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ANN CONWAY

Military Out in Farce for Foundation Fund-Raiser

April 20, 1999|ANN CONWAY

A tipsy Betsy Ross. A toothless George Washington. A cupcake of a Dolly Madison.

All were onstage in the performing arts theater at the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in the musical "Muskets, Missiles & Martians--a Madcap Salute to the Armed Forces."

The irreverently played characters out of American history books had audiences rolling in the aisles at three benefit performances staged Friday and Saturday for the Children's Hospital Foundation of Orange County.

The original three-act musical starring community volunteers began with Uncle Sam (Ed Merino) and the Statue of Liberty (Brooke Robbins) taking a nostalgic look at America's past.

When the crimson curtains of the 57-year-old theater parted, that's what they got: everything from a tap-dance take on the Boston Tea Party (to the tune of "Tea for Two") to a wry Bob Hope (Reick Reiff) and a crooning Bing Crosby (Robert Harvey) wowing the troops.

Other highlights:

* The 120-member cast performing spirited musical salutes to the armed services. ("I can't listen to those songs without getting a lump in my throat," said one theatergoer.)

* Gen. Douglas MacArthur (Frank Michelena)--sporting the trademark shades--marching purposefully onstage to pronounce: "I shall return" (and he did).

* Soulful renditions of World War II-era hits such as "Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy."

The 1,400-seat theater--which had been closed for 15 years--was in terrible shape when Gloria Zigner got the idea to use it for the third annual CHOC Follies.

"It was a mess--moldy and smelly with bird droppings this deep on the stage," said Zigner, director of community development for CHOC.

But two Marines--Master Sgt. Michael Givens and Sgt. Anthony Goodwin--helped turn the theater into a showplace rivaling the best of Broadway. "They worked hundreds of hours to get it ready for our show," said a grateful Zigner, the show's executive producer.

Appreciative of Zigner's vision to revitalize the theater, the two Marines strung a banner--emblazoned with the words Zigner Auditorium--above the entrance.

"When I saw it, I couldn't believe it!" Zigner said during intermission at the Saturday matinee. "Who needs Broadway when you've got the El Toro Marine Air Station?"

Credits: John Vaughan,, director; Lee Martino, choreographer; Doug Austin, music director; Leslie Cancellieri, show chairwoman; and Kimberly Cripe, CEO of Children's Hospital. Presenting sponsors: the House of Imports in Buena Park and The Times Orange County.

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A tribute to mom: The Maternal Outreach Management System (MOMS) in Santa Ana will honor volunteer Maria Cristina Becerra at its first Mother of the Year awards luncheon on May 1.

MOMS, founded in 1993, links indigent pregnant women with the prenatal medical care and social services they need for healthy newborns.

During her second pregnancy two years ago, Becerra, 39, came to MOMS for prenatal counseling. Later, she became a volunteer in the organization's Amigas y Mamas program.

Four months after her 22-month-old son was born, Becerra was diagnosed with breast cancer, which is now in remission.

A single mother, Becerra found solace and support at MOMS. "She has been a good mom--even through adversity," said Alison Driessen, executive director of MOMS. "We are honored to give her our award."

Said Becerra, through an interpreter: "[MOMS] has been very helpful and supportive . . . I did not have anybody else. I got lots of help after I was diagnosed with breast cancer . . . I am happy and thankful to have found so many good friends at MOMS."

For information on the event at Casa Santa Fe in Santa Ana: 714-541-5533.

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Social-scape: Members of the Southern California Garden Alliance--including representatives of the Fullerton Arboretum, the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace in Yorba Linda and the Tustin Garden Club--gathered at South Coast Plaza on Thursday for the kickoff of the 10th annual Southern California Spring Garden Show.

Hundreds of flower lovers sipped wine, sampled gourmet fare and wandered among landscape exhibits inspired by the show's theme, "The Garden as Art."

Crowd pleaser: a towering floral tribute to the famous Hunt of the Unicorn tapestry housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Floral artists Don Davidson, Jim Hynd and Christine Mulligan designed the 21-foot creation, which was made up of mini-carnations, pineapples, roses, sweet peas, tuberoses, orchids and lilies.

Show guests included Anton Segerstrom, host; Kitty Bartholomew, star of Home & Garden television; and Julia W. Rappaport, gala chairwoman and alliance founder. For alliance information: (714) 639-0656. . . .

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