In 1997, local publicist and society writer Gloria Zigner had an idea: gather a handful of noted Orange County executives, philanthropists and other community members, teach them dance routines and songs, and put them on stage as a fundraiser for CHOC hospital.
The idea worked.
Now, 17 years later, the CHOC Follies has become an annual philanthropic institution that has raised more than $6 million.
This year’s installment of CHOC Follies, “CHOCTON Abbey, the Musical Ups and Downs of Orange County High Life” – a parody of the popular PBS series “Downtown Abbey” – runs March 28 through 30 at the Robert B. Moore Theatre at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa.
The cast members rehearse twice a week for several months to learn the dance numbers and songs. The cast includes business leaders, politicians, and even a few “ringers” that are professional dancers and singers. Some are new to the CHOC follies, others return year after year.
“This is the most wonderful group of human beings you’d want to spend a couple of months with,” said Newport Beach resident Pamela Roossin during a recent Saturday morning
rehearsal. “You leave rehearsal with more energy than when you started, and it’s all for such an amazing cause. I can only imagine how awful it would be to have a child and not be able to afford medical care.”
Roossin is one of the ringers: She’s a dancer and singer, and holds two U.S. and four world titles in ballroom dancing.
“This is my fourth year, and I’m passionate about it,” she said. “I’m pretty good at raising money for things I’m passionate about.”
Passion also drives Newport Beach resident Rebecca Hall, president and CEO of PR agency Idea Hall.
“I took dance lessons and sang in the choir when I was a kid, and I feel like a kid again when I come here and rehearse,” said Hall, who marks her fourth year with CHOC Follies. “I get to revisit passions that you let go of when you pursue a career, and it’s nice to use those passions for a good cause. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a joy. Ultimately, it’s for the kids.”
Hall said people in her office think she’s crazy when they see her on stage in the show, but noted that her company is committed to a variety of causes.
“I like to walk the walk,” explained Hall. “Our team is focused on making a difference in the community.”
Performances of “CHOCTON Abbey” are March 27 – 29 at 8 p.m., with a matinee March 29 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $45 to $125. For more information, visit chocfollies.org.