by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – For 37 years, the annual Viviano Variety Show has operated under the theatrical credo “the show must go on!”
But as Geoffrey Chaucer wrote in medieval times, “all good things must come to an end”.
And so the “Viviano Variety Show,” a holiday tradition for many Kansas City-area families, will have its 38th and final performance on Nov. 19.
“People asked, ‘Jerry, is there a reason you’re closing the show?’ It’s like any good novel. You have a good first chapter, several middle chapters and a final chapter,” said Viviano, the founder, performer and host. “After much deliberation and prayer, it’s time.”
Over its nearly four decades, the show has raised $2.25 million for various local charities, primarily for Catholic charities in northeast Kansas. Not bad for something that started as a family vacation reunion in the early 1980s and got a little out of control.
The final show will take place at the Rose Theater at Rockhurst High School, located at 9301 State Line Rd. in Kansas City, Missouri. Doors open at 5:50 p.m. Hearty appetizers and drinks will be served in the atrium until 6:45 p.m. The show begins at 7 p.m.
There will be four appetizer stations: American, Italian and Mexican – the latter courtesy of Rudy’s Tenampa Taqueria, a popular family restaurant in the Kansas City area. The fourth is a dessert station.
“The show will be full of fun,” said Viviano, a member of the parish priest of Ars in Leawood. “We’re going to have great artists.”
The show will also be filled with song, dance, humor and, of course, nostalgia.
Acts will (appropriately) include 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 artist from Chicago.
Kansas City-area native Liz Kelley, one of the first 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 started singing at the corner of Eighth and Carr in downtown St. Louis when they were teenagers. The Viviano brothers will come together to sing the music of Les 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 get-togethers Jerry and his wife Megan held in their tiny duplex home — will also be shared.
The show has always had a fourfold mission, Viviano said.
First, it was about bringing family and friends together for an evening of fun and good, clean, pleasant fellowship. Second, it was to raise awareness of the charities they supported and the people who were helped. Third, it was about raising money to fund the good works done by these charities.
“And fourth, most importantly, was to motivate everyone in the theater to reach out and help others in the name of Jesus Christ Our Lord,” Viviano said.
Viviano gives a lot of credit for the show’s early success thanks to the support of her then pastor, Father Anthony Lickteig.
“The reason it started was just one of those ways for a group of young men to do something with the talents they had in church service,” Fr. Lickteig said. “Then we invited them to the Sainte-Croix 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 eventually they settled at Rockhurst High School. The Jesuits have been very generous in supporting [the Vivianos].”
Father Lickteig called the long-running show a great example of what people can do to serve the church and an inspiration for others to use their own talents and not sit on the sidelines.
The list of people who have contributed to the making of the series is very long, but Viviano is particularly grateful for the key roles played by Dan Carney as the series’ producer and Patrick Komlofske as director of food services.
Viviano is hoping for the best turnout ever for the final show, producing a big donation to Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas. Tickets are $35 for reserved seating and $25 for general admission. All seats are good, he promised.
For tickets go to:
• [email protected]
• Dial (913) 433-2068