Only a few figures in South Florida theater history conjure the cornucopias of affection and anecdotes as does Jan McArt, the actress-director-producer often called The First Lady of Florida Musical Theater.
There’s even a Facebook page with 247 members, “We Worked at the Royal Palm Dinner Theatre.”
That page has led to a planned reunion of employees, supporters, fans and friends July 8 connected to the production of Jesus Christ Superstar by Entr’acte Theatrix and Palm Beach Principal Players slated to play at the Count de Hoernle Theater in Boca Raton, the former home of the Caldwell Theatre Company.
Entr’acte Company Manager Michael Lifshitz, who got a major acting break through McArt and whose son worked for her as well, said the fete will occur after the 3 p.m. Superstar show. For an extra $15, you can enjoy the kind of dinner that the cast and staff frequently enjoyed following the Sunday matinee at her theater: pizza.
A piano and pianist will be available, so guests are encouraged to bring sheet music and serenade the crowd.
The idea evolved among some of the Facebook page members.
McArt ran the 225-seat Royal Palm Dinner Theatre in Boca Raton from 1977 as a commercial venture for 21 years, then turned non-profit for another three years. It produced scores of mainstream musicals, some starring McArt, and many directed by the late Bob Bogdanoff. She also created a theater in Key West and a children’s theater.
“Jan was so important to so many people in a professional way. It really was a magical place,” Lifshitz said.
McArt herself said Friday, “It was a momentous time for almost 25 years. I probably gave more Equity cards during that period than anybody.”
In fact, when seeing Anything Goes in New York last week, she scanned the Playbill and recognized the name of one of the producers as a performer in her children’s program during the dinner theater days.
Currently, McArt continues her long involvement in theater education in the classroom and on area stages by serving as director of the fledgling Theatre Arts Program Development at Lynn University.
McArt said she cherishes the opportunity “to see all those people again. People get scattered to the winds. I’m really thrilled and honored that people remember. It’s the old thing, ‘If you stay around long enough…’ ”