Volunteers at the heart of Phyllis’ Musical Revue and Fashion Show

kleslie@thetribunenews.comFebruary 14, 2014 

The annual Phyllis’ Musical Revue and Fashion Show that has raised $3 million for the Women’s Shelter Program of San Luis Obispo County wouldn’t exist without 400 volunteers — to stage the event, model and dance.

At the heart of this group is a close-knit collection of Madonna Inn employees and longtime volunteers who each dedicate hundreds of hours annually. As soon as one year’s event wraps up, they begin planning the next one.

Phyllis Madonna, who started the show in 1987 to help those affected by domestic and child abuse in the county, has long produced the event and performs in it. She’ll open the show singing “Edelweiss” this year.

Retail manager Cheri Humphrey, a 31-year employee of the inn, has worked on the revue every year since its origin.

Working with Pam Copeland, who has volunteered with the revue for 23 years, Humphrey oversees all of the event’s organization, with a special focus on the modeling segments featuring clothing from the shops at the Madonna Inn.

“It’s just grown and grown and grown over the years,” Humphrey said.

Other volunteers include Copper Café waiter Josh Ekblom, retail coordinator Lauren Chester, spa director Alexandra Sutton and inn artistic director Amanda Rich, who spend their time choreographing the event’s dance numbers — and participating in them.

“I really love everyone that I work with,” Rich said. “I know it’s a lot of hours, but it doesn’t feel like it. I’m always looking forward to it.”

Ekblom, a former Disneyland and Radio City Music Hall dancer, has worked at the inn for three years. This year, he’s choreographing the children’s and finale routines.

“Expect the unexpected with the finale,” he said.

Chester, a longtime dancer, said she always wanted to get involved in the show but was never exactly sure how to ask to be in it. About seven years ago, Humphrey recruited Chester and her husband to perform a dance number.

The next year, Humphrey asked her to choreograph a dance. Since then, Chester has choreographed and participated in numerous dance numbers. This year she’s choreographing the teen and couples’ dance numbers.

Sutton has been involved with the show since 2007. This year she is choreographing the men’s number — typically one of the hardest numbers in the performance to choreograph, Humphrey said, because of participants who include elected officials and other high-profile local personalities.

None of the choreographers would reveal details of this year’s dance numbers. “You’ll have to buy a ticket,” Humphrey joked.

Besides the choreographers, other longtime volunteers do a little bit of everything to help prepare for the event — from soliciting auction and raffle items to selling tickets.

Last year, the team raised $173,300, just shy of its $175,000 goal. This year, they set the bar higher at $200,000, and between a practically sold-out show on Saturday night and full crowds the other three performances, it looks like they might reach that goal, Humphrey said.

Tickets are $65 per person for the two lunch shows March 7 and 8, $110 for the March 7 dinner show and $120 for the March 8 dinner show. For more information, email cheri@madonnainn.com or call 805-784-2441.

GALLERY: Photos of the 2013 Phyllis' Musical Revue and Fashion Show »

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