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Comedy, magic show conjures humor, awe for a worthy cause

March 24, 2003|by BONNIE HELLUM BRECHBILL

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - When the spotlight in Chambersburg's newly renovated Capitol Theatre fell on animated illusionist Ardan James, he appeared to be a mannequin.

As he began to move, he looked more like a robot than a human. His jerky movements to perfectly synchronized music and his black-tie-and-tails gave his performance an air of unreality.

Without speaking a word, James held the audience rapt throughout his act, the final one in the 16th Annual Comedy and Magic Spectacular.

A performer who travels the world from his home base in Wisconsin, James beckoned a young boy from the audience to assist him on stage.

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Matthew Marshall, 11, said he was not afraid, even though his eyes were covered much of the time by a top hat, and James suddenly picked him up and swung him around.

"It was fun," he said.

A sixth-grader at Chambersburg Area Middle School, Matthew said he had never been on stage before. He attended the show with his mother, Shari Jays, and younger sister.

Most of the audience members at the matinee were families with young children and grandparents with grandchildren. The acts were highly professional and content was suitable for all ages.

Sponsored by the Chambersburg Exchange Club, the Spectacular's proceeds benefit the ESCAPE Parent-Child Center of Franklin County.

Cindy Adams, a magic show committee member, said the Parent-Child Center is funded solely by the Exchange Club. It provides counseling and parent-child classes to local families.

The Exchange Club is a nationwide organization whose focus is the prevention of child abuse. The local chapter also buys school shoes, clothing and gifts for underprivileged children.

Another fund-raiser is an annual dinner dance.

"Ninety percent of the money the club raises stays in the community," Adams said.

Emcee R.G. Smith of Chambersburg travels the world as a professional entertainer and selects the best acts he can find. The group he put together this year will perform eight shows in six locations: Chambersburg, Harrisburg, Chester County, Hanover and Lancaster, Pa., and Frederick, Md., to help fund child abuse prevention centers.

The Comedy and Magic Spectacular played to two full houses Saturday in the 700-seat theater.

"This is the best show Chambersburg puts on that the community can attend," Adams said.

World-renowned comedy magician Tom Burgoon of Kansas City performed at President Bush's inaugural ball in 2001. In Chambersburg, he entertained the audience with three ropes that appeared to change lengths and a Swiss warbler, a small device that fits in the mouth and makes realistic bird noises.

Husband-and-wife team Gulamerian, from New York state, made their white Samoyeds seem to appear and disappear in a glass box. One of the dogs assisted in a card trick.

The only local act was Jaron Nalewak and seven other Chambersburg Area Senior High School students. In an act originally developed for a school talent show, Nalewak was dressed as a cafeteria worker, and as he sang other students came out on stage dressed as food such as french fries, Sloppy Joes and pizza.

The revival and enhancement of the Adam Sandler "Saturday Night Live" skit delighted the audience, especially when the "food" jumped off the stage and did the hokeypokey in the aisles.

Nalewak is a defensive end on the school football team and a three-time regional all-star.

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