It all started with a shoe.
Entertainment Explosion’s “A Really Big Shoe,” being produced Sunday at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, is a variety show combining music, humor, tap dance and a desire to raise money for homeless children and others in need.
So what does the shoe have to do with it?
“There was this big editorial in the daily Olympian about how many homeless and needy kids there were in Thurston County,” said Jeanne Vosburgh, Entertainment Explosion’s president. “There was a story about a little kid who never went out to recess because he had hand-me-down shoes that were too big, and besides they had a hole in them, and the mud and the slop came in and he sat there with wet feet all afternoon if he went out.”
The members of Entertainment Explosion, a nonprofit group of entertainers ages 55 and older, wanted to help. And they do.
In recent years, each “Shoe” — and Sunday’s will be the eighth — has raised about $25,000; the money is divided among the eight school districts surrounding Olympia, and Community Youth Services, a nonprofit working with youths at risk. School district statistics show there were about 1,400 homeless students enrolled in Thurston County schools in the 2012-13 year.
“From year to year, the only money that’s kept is the down payment to (put on the show at) The Washington Center,” Vosburgh said.
So the Explosion crew works year round, putting on shows for senior centers, service clubs and more, sharing their art and making a little bit of money here and there to help pay the other costs of mounting the “Shoe.”
“It’s a group of pretty much professional people, the actors and singers,” she said.
The “Really Big Shoe” was inspired by “The Ed Sullivan Show” opening, in which Sullivan’s pronunciation of “show” was a little off, sounding a lot like what he was wearing on his feet.
This year’s “Shoe” includes a movie theme, with skits titled “Grumpy Old Men” and “You’ve Got Mail” (about a lady with an online secret admirer), songs including “Rainbow Connection” and “Ghostbusters,” and a farcical modern dance routine.
“It’s a glitzy production for a bunch of people 55 and older,” Vosburgh said.
That includes set designers Helene and Bill Pearch, who worked for many years with Southern Ohio Light Opera. Helene Pearch designs the sets and takes the lead on painting, while Bill Pearch has the technical know-how to hang them from the rails above the stage, which allows the scenery to hang above the performers and to move during the show.
The process of creating the scenery takes about three weeks and lots of help from other members of the group.
“People come out to our cold garage and help us cut out the different pieces, and then a different set of people comes in another day and they do base painting, and then some other people will come another day and do some of the finish painting,” Helene Pearch said.
In keeping with the movie theme, this year’s set will have two large movie reels with a loop of film between them and a clapper board, used to indicate the start of a new take, Helene Pearch said. For the song “Old Devil Moon,” a moon will descend to hang above the stage.
The Pearches have created scenery for the show for five years.
“They are the most astounding set makers,” Vosburgh said.
A Really Big Shoe 8: EE Goes to the Movies
What: Entertainment Explosion, a group of entertainers ages 55 and older, presents its annual variety show fundraiser for children in need.
When: 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia