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Venice’s The Silver Foxes Is A Delightfully Vibrant And Cherished Treasure

The Longtime Venice Variety Troupe Rolls Out ‘Broadway By The Sea’ Next Month, It’s 28th Season Of Performances 

Heading into its 28th year with five performances scheduled for March 24-28 at the Venice Theatre (tickets $25), Venice’s very own The Silver Foxes continues to be a vibrant and cherished local treasure. Led by its Artistic Director—the dynamic Brad Wages—and its Tap Choreographer—the lovely Maria Santagada—The Silver Foxes has a cast of 45 individual players divided among singers, dancers and actors, as well as half a dozen behind-the-scenes stage crew. The goal of the troupe is to have a lot of fun while putting on a delightful, professional show that entertains absolutely everyone. 

This year’s production is ‘Broadway By The Sea,’ and features various skits including a take on Gilligan’s Island with the Skipper, Mary Ann, the Professor and the rest of the sitcom’s crew, as well as song and dance numbers from TitanicSouth PacificBig RiverThe Little Mermaid and other films and productions.

“We spend all year working on the production, a two-hour Broadway-style show with an intermission,” says Brad, who has directed The Silver Foxes since 2014, and is just coming off directing the Venice Theatre’s production of ‘Mamma Mia!”—the theater’s highest grossing production in its history. “The Silver Foxes’ productions are fully-costumed, fully set-designed, full lights shows. They have the look and feel and energy of ‘Follies’ productions. The performances are truly wonderful. The work The Silver Foxes put into their shows is just incredible. ” 

The Silver Foxes began at the Venice Theatre almost three decades ago as a play-reading group of like-minded actors who wanted to maintain a connection to the theater. A strong and self-motivated work ethic quickly led to USO-style song productions, eventual expansion into dance and acting, and ultimately direct support from the Venice Theatre itself, as part of the theater’s education and outreach program. 

Auditions for The Silver Foxes are held annually in the fall. Those fortunate enough to make the cut are held to the highest standards of professionalism, with a rigorous, year-round practice schedule, and off-season tour that takes a pared down, one-hour version of the show on the road to neighboring communities to raise money for the Venice Theatre’s youth education programs. Last year, The Silver Foxes’ touring fees brought in over $4000 toward theater arts for children from families who cannot afford the cost of classes at the theater.

“What I love about the Foxes is that they love performing,” says Brad, who got his start as a child actor in professional productions of Oklahoma! and Hershey’s commercials. “When they first came to the Foxes, many of my actors didn’t have a lot of formal training, but they had always had that desire to be on stage. There is a lot of pure joy involved for them in doing this. My cast members aren’t doing this for any other reason than they really want to be here. The Silver Foxes creates community, deep bonds, and a lot of joy. The Foxes are wonderful to direct and work with.”

Kathryn Killinger has been a dancer with The Silver Foxes for more than 25 years, the longest serving member of the troupe. Starting as a backstage volunteer at the theater, Kathryn saw the earliest Foxes’ performances and was soon inspired to audition herself. “Shirley Gawne was The Silver Foxes’ first choreographer,” Kathryn says. “She had seen a production by retired dancers and actors out in California, and was impressed by what they could do. She brought those ideas home, and she’s the one that expanded The Silver Foxes into what it is today. She retired from The Silver Foxes ten years ago. She’s 99 this year.”

Shirley’s successor, Maria Santagada, has been the Foxes’ tap choreographer in the decade since Shirley’s retirement. She trains her Silver Foxes tap dancers every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, for two hours in the mornings. 

“When Shirley retired at age 90, Joe Simmons who was the theater director at the time asked me to take over as choreographer,” says Maria, originally from Philadelphia, and a Venice resident for three decades who first auditioned at the theater for a 1990 production of ‘George M!,’ made the chorus and has been associated with the theater ever since.  “It’s been an absolute pleasure to continue growing what was started so many years ago. The Silver Foxes have always worked to achieve great, upbeat, variety shows that offer something for everybody. The shows are exciting and fun, with great dancing, singing and comedy.”

“These are not a bunch of amateurs,” says The Silver Foxes President, Bill Saro, who came to the group after singing in a quartet that included two Silver Foxes. “This is a professional show. Everyone holds themselves to a very high standard. We have people with Broadway voices, whose voices can blow you away. My wife says I jumped fifteen feet off the ground when I got the call that I was accepted to join The Silver Foxes.”  

“I told our costume production, ‘I need fish! I need sexy fish!’ says Brad of the upcoming ‘Broadway By The Sea’ show. “We are going to have so much fun. People don’t want to miss this season. The production is polished and professional.  Everyone is going to jam in their seats.”

The Silver Foxes. March 24-28, 2020, with two matinee shows at 2:00 p.m. and evening shows at 7:30 p.m.  Tickets can be purchased at the Venice Theatre Box Office in person, or by calling at 941.488.1115, or online at

  • The Silver Foxes rehearse for their upcoming show 'Broadway By Sea' March 24-28 at the Venice Theatre
  • The Silver Foxes President Bill Saro and Tap Choreographer Maria Santagada
  • The Silver Foxes' Artistic Director Brad Wages