part of a quartet. Andrea Canny and Krista Miller (of the Comedy Warehouse troupe) sang a touching "Changed for Good" from Wicked. Simon Needham, late of the Adventurers Club and currently a judge at the American Idol Experience, sang (or rather, rocked) the blues.
Karl Anthony, also remembered fondly from the Adventurers Club, delivered comedy that wouldn't have made the cut at family-friendly Disney, as did Jen Kober, who I was delighted to recognize from her days at Comedy Warehouse. Hearing the adult-flavored jokes from people associated with almost-squeaky-clean comedy just added to the fun.
The evening was hosted by Comedy Warehouse alum Brian Bradley, droll as ever, and Sheila Ward, who excels at desperately trying to keep things at a higher tone while all around her is descending into vulgar chaos. It was a skill, no doubt, honed during her tenure as Adventurers Club President Pamelia Perkins.
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Just hearing Sheila's voice slip into "Pamelia-mode" was a treat. Classic moment: "Pamelia" tells Fingers Zambezi, the spirited spook of the keyboard, to slow down during "Pretty Little Dolly" so she can have her moment in the spotlight. "It's the most acting I'm ever going to do at the Shakespeare Center," self-deprecating Sheila cracked. Fingers, embodied in the mortal world by the brilliant John DeHaas, gave her, well, the finger. "You followed me better when you were behind the wall," Sheila retorted.
Other familiar Adventurers Club faces offered such treats as haiku set to Spam or Emil Bleehall's "Mailman Song," in which every line is some sort of double entrendre, in true AC-style. A very Graves-like butler also had game audience members play with their dingys during a song. And, no, I am not going to explain what that means.
The Comedy Warehouse alums presented their classic "Up Your Alley" talk show skit, hosted by Matt Horohoe. ("Up yours, Matt!") and Christine Decker was a hoot as a disgruntled panelist.
There were some inside jokes -- references to the PartyLite conventions held here at the expense of some of the Disney performers, some shoutouts to actor/Comedy Warehouser Philip Nolen (Did you know Margeson is French for "Is Philip Nolen in this ,too?" -- but that just added to the familial spirit of the evening.
The event also served as a fund-raiser, to help Bruce's wife, Joy, with expenses. Tickets were $15, CDs by Bruce (also a talented singer) were sold, and a silent auction sold off things from Adventurers Club memorabilia to handmade jewelry to Broadway Series tickets to artwork to services such as acting coaching or private music performances.
That shows the community spirit that exists here in Central Florida, especially in the arts community. As Bruce's loved ones gathered to remember his life, it's worth us remembering that the performers who make us smile at Disney World and the other parks each day are not just "entertainers," they are real-life people, too. And some mighty fine people at that.