Holiday on ice benefits restoration of former Denis Theater

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Several art forms will converge for Mt. Lebanon's Holiday on Ice.

The Dec. 27 presentation will feature figure skaters and live music and have a culinary component, with proceeds benefitting the restoration of the former Denis Theatre. The concept may cover a lot of artistic ground, but it's not exactly original.

"For several years, my wife and I went to Wheeling Symphony on Ice," Dave Christopher, event chairman for Holiday on Ice, said of the West Virginia performances. "We had a lot of fun, and I guess I basically I brought the idea back to Pittsburgh."

Specifically, he brought it to Music for Mt. Lebanon, which has been presenting concerts for 67 years.

The group is collaborating with the Skating Club of Mt. Lebanon, which has been active for more than half a century, and is earmarking some of the event's proceeds toward restoring the 74-year-old Denis in the heart of the business district.

Along with audio and visual entertainment, Holiday on Ice includes dinner for guests who purchase patron tables, which will be set up right next to the action on the Mt. Lebanon Ice Center surface.

Barb Calfo of Peters, skating club president, said skaters from age 6 to adult are looking forward to putting their skills on display for a community audience.

"Some of the coaches are very familiar with the Symphony On Ice in Wheeling," Mrs. Calfo said. "But the younger skaters have never been exposed to that. They're up for the challenge."

A 19-piece orchestra accompanied by four vocalists will perform, provided by Greensburg-based Latshaw Productions. The concert promotion and marketing company has presented more than 4,000 events in its 30 years of existence.

"It's a very upscale operation," Mr. Christopher said. "Our music director, Rich Pinkerton, came up with them, and he's very enthusiastic about them."

Music for Mt. Lebanon is sharing proceeds from Holiday On Ice with the Denis Theatre Foundation, the nonprofit organization that is working to reopen the Washington Road landmark. An anonymous donor recently gave $100,000 toward the effort, and there is a possibility that amount could be doubled.

"If we raise $200,000 ourselves, a challenge grant of another $100,000 will come due," said Jennifer Smokelin, president of the foundation's board of directors. Nearly $50,000 has come in toward that goal so far.

The foundation hopes to have the first phase of the theater project, which focuses on infrastructure upgrades, completed with an eye toward reopening part of the theater late next year or in early 2014.

"Once that's open and generating income, we will be able to redo the back end of theater," Mrs. Smokelin said.

The total renovation cost is an estimated $4.5 million. The intent of the project is to provide more than a place to watch movies.

"It's not just an independent film theater. It's a community cultural center," Mrs. Smokelin said, with the potential for a variety of performance and visual arts events such as musical performances, photography exhibits and poetry readings.

She acknowledged Music for Mt. Lebanon's longtime support of the arts and the group's efforts on the theater's behalf.

"We are very pleased to have Music for Mt. Lebanon include us as a beneficiary," she said.

General admission tickets for Holiday on Ice are $20 and can be purchased at www.showclix.com or by calling 412-264-3354. Patron tables of eight at $1,000 per table can be ordered at 412-258-4814. Dinner starts at 6:30 p.m. and the show at 7:30.

neigh_south

Harry Funk, freelance writer; suburbanliving@post-gazette.com


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