Traverse City Record-Eagle

Arts & Entertainment

July 3, 2014

Singer, actress stars in 'Bella Musica'

TRAVERSE CITY— Monica Spencer didn’t make the cut as one of this year’s National Cherry Festival Queen finalists. And it’s probably just as well.

The 23-year-old singer and actress spent the weeks leading up to festival creating a musical revue for the Lake Leelanau restaurant Bella Fortuna North. She also directs and stars in the show, fittingly called “Bella Musica.”

“It’s been really fun,” said Spencer, who performed with the international touring group the Young Americans, played in community and dinner theater around the state, and sang with the early 20th-century style Bijou Orchestra near her hometown of Bay City. “I got to do the stage for it, I got to sew a lot of costumes for it.”

The dinner theater event at Bella Fortuna opens July 9 in the restaurant’s 50-seat “Sala Fiorentina” and runs Wednesdays and Thursdays for the rest of the month. It features dishes from the Tuscan menu prepared by new executive chef Mario Deruta and served buffet-style before the two-act show.

Dessert and coffee is served at intermission.

“The performers are bussing tables,” said Spencer, who based the show’s format on The Whistling Idiots Comedy Dinner Theatre of Bay City, where she was a regular. She worked extra hours there in exchange for some of her own show's 10 costume changes.

Besides Spencer, the revue stars Ben Bartell, Elijah Curry and Heather Durham, all vocal or musical theater college students, teachers or performers. It features solos, duets and other group numbers in a variety of genres, from Broadway classics and contemporary tunes to folk and soft rock.

All are performed to backing tracks or Bartell’s piano, guitar or ukulele and feature projected images in lieu of sets.

“There are a lot of familiar songs but we are creating our own versions,” said Spencer, whose show includes “Signed, Sealed Delivered, I’m Yours,” medleys about home and friends, duet versions of "The Prayer" and Frank Sinatra's “The Lady is a Tramp,” and the iconic World War II tune “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” “It’s a fast-paced show and it is demanding, both physically and vocally.”

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