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A 25th year of fundraising for the Women's Shelter

jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

For 25 years, Phyllis’ Musical Revue and Fashion Show has occupied a permanent spot on the Central Coast’s social calendar. Folks flock to the Madonna Inn each year to see elaborate costumes, dramatic lighting and splashy song-and-dance numbers starring some of the county’s most prominent residents.

“They’re coming for the Women’s Shelter, but they’re also coming for the food and the entertainment,” event founder Phyllis Madonna said, referring to the fundraiser’s sole beneficiary, the Women’s Shelter Program of San Luis Obispo County. “We put on a show that I think is amazing.”

Phyllis’ Musical Revue celebrates its 25th anniversary with “Encore!,” a star-studded extravaganza March 2 and 3 at the Alex Madonna Expo Center in San Luis Obispo.

“It’s going to be the best show ever,” organizer Cheri Humphrey said.

Phyllis’ Musical Revue began life as a cramped luncheon at the Madonna Inn’s Gold Rush Steak House.

“It was at capacity” with 250 people, Madonna said.

She soon added more shows on the advice of her husband, real estate mogul Alex Madonna.

“He said, ‘You work so hard on this show every year. Why don’t you do a dinner show with a steak dinner?’ ” Madonna recalled, noting that the event now features four performances over two days.

About 1,500 people are expected to attend “Encore!” at the Expo Center, where the musical revue has been held since 2006. In addition to lunch or dinner, they’ll enjoy a silent auction, music, dancing, and men and women modeling the latest fashions from St. John Knits, Tommy Bahama and other popular brands.

Phyllis Madonna traditionally enlists local luminaries as models and performers.

“Encore!” features 110 participants, including San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx, county Sheriff Ian Parkinson and all five county supervisors.

“We’ve had them in hula skirts. We’ve had them (dress up) as cowboys, as opera singers, as dancers,” Madonna said. “They’re just thrilled to do whatever we want.”

In fact, she said, the event creates a sense of community.

“You see each other once a year, but there’s a special togetherness. There’s a special feeling we have for one another,” she said.

Added Humphrey, “It’s like a family reunion every January through March.”

That said, most family reunions don’t feature a musical performance by the clan matriarch.

Although Madonna bowed out as master of ceremonies last year, the 83-year-old said she’ll be back in the spotlight this March. “I love being on stage, always have,” said Madonna, who has performed songs such as “Hello, Dolly!” and “You Raise Me Up” in the past.

Whether she’s involved or not, Madonna said she’s confident the show will go on.

“I feel that if I just dropped out completely and left this earth, (Phyllis’ Fashion Show) would go on exactly the same,” she said. “It will never stop.”

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