Ann Arbor Summer Festival will present Big TOP Revue II fundraiser at Gratzi
“You’d be surprised how many people have a sideshow act” — or so says Robb Woulfe, executive director of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival.
Why is Woulfe talking about this? Because AASF will present circus acts, as well as vaudeville and variety entertainment, at its second annual fundraiser Big TOP Revue II, happening Feb. 22 at Gratzi. (Hors d’oeuvres, wine, and a seated, three-course meal will be part of the evening also.)
“It’s been an adventure, but fun,” Woulfe said about the Big TOP planning process. “We want to build on last year’s success, when we sold out, and when the event had more of a cabaret, burlesque kind of flair. I love being at Gratzi. I love the history of the building. But we decided to go with more of a vaudeville flavor this year, and include some circus acts, too, to mix it up and see what we come up with.”
“(The performers) are being paid, but a number of them have been generous in terms of giving us a reduced fee, since they know it’s a benefit for us,” said Woulfe.
At the time of this writing, two-thirds of the available tickets for Big TOP had been sold.
“We look to net about $15,000, so it’s not a huge fundraiser compared to those of other organizations in town,” said Woulfe. “But the money goes to support our activities, and it’s roughly what we netted last year. But this is also about getting people excited about our summer season, which will be here before we know it.”
Last year, Big TOP took place in both Gratzi and La Dolce Vita, but this year’s will be solely concentrated in Gratzi.
“Last year, we sat everybody down, and the show kicked off, but after a while, we had the feeling that the guests wanted to mix and mingle,” said Woulfe. “So this year (the event) will have a more social, mingling, walking around feel to it.”
Woulfe noted that while looking for acts to book for the event, he saw how much of a underground revival vaudeville is enjoying in certain markets.
“But there’s not a lot of it happening in downtown Ann Arbor,” said Woulfe. “There are lots of fundraisers, with organizations all finding a niche for what they do, but nobody’s really doing this type of entertainment. And we thought it fit (AASF's) personality of being adventurous and different, with the spectacle song and dance to go with it.”