Central West Ballet is paying tribute to TV variety shows of days gone by with its new production, "That's Showbiz."
The program, which will be presented one performance only, Oct. 19 at the Gallo Center for the Arts, honors such stars as Jackie Gleason, Laurel and Hardy, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Al Jolson and other performers from the first half of the 20th century.
"This is a big salute to the golden age of entertainment," Central West Artistic Director Rene Daveluy said.
There will be jazz numbers, tap numbers and comedy pantomime acts, set to the music of Cole Porter, Count Basie and more. There also will be some singing to recorded accompaniment.
Francesca Bavaro, 2011 winner of the Gallo Center's Valley's Got Talent competition, will sing Barbra Streisand's "People." Two dancers also will show off their vocal talents. Brittnie Cudo will sing "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" and Erikka Reenstierna-Cates will sing "Get Happy."
All 35 ballet company members are participating in the show and have been working hard on learning the variety-show style. It's more difficult than it looks they are rehearsing nine hours a day. Daveluy has had them watch DVDs of vintage footage for inspiration.
"The dancers are exhausted and they have one inch of sweat," he said. "It's intense perfectionism and stamina."
Daveluy said the style of entertainment was one of his favorites as a kid. "It takes so much stagecraft and different types of movement," he said. "A lot of it is based on ballroom dancing."
Ballet Mistress Leslie Ann Larson said it's a privilege to share this classic American style of entertainment with the young dancers, who range in age from teens to their 20s. Some never before had heard of the old stars like Astaire.
"These incredible people are irreplaceable, one of a kind," Larson said. "They were so well trained in every facet. They could all sing, they could all act, they could all dance. They don't make them like that anymore. We're so lucky we have them on film to learn from them."
The show is a follow-up of sorts to the Rat Pack tribute Central West Ballet did the past two years. The company is working hard to present entertainment that is appealing to the public. While its annual holiday "Nutcracker" presentation always sells well, the classic ballets and other productions usually are not as well attended.
"This show has been harder to sell," Daveluy said. "We hope people come and see it."
WHAT: Central West Ballet: "That's Showbiz"
WHEN: 7 p.m. Oct. 19
WHERE: Rogers Theater, Gallo Center for the Arts, 1000 I St., Modesto
CALL: (209) 338-2100