Playhouse Merced brings Vegas to Bob Hart Square

Bob Hart Square on Saturday took on the glamor and glitz of the Las Vegas strip during its heyday as Playhouse Merced celebrated its annual gala with a “Night at the Sands” theme.

In true Vegas style, the party atmosphere was energized by a variety of luminaries and famous performers, played by local actors and actresses.

Saturday’s event, which this year was held outside the 510 Bistro, is Playhouse Merced’s largest fundraiser of the year. It helps the theater put on its productions as well as community programs, such as after-school programs and tours.

Robert Hypes, the theater’s artistic director, said around 285 people attended Saturday’s event, adding that he cannot thank those friends of supporters of the theater enough. Without the support of donors, Hypes said, the theater would not be able to continue.

“An event like that really sets us up for an entire year – that money goes to everything,” he said. “Without our gala we really would not be able to exist as we do.”

During Saturday’s festivities, actors portrayed figures from the Rat Pack, including Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin. Performers playing blues great Etta James, legendary talk show host Johnny Carson and singer Nancy Sinatra also made appearances.

The gala also included a silent auction.

Playhouse Merced’s 2014-15 season kicks off Aug. 29 with “Fiddler on the Roof,” playing three weekends through Sept 14.

Hypes said the theater is still in the midst of fundraising, with a goal of raising $20,000 by Dec. 14. “I think we can definitely do it,” he said.

Hypes pointed out that businesses can sponsor entire shows to support Playhouse Merced. Interested individuals and businesses can call (209) 725-8587 or email