“Ya gotta have a gimmick!” Words of advice that father Hugo Immediato passed down to daughter Vicki 35 years ago. In fact, Hugo and brothers Nick and Al had two gimmicks. Their own father was a first generation Italian immigrant who passed through Ellis Island and established a bakery in Little Italy. The boys grew up as part of the family workforce.
Their second gimmick was their athleticism. The trio became accomplished acrobats and hungered for the heat of Broadway lights rather than that of the ovens . The Three Little Bakers toured on the post-vaudeville circuit and appeared with multitudinous celebrities including Kirk Douglas and Bob Hope.
Injury precipitated a return to Wilmington. But the three weren't done with show business quite yet.
In 1972, theatre, food and their 'patented' desserts were mixed together in an entertainment souflee with the opening of 3 Bakers Dinner Theatre in Kennett Square. Vicki, now part of the growing second generation and still in college, was conscripted and became hat check girl, bookkeeper and hostess – every night!
The move to Pike Creek Valley and a custom designed building followed in 1983. For over 15 years it was almost impossible for locals to book in the 900 seat theatre. 'Bakers' did not advertise locally. Why bother? Five nights a week an observer would see a dozen tour buses in the parking lot with license plates from NJ, PA, MD and VA.
In the late '90's the market began to change. Casinos opened. The entertainment 'pie' was being cut into several slices. The entire mission of 3 Bakers was based on 'family' shows. Broadway was not churning out thematic clones of 'The Sound of Music', or 'The Music Man'.
“We thought it would go on forever,” says Vicki. “For our guests, we considered ourselves the end of a beautiful day.”.i.e....for travelers who had visited Delaware destinations with their tour guides. The theatre closed two years ago.
The second and third generation Immediato family members have for the most part gone their own ways. Vicki, who became President of the business several years ago, continues the torch at the baby grand.
For the second year, her new company VR Hospitality (under the 3 Bakers banner), is presenting 'Home For The Holidays”. Weber-Prianti Productions, a part of Bakers for 25 years, is producing and directing.
Jim Weber is both director and Music Director, creator of the first Bakers Christmas show in 1990. This month's production is not dissimilar from years past. “The Christmas show”, says Weber, “was consistently our most popular. All of the leads this year performed for years at Bakers and are experienced professionals. We're all family.”
This is a production to bring the entire brood, even the aunt you don't really like. She will appreciate your sacrifice and speak more highly of you.
Tiffany Christopher, returning from last year's show, lights up the stage any time she is featured. Her “Santa Baby” song and dance with 8 rollicking and saucy Santas was 'merrymaking'. 8 year old Lexi Saunders has been an attentive student to choreographer and mom Vicki Saunder's instructions.
News Flash: I have received an email from the North Pole reporting that Santa and Mrs. Claus will be in attendance 1 hour before each show for pictures.
Vicki Winton has a fervent and unequivocal belief that the public still wants family fare. “We are continuing a family tradition set decades ago. The Immediato family to your family.”
In one scene a child queries the existence of Santa. An adult then reads the classic 1897 'Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus.”. Part of the message to Virginia reads “He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS.” In this world cynicism and sarcasm are a high art form unto themselves. But the thought occurred at that moment, the world would be more dreary if there were no Vicki Immediato Wintons.
Home For The Holidays runs through 27 December. Many performances are matinées – great for grandkids! Group discounts. Call The Grand at 302.652.5577 or www.TicketsAtTheGrand.org