Cabaret show gets in a last-minute fundraiser for Jonathan’s Place
Monday night, Dec. 21, "Mama’s Family" turned their weekly cabaret show into a holiday concert that featured local actors and singers who belted out carol after carol.
But more importantly, Mama used the show as a last minute effort before Christmas to help local agency Jonathan’s Place. All proceeds and tips from the show went to help the organization that works to protect children from abusive situations.
"I’m a teacher and this is something I can believe in. I just thought it was so appropriate to help out just before Christmas," Amy Stevenson said.
Stevenson is Mama, the ringleader behind the cabaret. She’s been in the theater scene for close to 25 years, which has given her access to a wide array of friends in the business.
Every week she rounds up the talent (or they ask to be in the show) to perform in the renovated church spot on lower Greenville that is now the Contemporary Theatre of Dallas. Her show used to happen at Phases, and when that closed down she moved it to Bill’s Hideaway.
"I’ve closed down two bars. What does that tell you?" she said.
Stevenson sang at those same bars before coming up with the idea of "Mama’s Family." Other singers asked about her gigs and the idea came when she recalled two regular shows in New York. She combined the comedy of "Don’t Tell Mama" with the music-based "Jim Caruso’s Cast Party" and the family was born.
"Mark Mullino and I talked about this and threw the idea out to the management at Phases. They liked the idea, so we put it together. Mark actually came up with the name because people call me ‘Mama’ a lot," she said.
For Monday’s show, the larger theater space was a packed house and the audience received a big helping of local gay talent with the likes of Gary Floyd, Buddy Shanahan and Paul J. Williams all taking the stage.
"The show is a good mix of gay and straight entertainers. We do have many gay singers and would be up a creek without them! The gays were very well represented tonight," Stevenson said.
Indeed. Floyd, a favorite among Dallas audiences, performed twice. Paul J. Williams was the surprise act, performing both stand-up and a song. Buddy Shanahan accompanied all the singers for the night on piano.
Normally, Mullino provides the music, but Stevenson was glad Shanahan made it for the night.
"Buddy isn’t always the accompanist. I enjoy singing with Buddy and was really glad that he was available to play for this one," she said.
"Mama’s Family" has maintained a big gay following that has helped the show raise money not only for this holiday week but also with many past shows.
"Because we started at those bars, our audiences were mainly the gay community. They love a good show tune and are always more than willing to support a charity event," Stevenson said. "This summer we worked with Dallas Summer Musicals and Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS to do fundraisers with all of the tours that came through town. People were more than gracious in their giving on those nights and were entertained by the tour stars."
Tips literally flew in for performers. As actors belted out traditional and contemporary Christmas tunes, audience members from the balcony threw wadded-up dollars onstage. By the end of the evening, the show had raised $232 for Jonathan’s Place.
"I would have loved to have brought in more, but that is a great amount for Jonathan’s Place. Plus, people can go to the DFW Actors Give Back site to give more and to order a ‘Holidazzle’ CD. Those funds also go to the agency. The fact that everyone else wanted to help raise money for Jonathan’s Place made me extremely happy," Stevenson said. •
For more information or to order Holidazzle, visit DFWActorsGiveBack.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 25, 2009.