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Theater doyenne Jan McArt gets her glam on in Boca show

Staff Writer

For a play reading, the event taking place Monday, Jan. 13 at Lynn University sure sounds like a full production, with costumes, scenery and 26 songs.

But then, what else would you expect from a production about local theater impresaria Jan McArt, former doyenne of Boca Raton’s defunct Royal Palm Dinner Theater and now the director of theatre theater arts at Lynn University?

“Glamour Girl! The Jan McArt Story” will open the university’s New Play Readings Series. The show was written by Fort Lauderdale playwright Tony Finstrom.

“It’s about me, but it’s not about me,” McArt says. “It’s about me in that I’m the subject of it, but it’s about an era in show business. His play is his take on the information he had gotten from me, and it’s his view and his take on that.”

Director Wayne Rudisill says “Glamour Girl” covers McArt’s stage life from the 1940s through the ’70s. In it, she leaves Indiana for Tinseltown, lands a role in the national company of “Oklahoma,” experiences a stint as an opera diva and finds success in nightclubs around the globe.

“We go from career to career and husband to husband,” Rudisill says. “I think people will see that there is a struggle to get where you want to go, but it can be glamorous. Tony said he’s never met anyone as beautiful and glamorous as Jan McArt.”

Finstrom, who says it disturbs him that Florida’s theater history has largely gone ignored, was surprised that his focus was McArt’s years before she moved to South Florida in 1977 and started theaters in Fort Lauderdale, Miami Beach, Key West and Boca Raton.

“This is kind of like her ‘Funny Girl,’ “ Finstrom explains in an email. “Her Florida years would be the ‘Funny Lady’ sequel, I suppose. And I'll get to that, yet.

“I wrote it over the past year,” he continues, “and after only two sit-down interviews with her, each lasting a couple of hours, I had more material than I needed. And I quickly discovered her life really plays like a movie, all by itself. There was just no need to embellish on it. In fact, I practically skip over things, like her performances on television shows like ‘The Merv Griffin Show’ and ‘The Tonight Show,’ with Johnny Carson. And she dated Baryshnikov. I didn't even use that.”

The “Glamour Girl!” reading will take place 7:30 p.m. Jan. 13 at the Keith C. and Elaine Johnson Wold Performing Arts Center on the Lynn University campus, 3601 N. Military Trail, in Boca Raton. Tickets cost $10. Call 561-237-9000 or go to

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