NEW PORT RICHEY — “It’s like coming home,” Jimmy Ferraro said about his new theater, opening June 6.
The other day, two friends stopped by the downtown New Port Richey location with plenty of hugs and kisses to welcome back the husband-and-wife team of Ferraro and Dee Etta Rowe from a long stint of touring.
They all marveled in their memories. Could it really have been 10 years ago when Ferraro last operated a theater here?
“It feels like yesterday,” Ferraro said.
Jimmy Ferraro’s Studio Theatre, at 5732 Main St., will revive that local theater tradition that he had started with Angel Cabaret Theatre and Angel Garden Café Theatre more than a decade ago.
In fact, Ferraro can trace his acting roots back some 40 years to the 1970s with performances at the Hacienda hotel.
His first acting gig came at the tender age of 19, a role in a Richey Suncoast Theatre production. “I’ve been doing it since I could walk and talk,” he said with a big chuckle.
Rowe’s career followed much the same trajectory from a young age when she was an opera major and then performed in her first Broadway show, “One Happy Fellow.”
Since about 2004, the couple had been touring a lot all over the country, including a national tour of “Fiddler on the Roof.”
By this year, they yearned to travel less and began looking around for possible locations here.
“It’s a little gem,” Ferraro said about the Main Street site that seemed to drop into the laps of the couple in March. The storefront offered enough space for 68 seats.
The creative juices started flowing and excitement built as they chose “Church Basement Ladies” as the first play June 6-29.
The rollicking musical comedy will feature a cast of five to celebrate the heart and soul of every church: the basement kitchen and the women who work there. These ladies serve up laughs with the lutefisk and dole out advice with the Jello salads, according to the promo from the theater.
The production is becoming a family affair of sorts with many familiar faces reuniting with Ferraro.
David Craven traveled from his North Carolina home for the chance to direct “Church Basement Ladies,” a play that he had suggested to launch the new theater. It will be the third time for Craven to direct it.
At a recent rehearsal, Linda Copperfield and Katie Miesmer practiced some of the many tunes they will perform when the curtain opens June 6.
“We have a lot of angels around us,” Ferraro said about other supporters helping to get the new venture off the ground. They include Craven, contractor Keith Snyder, Steve Manfredi, Brad and Debbie Dunaway, Stephen Wright, Mike Facemire with ProSigns and Linda and Steven Hill.
Everyone involved has been spreading the word about the first play. Rowe even arranged for a group from Spirit of Grace Lutheran Church in Hudson to attend the show that is based on Lutheran women volunteers.
New Port Richey city officials also are happy to see Ferraro choose the downtown area.
Mayor Rob Marlowe already has bought tickets to the show so he and wife Carolyn can celebrate their 39th anniversary.
“I believe that having two live theater venues just a block apart in a city the size of New Port Richey is amazing,” Marlowe wrote in an email. “I see the new theater enhancing the downtown and attracting more people to visit the downtown. The two theaters are quite different in size and I suspect in ambiance as well.”
Marlowe figures many theatergoers probably will dine at a downtown restaurant before taking in a show.
As the theater builds a following, Ferraro hopes to stage up to eight productions a year. Plus a waiting list has developed for the voice and acting lessons the theater will offer, Rowe said, probably starting this fall.
Performances of plays will be Friday and Saturday evenings, along with a Sunday matinee and the occasional Saturday matinee.
For tickets to “Church Basement Ladies,” call (727) 409-0293. Group rates are available.
The summer season will continue with “Coupled” July 18- Aug. 10 and musical cabaret “The Singing Divas of Broadway and Hollywood” Sept. 5-28.
For information go to www.ferrarostudiotheatre.com.