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The Villages

Villages couple looking forward to bringing Showcase of Talent back to life

Diana and Joe Arlt spent the past seven years exposing local performers and raising more than $75,000 for charity with the Showcase of Talent.

The Coronavirus put a halt to the popular monthly variety shows at La Hacienda Recreation Center back in March. Diana Arlt makes it clear that the Showcase of Talent is down but not out.

Diana and Joe Arlt hope to eventually return with the Showcase of Talent.

“We are more than ready to return,” she said. “Right now, with social distancing and concerns about the virus, we just can’t do it. We’re hoping to come back around the first of the year.”

The Showcase of Talent became an entertainment staple in The Villages. Each monthly show featured 12 to 15 local acts, including singers, dancers, comedians and musicians.

For many, the show was an opportunity to display their talent and develop a following. The list of performers includes Larry Rivellese, Billie Thatcher, Mark Steven Schmidt, Jan Lavin, Bill Davis, Jack Kolinski, Phil Caltabelotta, Carolyn Hoffman, Georgianne Hill and many more.

The Travelin’ Shoes Cloggers were one of the many dance groups on the Showcase stage.

Jan Lavin often performs at the Showcase of Talent.

Evolution Dance, Music in Motion, The Villages Pop Chorus, The Villages Twirlers, Shaka Crew and The Travelin’ Shoes Cloggers are among the groups that performed.

“We try to get as many people and acts on stage as we can,” said Arlt, also a singer who regularly performs for the Showcase. “We really enjoy giving new talent a chance to be seen. Anyone can audition for our show.”

Tickets cost $5 and the shows usually sell out. All money raised goes to charity, including the Opera Club of The Villages, Young Performing Artists of Wildwood and The Villages Jazz Club scholarship program.

“We want to help young musicians and singers as much as possible,” Arlt said.

Larry Rivellese sang opera to an appreciative audience during a past Showcase of Talent.

Like most performers in The Villages, Arlt is anxious to get back singing in public. She will do so with a tribute to Karen Carpenter on Nov. 18, at 2 p.m., outside on the lawn near the Fenney Recreation Center. Harmonica maestro Phil Caltabelotta also will perform.

“I don’t think people appreciate Karen Carpenter as much as they should,” Arlt said. Carpenter, with her brother Richard, sold millions of records in the ’70s and ’80s.

The Carpenters hits included: “Close to You,” “Solitaire,” and “We’ve Only Just Begun.” Karen Carpenter became a tragic figure, battling eating disorders and beset with personal problems and a troubled marriage.

Phil Caltabellotta and his wife, Val, have played at the Showcase of Talent.

She died at 32 from heart failure complicated by anorexia nervosa.

“Karen Carpenter became the face of anorexia,” Arlt said. “It’s a sad story, but when you hear the music, you can’t be too down. She had an amazing voice and range, and she has influenced many singers. She impacted peoples’ lives with her music.”

Singing Karen Carpenter songs comes naturally for Arlt.

“I can feel her in my heart when I sing her songs,” she said.

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