Annual Fundraiser Coming to Atascadero Lake Pavilion March 21-23

2018 Champions
Brian Reeves and Brenda May
Photo by Cheryl Strahl

The 10th annual Atascadero’s Dancing With Our Stars is just around the corner and will raise funds for nonprofits around the North County. This year’s theme is “Time Machine: Back to the ‘80s” and will explore different dances and music from the ‘80s on Thursday, March 21, Friday, March 22 and Saturday, March 23 at 5:30 p.m. at Atascadero Pavilion on the Lake.

The champion of the event is chosen by how much money is raised by the dancer. Each vote is $10 through March 19 and then $20 per vote through the final night. Votes are cast by putting cash or check into the dancer’s collection container or by donating online at FriendsoftheAtascaderoLibrary.org.

“The idea of using ’80s music was already in hand when I sat down with Jeannie Malik to brainstorm,” Dancing With Our Stars Director Molly Comin said. “I graduated high school in 1988, so this music is definitely in my wheelhouse.”

This is Comin’s first year as director, but not her first participating in the event. She and her husband, Giovanni, competed in the first event in 2009.

“I have also appeared as a guest performer throughout the years, dancing in the Can-Can with Christina Troxel and Janet McClellan. I performed a Folklorico piece with Eddie Rodriguez, a solo tap performance to ‘Singing in the Rain,’ as well as a Flamenco number to the Maleguena with Oscar Gutierrez and Koby Wescom,” Comin said. “When I was contacted to consider the director’s position for 2019, I was quite honored and confident that my experience as a dance teacher, choreographer, stage actor and Dancing With Our Stars alumni would make this a fun challenge for me.”

Comin takes over as director from Frank Sanchez who had directed the show for four years. He decided, at 90 years of age, to step down as director for this year’s fundraiser, but he’s not gone.
“This year I needed a rest and we were lucky that Molly Comin took over as director,” Sanchez said. “I thought I would just enjoy watching from the audience. Then, I got a  call that someone had dropped out and could I choreograph for one star? I said yes. Then another call for another star, I said yes again. Then “how about one vignette?” I said okay. So, I’m involved and having a wonderful time. Director Molly is a polished performer and extremely talented. I know it is going to be great.”

Sanchez will participate in a vignette with his granddaughter, Mia, who is 20 years old. He is also choreographing numbers for two stars and their partners: Jan Lynch and Steffi Ketzler.
“I wrote, directed, and choreographed the last four ‘Dancing With Our Stars’ years,” Sanchez said.

2015: “Wonderful World of Dance”

2016: “Musical Movie Magic”

2017: “Show Stoppers”

2018: “Dancing on Broadway”

“When Jeannie Malik asked me for help, she allowed me the freedom to change the format completely,” he said. “I added big musical production numbers between each of the star’s dance performances. The audience seemed to love the shows as the demand for tickets went up tremendously.”

The idea for this year’s theme was cemented when Comin was visiting her brother-in-law Joel Mason, a comedian and tribute artist. They were watching “Back to the Future” and knew that it would be a great guide for the show.

“Joel, Jeannie and I came up with ‘Atascadero Time Machine: back to the ’80s’ and I made a phone call immediately to Paso Robles Mayor and Dancing With Our Stars alum Steve Martin to see if he would play the part of the wacky Doc Brown from the movie,” Comin said. “His response [was], ‘I think this role may be perfect for me.’”

Comin said the audiences for this year’s performances will be in for a treat. There will be a live pianist playing before the show during dinner.

“The fast-paced competition will be filled with music from country to Samba, ZZ Top to Michael Jackson, and even Joy Bonner will sing fabulous ’80s diva songs while we wait for the votes to tally,” Comin said. “Name your favorite artist from that era, and we probably squeezed it in. We highlight the greatest movies of that decade too. ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Ghostbusters,’ and ‘Dirty Dancing’ are just a few. This show is crazy fun and if the audience is not exhausted from laughing, singing along, and dancing at the end of it, I’ll be surprised.”

Tickets went on sale in mid-January and are expected to sell out quickly. Tickets are $85 per person and include wine from Opolo Vineyards, beer from Central Coast Brewing, appetizers, a buffet dinner catered by Pacific Harvest Catering, plated dessert, coffee and the show. There will also be a silent auction during the event each night. The championship trophies will be presented only on Saturday, March 23 at the conclusion of the show.

“It’s amazing that the ‘80s ended 30 years ago,” Friends of the Atascadero Library President Linda Zirk said. “MTV had a big impact on almost all young people at that time — and I’m sure our choreographers learned to dance to those tunes, perhaps to Madonna or Michael Jackson.”