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Larry King returns -- on stage, not TV -- for cash-short FCLO Music Theatre

January 19, 2011 |  9:00 am

LarryKing2010MathieuYoungCNN If anyone out there is suffering withdrawal symptoms after a month without a daily fix of Larry King's voice and visage on the tube, relief is on the way -- not just for you, but for the financially beleaguered FCLO Music Theatre in Fullerton.

Having signed off from CNN's "Larry King Live" on Dec. 16 after 25 years and more than 6,000 shows, King will return Feb. 13 with a live chat with as many as 1,300 onlookers at Plummer Auditorium in Fullerton, in a benefit for the venerable stage company that had to hand off its 2011 season to an outside producer because of a cash shortage.

FCLO's press release promises that King will provide "humorous...anecdotes and stories from his youth as a street-smart kid in Brooklyn," and reminisce about the broadcasting career in which he's said to have done more than 50,000 interviews. For $50 in the orchestra or $30 in the balcony, ticket-holders will get a shot at interviewing King, after a fashion: the evening will include an audience Q&A. Those willing to pay extra can press King further at a restaurant meet-and-greet after the show. Information: (714) 879-1732

The opening act is country singer Shawn Southwick King, the star's wife since 1997. While the two had filed for divorce last year, they got over the 13-year-itch and called back the papers that would have executed King's eighth marital breakup.

Griff Duncan, who has run FCLO (formerly Fullerton Civic Light Opera) since 1972 with his wife, Jan, said King's decision to pitch in is a dividend of having done it up royally last fall in what turned out to be FCLO's last full production for a while: a new musical adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre."

JaneEyreFCLOKurtJarrard2010 The Times review noted that "FCLO commits wholeheartedly to this sprawling, "Les Miserables"-like venture, giving it a big set, a big cast (36) and a pretty big orchestra (20)." Evidently, the effort was much-appreciated by the show's creators, composer Jerry Williams and book-writer Patricia York, and their manager, Karl Engemann, who happens to be Larry King's father-in-law. Not to mention Larry and Shawn King, who caught the opening night performance and, says Duncan, plugged it to their friends.

After the news broke in December that FCLO was suffering financially, Engemann called and said, "hey, we're going to help," Duncan said.

The announcement earlier this month that another Orange County production company, 3D Theatricals, would mount the already-announced 2011 season in FCLO's stead absolved the nonprofit company from about $600,000 it would have owed its subscribers, but Duncan said there's still $187,000 in debt on the books -- $87,000 in back rent for Plummer Auditorium, and $100,000 to pay back a personal loan he made to FCLO to pay expenses.

Duncan said the plan is to get out of debt within 12 months, using a combination of fundraising, revenue from a summer dinner theater series in the 150-seat "Sky Room" at FCLO's building in Fullerton, and earnings from the costume and set-rental business that has long helped sustain its production wing. It's too soon to say for sure that FCLO will be staging full productions again to celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2012, Duncan said, but the idea is to get out of debt, amass a budget for shows, and get back on the boards.


LarryShawnKingandkids About (late) last night: Larry King trades jokes and memories with Jay Leno

Larry King signs off

A new company (with Sally Struthers) steps in for ailing Fullerton musical theater group

Fullerton theater will likely be forced to reduce or cancel its 2011 season

Theater review: 'Jane Eyre' by FCLO Music Theatre

-- Mike Boehm

 Photos: Larry King during his last show on CNN. Scene from 2010 "Jane Eyre" at FCLO Music Theatre. Credits: Mathieu Young/CNN (King); Kurt Jarrard/FCLO Music Theatre.