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‘It’s time’: ‘Viviano Variety Show’ to have one last performance

Jerry Viviano, the founder, performer and host of the annual “Viviano Variety Show” benefit, will end the show’s 37-year run this year. The show’s final performance will be on Nov. 19. During its nearly four-decades-long run, the show has raised $2.25 million for various local charities, mostly for Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas. COURTESY PHOTO

by Joe Bollig

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — For 37 years, the annual “Viviano Variety Show” benefit has operated by the theatrical credo of “the show must go on!”

But as Geoffrey Chaucer wrote during medieval times, “All good things must come to an end.”

And so it is that the “Viviano Variety Show,” a holiday tradition for many Kansas City area families, will have its 38th and last performance on Nov. 19.

“People have asked, ‘Jerry, is there a reason why you’re closing the show?’ It’s like any good novel. You have a good first chapter, various chapters in be-tween, and a final chapter,” said Viviano, the founder, performer and host. “After a lot of deliberation and prayer, it’s time.”

During its nearly four-decades-long run, the show has raised $2.25 million for various local charities, mostly for Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas. Not bad for something that began as a family holiday gathering in the early 1980s that got a little out of hand.

The last show will be at Rockhurst High School’s Rose Theater, located at 9301 State Line Rd. in Kansas City, Missouri. The doors open at 5:50 p.m. Heavy appetizers and beverages will be served in the atrium until 6:45 p.m. The show begins at 7 p.m.

There will be four stations of appetizers: American, Italian and Mexican — the latter courtesy of Rudy’s Tenampa Taqueria, a popular family-owned restaurant in the Kansas City area. The fourth is a dessert station.

“The show will be packed with fun,” said Viviano, a member of Curé of Ars Parish in Leawood. “We’re going to have some great performers.”

The show will also be packed with singing, dancing, comedy and, of course, nostalgia.

The acts will include (appropriately) Lights Out, a four-part vocal group hailed as “America’s No. 1 tribute to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons”; Bill Robinson and the Motown Revue; jazz saxophonist Joseph Vincelli; and Viviano’s daughter Katherine, a professional entertainer from Chicago.

Kansas City area native Liz Kelley, one of the original Golddiggers (dancers) who appeared on “The Dean Martin  Show,” will bring clips to show and talk about her favorite memories of Martin.

Jerry Viviano and his brothers got their start singing on the corner of Eighth and Carr in downtown St. Louis when they were teenagers. The brothers Viviano will reunite to sing the music of the Vogues. Unfortunately, Jerry, Tony and Frank can only be joined in spirit by their deceased brothers Sal and Joe.

Clips from past shows — the oldest dating back to those family gatherings Jerry and his wife Megan held at their little duplex home — will also be shared.

The show always had a fourfold mission, said Viviano.

First, it was to gather family and friends for an evening of good, clean, enjoyable fun and fellowship. Second, it was to increase awareness of the charities they supported and the people who were helped. Third, it was to raise money to fund the good works those charities performed.

“And fourth, most importantly, it was to motivate everyone in the theater to reach out and help others in the name of Jesus Christ Our Lord,” said Viviano.

Viviano gives a lot of credit to the early success of the show to the support of his then-pastor, Father Anthony Lickteig.

“The reason it got started, it was just one of those ways a group of young men could do something with the talents they had in the service of the church,” said Father Lickteig. “Then, we invited them to Holy Cross Parish [in 1985] for a fundraiser for Shalom House (in Kansas City, Kansas) because they needed a new roof.

“It grew and grew. They used the [Kansas City, Kansas] National Guard Armory, the Reardon Center, and finally they settled at Rockhurst High School. The Jesuits were very generous supporting [the Vivianos].”

Father Lickteig called the long-running show a beautiful example of what people can do to serve the church, and an inspiration to others to use their own talents and not sit on the sidelines.

The list of people who’ve helped make the show is very long, but Viviano is particularly grateful for the key roles played by Dan Carney as show producer and Patrick Komlofske as food service director.

Viviano is hoping for the best turnout ever for the last show, producing a big donation to Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas. Tickets are $35 for reserved seats and $25 for general admission. All the seats are good, he promised.

For tickets go to:
• Call (913) 433-2068

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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