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‘Ain’t Missin’ Dinner’ Is Just Plain Fun

If you’re looking for a delightful evening of theatre, join the “Chubby and Proud” support group at the Savannah Hilton, a.k.a. the parlors at the First Lutheran Church on Chandler Street, tonight at 7:30 p.m.

“Ain’t Missin’ Dinner” is presented by Chautauqua Hospice and Palliative Care as a fundraiser. The play, by Jamestown native Tom Andolora, with original music by Andolora and Paul Sportelli, pokes gentle fun at the cult of the diet and, while Inga Lundquist (JoAnn Liffner) dreams of “The Girl I Will Be” when she loses weight, Bill Heywood (Adam Owens) gives the audience the real message with “Be Just Who You Are.”

That’s the message, but it’s not heavy-handed and the entire evening is just plain fun. The audience becomes part of the convention, complete with nametags, but don’t worry; audience participation is limited to singing (or not) the “Chubbette Anthem” and saying “Hi” to those on stage. Take your camera and you can poke your head into a cardboard cutout and “lose 30 pounds instantly.” Your ticket includes dessert at intermission and a chance to win a raffle prize. I personally have my eye on the cotton candy machine.

But back to the play. Dottie Mae Mayhew, played by Merle Szydio, is the emcee who has her own story to tell, including a song that lists all the diets she’s tried over the years. Great voice aside, Szydio gets a gold star from me for just remembering the lyrics and keeping them straight.

Next up is Inga Lindquist, played by JoAnn Liffner, who fantasizes about what life would be like if she were slim. She’s backed up by the two waiters, “Temptations” style and Deatryk Silsby and Jalen Erickson are wonderful as the waiters who offer support to other cast members as both singers and dancers.

Bill Heywood takes the stage next to confess that he loves to eat, and, if his voice isn’t as strong as the women in the cast, he knows how to sell a song as he belts out “Be Just Who You Are.”

JamieLee Rose is a powerhouse with two numbers, “I’m a One Woman Crowd” and “Ain’t Missin’ Dinner” (to the tune of “Ain’t Misbehavin’ “). Whoever thinks sexy means thin hasn’t met JamieLee Rose.

The show ends with a wonderful medley of Broadway show tunes, modified to fit the occasion, including “Tonight” from West Side Story (“Too Tight, too tight…) and, from My Fair Lady, “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face,” (“I’ve Grown Accustomed to My Waist”).

Director/author Tom Andolora and assistant director Marge Fiore have done a wonderful job and musical director Ron McEntire is on stage at the piano all evening, giving each actor just what he or she needs for the best performance possible. Choreographer Rudi Andalora absolutely nailed it.

It was all so seamless and looked so natural for each moment in the production.

Bob Terreberry, who, with his wife Irene, first produced “Ain’t Missin’ Dinner” in 1989, is listed as production consultant.

I truly loved this performance. Great actors, wonderful voices, impeccable direction and choreography, fun from start to finish, and dessert. An evening well spent. I loved this show. Go see it. You’ll enjoy the show as well as helping to support Chautauqua Hospice and Palliative Care.

Next weekend, Oct. 12 and 13, the show will be at the Williams Center at SUNY Fredonia.

All shows start at 7:30 p.m. and tickets, available at the door, are $25 and include dessert.

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