‘Project Runway’—the Cherry Grove Way
Story by Bruce-Michael Gelbert
Photos by Joseph R. Saporito

Move over Donna Karan! For the 10th anniversary Doctor’s Fund Benefit show, produced by Meryl Facterman and Lois McIntosh, in association with the Arts Project of Cherry Grove, at the Community House came down the runway last Saturday. Brilliant director Donald Labohn and his company spoofed fashion and design in some ebullient high jinks billed as “High Fashion Follies.” As Donald’s motto seems to be “leave them wanting more,” we reached the finale far too soon and, though weak from laughing so hard, could only cry out, “Already?” The fundraiser aided the Elmer Lindsay Memorial Center, Inc., which ensures the presence of a physician in the Grove and maintains the doctor’s office and residence. Matt Baney, Sherri Rase, Michael Romanelli and Craig Williams shared technical responsibilities; Harold Seeley on sets and props; and Richard Cooley, on hair and makeup for these “Follies.”

The curtain rose on a “Project Runway” send-up, with a fierce Urban Sprawl eliminating Margo and Lola, pronouncing Joan Van Ness the winner, and announcing, “And now, we’re going to see the collection,” as modeled by Charity, Ivanna Cocktail deputizing for a convalescing Luisa Verde (who later made a cameo appearance, with bandaged knee, pushing a broom), Donna Piranha, and Sylvia (Donald’s alter ego) and Shirley Shapiro (the last three sporting wildly extravagant “hair don’ts,” to borrow “Hairspray” lingo). Wearing “Don’t feed the model” tank tops with their fabulous black, white and red fashions, the quintet of models deadpanned Madonna’s “Vogue.”

To strains of “I Am a Very Stylish Girl,” a wry and glittering Cobra, as card girl, introduced Homecoming Queen Coco Love’s number as “The Hidden Facts about Lingerie” and Coco, in pink gown and black bustier, trimmed with silver, told us what happens to a woman’s love life “if she’s wearing silk and satin.” The “ well dressed farmer’s daughter” segment cast our exquisite HQ as a sexy Daisy Mae type, averring that all she needs is “an old straw hat, a suit of overalls [very short ones], and a worn-out pair of shoes.” In “Denim … A Fashion Statement,” Gary Greene, Roger Cortez and Rob Ferri, in blue jeans and letter sweaters, wooed “Dungaree Doll” Margo, and then became fodder for Fluffy, a harem beauty expressing appreciation for male “Buns.”

“Does Anyone Still Wear a Hat?” found Dan Daly at the keyboard delivering an original, hilarious ode to “the lady in the black cocktail hat,” with the Shapiros, Donna, Charity, Ivanna and Urban portraying those “ladies who lunch,” with frozen countenances, soon quite tipsy and anything but ladylike. “Fashion is a passion we spend cash on every day,” sang Dan, in another catchy song that he wrote.

“A Diff’rent Kinda Style” juxtaposed Lindsay Center President Joanne Tavis, Bobbie Green and Doreen Rallo’s break-dancing, in heavy gold chains and baggy sweats or jeans, with boxer shorts showing, with its cultural opposite, a foursquare Rat Pack declaration, “You’ve either got or you haven’t got style.” In “Fashion Cut-ups and Cut-outs,” Joan clothed Margo, her life-sized “Paper Doll,” in paper finery. Exasperated salesman Roger tried footwear on finicky Donna, desperately seeking “what makes a feminine girl,” in “If the shoe fits ...”

In “‘Old Fashioned’ Fashion Advice,” the Shapiros, in little black dresses embellished with feathers and jewels, urged, “Don’t be too old fashioned, old fashioned girl.” They donned huge lipstick, powder puff, rouge, and mascara headdresses. To an Ethel Merman-style take on “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” in “A Word to the Wise…accessorize!” Charity adorned herself from a treasure chest full of jewelry. Margo portrayed a discontented “Second Hand Rose,” equipped with a rack of “second hand clothes” and aspiring to no more than “thrift shop chic.”

Sylvia was the inspired designer, fervently exhorting, “Think Pink,” in “Sylvia Sez … Color it Chic!” and, assisted by models Bobbie, Doreen, Joan, Lola, Coco and Urban, cornering the market on pink ties, shorts, shirts, sneakers, slacks, gowns, and wigs, but haughtily asserting, about the hue, “I wouldn’t be caught dead in it!” Roger and Rob, cracking whips, and Gary, all chained, leashed, and giving in to “Temptation,” made a loving trio in the sexy, all black leather skit, “Basic Black without the Pearls.”

When a tuxedoed Joann danced with elegant “Beautiful Girl” Lois Pisano, in “A Look for Every Occasion,” and it turned into a production number featuring Margo, Ivanna, Urban, Cobra, Donna (Cleopatra as bathing beauty), Lola, Fluffy, Sylvia, Coco, Charity (in purple fur), Shirley, and Lois, again, as brides, and Gary, Roger, Bobbie, Doreen, Joan, Rob, Dan and Joann, again, as grooms, we knew we had, alas, arrived at the evening’s end, with only Joann’s presentation of an award from the Lindsay Center to Donald/Sylvia, for a decade of accomplishments, remaining as a grace note.