Steve Ivings and Lena Palermo perform in Curtain Up!, playing Aug. 4 and 5 in the Charlie White Theatre and Aug. 11 and 12 at Dave Dunnet Theatre. Photo submitted

Saanich couple live their life on the stage

Cadboro Bay singer and comic perform together in Curtain Up! in Sidney and Oak Bay

They met in Esquimalt, worked in Sidney, moved to Toronto and now they’ve returned to live in Saanich. All because of their “life on the stage”.

Comic/impressionist Steve Ivings and singer Lena Palermo met 18 years ago in rehearsals of On Broadway, a show created by Bob LeBlanc for the Victoria Operatic Society. After that, Steve and Lena, now a couple, continued to work onstage together.

For three summers they appeared in Fabulous Fridays at the Charlie White Theatre in Sidney. Steve wrote, directed and performed in the variety shows, which combined music, dance and comedy, while Lena was the lead singer.

After the third season Palermo left to pursue her theatrical ambitions in Toronto but not before Ivings got down on one knee and proposed. The proposal took place on the stage of the Charlie White Theatre at the end of a performance (Lena said “yes”).

Ivings followed Palermo to Toronto a year later and, after a decade there (where they owned a 100-seat theatre) they returned to Victoria. They bought a house in Cordova Bay and started looking for a project. That’s when the phone rang. It was their old friend Bob LeBlanc.

A decade earlier LeBlanc had formed a musical singing group called Variety Fare which had built a strong following. Variety Fare did over 100 performances at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel – the last group to perform in the “old” hotel and the first group to perform in the “new” hotel. They were the featured act for three seasons at the Ambrosia Dinner Theatre and played the Charlie White Theatre over a dozen times.

So when it was time to put together another production LeBlanc contacted Ivings. The show would be called Curtain Up! and feature the timeless music of Broadway and Hollywood.

LeBlanc wanted Ivings to utilize his talents as a celebrity impressionist to add some comedy to the show. (In Curtain Up! Ivings impersonates over 60 stars from stage and film). And LeBlanc needed some new singers for the ever-changing membership of Variety Fare as well. He asked Palermo to join the show, remembering her amazing voice from his On Broadway show of years ago.

LeBlanc then signed the other members of Variety Fare: Jo Barnes, Katya Delancey, Helena Descoteau, Craig Wilson and Coby Miller. All was set and rehearsals began. The eight talented people worked hard and now Curtain Up! is ready to go.

And for Ivings and Palermo, back onstage together again, the always fascinating theatrical journey continues. Curtain Up! featuring Bob LeBlanc’s Variety Fare and special guest Steve Ivings perform Aug. 4 at 8 p.m. and Aug. 5 at 2 p.m. at the Charlie White Theatre in the Mary Winspear Centre and Aug. 11 at 8 p.m. and Aug. 12 at 2 p.m. in the Dave Dunnet Theatre at Oak Bay High. For more information and to book tickets visit: varietyfare.ca.

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