Family show morphs to charity fundraiser

From left, Bobbie Brown, Pat Duncan, Cindy Orzel and Kimi Ruder of 4’s Company take the stage at a local variety show.

by Joe Bollig
joe.bollig@theleaven.org

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — What began 35 years ago in a duplex living room has grown to be a traditional beginning of the holiday season for many families here: the Viviano Variety Show.

The live show has singing, dancing, comedy, an incredible juggler, Elvis (alive, not dead!), and that iconic singer from Steubenville, Ohio — Dean Martin (played by Jerry Viviano).

The Bishop Miege High School Choir will be there, too.

And there will be an Italian food buffet and drinks.

“It’s crystal clean and wholesome,” said Viviano. “You can take the whole family to this show.”

This year’s show will be held Nov. 23 at the Rose Theater at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Missouri. The doors open at 4:30 p.m. for dinner and drinks, followed by live music at 6 p.m. and then the show at 7 p.m. 

Tickets are $25 for general admission, and $35 for reserved seats. All proceeds raised from ticket sales benefit the Catholic Charities Foundation of Northeast Kansas. 

“In fiscal year 2019, Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas provided services to our neighbors in need more than one and a half million times,” said Viviano. “That’s through 20 different programs. 

“So, when people ask, ‘Why do you give to Catholic Charities?’ that’s a big part of it. They get right to the needy people.” 

The show has come a long way.

Viviano was only trying to have a bit of pre-holiday fun in the early 1980s when he invited a few friends from his softball team and the parish over to his home for food and drink. 

“We’d have a little party at my house, and then I’d get up and do a number,” said Viviano.

It was something that came naturally. Viviano and other family members used to sing on the street corners of his native St. Louis while they were growing up. 

Viviano moved to Overland Park and began hosting parties in his own home. After a couple of years, people wouldn’t ask, “When is the party,” but “When are you going to have the show?”

Viviano received what he said was “divine inspiration” to expand the show and turn it into a fundraising event for a worthy cause. His pastor, Father Anthony Lickteig, promoted it from the pulpit and lent him the parish hall.

The first show in Overland Park’s Holy Cross Parish hall was in 1985, and it has only gotten bigger and better ever since. It was moved to the Rose Theater in 1990.

The show has always been a family affair. His daughter Katherine began performing when she was 4 years old.

She won’t be there this year, however. A recent graduate with a musical theater degree, she’s going to debut in “Beauty and the Beast” at the Paramount Theater in Chicago. 

His brother Joe Viviano, who died more than a year ago, used to impersonate Frank Sinatra.

Jerry Viviano himself has impersonated several entertainers in the shows: Frank Sinatra, Neil Sedaka, Paul Anka, Elvis Presley and Dean Martin. He’s sticking with Martin.

It takes a boatload of volunteers to put on the show — that’s about 30 performers, 30 food service workers, a cleanup crew of about 20, and some 12 production hands and 12 ushers.  

Volunteer No. 1 for most of the show’s run has been, of course, Viviano’s wife Megan. Dan Carney is the “incredible” producer, he said, and Patrick Komlofske is “a godsend” as food service director.

For tickets call Theresa at (913) 433-2068, or click here.

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