This month marks a very special time for Steve Masone, the 1970 John F. Kennedy High School graduate who was featured in the last two editions of this publication.
His dream of once again establishing a musical dinner theater in the capital city is about to become a reality.
For Masone, who was involved in opening a now defunct musical dinner theater at the old Sheraton Inn at 2600 Auburn Blvd. in the 1970s, he will experience a touch of déjà vu on July 11-12, when the Sacramento Musical Dinner Theatre opens in the grand ballroom of the Red Lion Inn at 500 Leisure Lane with a production of “Starry Evening.”
In speaking about the establishment of his new company, Masone said, “I just formed the Sacramento Musical Dinner Theatre, producing the Phoinix Players from Eugene, Ore., who are working with me right now. I am bringing them down. They are going to become Sacramento’s newest (theatrical attraction). This is another first. I remember a lot of theater companies leaving Sacramento, but I don’t remember any coming here. They’re known as a very talented (troupe). They’re internationally acclaimed. Last year, they went to the Czech Republic and Ireland and London. They’ve been together for many years, of course with players in and out.”
Masone fondly recalled his discovery of the Phoinix Players, and his involvement in arranging for this musical theater group to perform in Sacramento.
“I discovered (the Phoinix Players) only about a year ago,” Masone said. “I found them already doing The Red Cane Theatre (in Eugene), but they weren’t really doing the dinner part of the theater like they would like to do and that’s where we are going to merge and bring them down here. They would have to bring (the dinners) in (at The Red Cane Theatre). They didn’t have their own restaurant. They didn’t serve drinks or anything like that.
“I started talking with them and working with them. Now they’re contracted with me to come down here (to Sacramento), and start the business with me down here, and (to go on) tour down here and (have) their director – who is very talented and gifted, because she writes her own dialogues and her own shows and musicals – down here, and get them to help me audition and start another dinner theater down here. When I brought them down here, it turns out they feel they’ve ceilinged out in Eugene and they want to get to the next level and so they’re quitting their jobs and they’re coming down here to try to be a new resident company.”
Masone, who was also involved in the operation of a dinner theater in Santa Barbara, has certainly been very active in his work to establish a new musical dinner theater for Sacramento, and he describes his new company as launching something very special to fill a theatrical void in the capital city.
“It’s amazing,” Masone said. “There are 30 (musical) dinner theaters in the L.A. area. There are none in Sacramento and there are none in the Bay Area that are year-round musical dinner theaters. Now, when I say musical dinner theaters, what I mean (is) doing Broadway shows and doing musicals with dance and dialogue and an actual musical play. There are people claiming that they’re dinner theaters, because they’re doing the murder mystery, but that’s a murder mystery show. That’s not really dinner theater, if we’re going to go by definition.”
After being asked to share more details regarding the upcoming show and future shows of his company, Masone said, “The first production is called ‘Starry Evening,’ and it’s classic of Hollywood floor show song, romance and comedy. It’s all about Hollywood actors and actresses doing the shows and everything. It’s just a great musical. I can’t tell you any of the names right now of the songs we’re going to do, because we’re still getting the rights to them. You can’t advertise until you (acquire) the rights.
“We were going to do ‘Grease,’ but ‘Grease’ was too expensive. So, we’re not going to do ‘Grease’ yet. We may do ‘Grease’ (later). We’re going to do all the big ones. We’re thinking we’re going to probably be looking at a lot of the Broadway shows. But those are expensive to do. Some shows are like $7,000 they want upfront for royalties and everything. But once we build the audience and we know we’re going to be able to pencil it all out, those are the kind of shows we’ll do.”
In further praising the Phoinix Players, who he described as a “triple threat” due to their ability to sing, dance and act, Masone added, “This will be the only company in Sacramento – dinner theater or normal theater – that’s going to be able to mount seven or eight musicals a season. It’s really hard, but these guys can do musicals back to back. They’ll be juggling three shows at a time, and that’s just what they do. They do this full time. They’re not part time. They don’t go to their eight-hour a day (non-theatrical jobs). These kids do this full time and that’s what I fell in love with when I saw how dedicated they are to musical theater. It’s a lost art. I’m not talking about (all) Broadway shows’ musical theater. Some can be a musical and be on Broadway, but it doesn’t really represent musical theater. Musical theater would be the type of shows like ‘Kiss Me, Kate’ (and) ‘Damn Yankees.’ Some of the newer ones still fit the bill. And of course, I’d love to do ‘Fiddler on the Roof.’”
Masone emphasized the fact that all of his company’s musicals are family-friendly productions that are appropriate for any age.
“All of our shows that Sacramento Musical Dinner Theatre is doing are all G rated,” Masone said. “There are some shows that we just won’t do, because there is no need to do them. We’re doing the classics. We’re doing true musical theater. And there are young people in the troupe who are just great at it.”
Although the grand ballroom of the Red Lion Hotel is not a permanent location for Sacramento Musical Dinner Theatre productions, Masone does not count out that possibility.
“We’re barnstorming for the summer,” said Masone, whose artistic goals also include becoming involved in choreography and reestablishing his former blues band. “We’re going to be playing the Red Lion here July 11 and 12 for our opening nights here. That’s a Friday and Saturday night. We’ll add a Saturday matinee and a Sunday matinee, if the demand is there. And then the following (weekend), the 18th and 19th (of July), we’re going to go over to an outside amphitheater (at the Red Lion Hotel) through August (2). I’ve been negotiating an Old Sacramento location (The Coconut Grove at 106 J St.) of which we’re going to be doing Wednesday nights, and every Saturday and Sunday down there for the rest of the summer. And then I’m still looking for other venues right now to keep up barnstorming and working until we find a permanent (location). It might be here (at the Red Lion Hotel). The Red Lion has expressed interest, if we come to terms and everything. This would be my (preferred location), because of the grand ballroom. It’s got a beautiful stage. It’s a great room, and that’s been my dream is to come back and do it in that room.”
For additional information about the upcoming production of “Starry Evening” at the Red Lion Hotel, call (209) 418-7853 or (541) 287-1497, or write to email@example.com.