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Marines Get Into Act for CHOC

April 09, 1999

It sounds like an Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland movie: Dust off an old stage and put on a musical. Only this time, the Marines are pitching in.

Service personnel and supporters of Children's Hospital Foundation of Orange County are fixing up the dilapidated theater at the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station to mount a show April 16 and 17.

The CHOC III Follies, "Muskets, Missiles & Martians: A Madcap Salute to the Armed Forces," has found an appropriate home. The theater, built in 1943, was used for USO shows and, later, as a movie theater, says Gloria Zigner, executive producer of the show.

This is the first time a civilian group has been granted access to the venue, Zigler added. A cast of 125 business, social and civic leaders will swing dance and sing at three performances.

Chorus member Karen Brooks owns Second Source, an office-furniture recycling company in Irvine. Zigner asked Brooks to spruce up the theater seats.

"My son, Todd, and I agreed to repair the seats, then the next thing we know, we're performing in public," Brooks says.

The theater hadn't been used in 15 years, and most of the 1,400 seats had buckled, lifted from the concrete floor or suffered broken springs. On top of that, the skylights had been left open, inviting birds and other creatures to enjoy time at center stage and in the gallery.

Despite the age of the metal-framed chairs, Brooks says, they're comfortable enough now because of springs that allow visitors to gently rock. Before the repairs, "Most of the chairs were rocking way back into the row behind them."

Many Marines volunteered their time, mostly cleaning up after the wildlife.

"We're all doing it for the children," Brooks says. "Even the people who don't have children of their own gave, knowing it's a good cause."

Tickets are $25, $50 and $100. (714) 532-8690.

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