The Newlywed Game, a popular TV hit from the past, was played on Friday night at the Memorial Opera House as a fundraiser by the Memorial Opera House Foundation for the historic theater.
In case you aren’t familiar with the game show that premiered in 1966, it is a competition that pits married couples against each other as they answer questions about their other halves to see how much they actually know about the person they married. The game hosts couples that range from newlyweds to people who have been married for decades.
The Memorial Opera House followed the same guidelines by having couples that ranged from being married for 13 days to 51 years. Hosted by Jesse Harper, the couples that took the stage were Laura and Ken Blaney, Kaye and Dr. Ric Frataccia, Stephanie and Chris Stalbaum, Bonnie and Jeff Trout and Jude and Bob Tyler.
All of the people who participated in the Newlywed Game did it for the love of the Opera House, but two of the contestants took it to heart. Stephanie and Chris Stalbaum, who only wed 13 days ago and played the game in their wedding attire, first met right on the Memorial Opera House stage. Both of them are heavily involved with the theater - Stephanie is an actress and Chris is the conductor for many of the productions.
“Around seven years ago we first came in contact with each other, but we didn’t know it at the time. During the production of "Shout!" in 2010 we actually met and from there our relationship really blossomed.” Stephanie explained. Chris went on to say that it hit him hard when they made the connection. “It dawned on me then that she was the girl I was looking for after auditions all those years ago. I couldn’t believe she was the one in the red I was looking for. It was truly a movie moment.”
Eventually all five couples made their way onto the stage to test their knowledge. As the couples answered their questions it was clear that they enjoying every single bit of it. The questions ranged from ‘How long do you think your wife can go without looking in a mirror?’ to ‘What is one piece of your husband’s clothing that you can’t stand?’ The answers were either eerily right or fantastically wrong, but it all added to the joyfulness of the evening.
The event didn’t just start and end with the game. There were also hors d’oeuvres provided by neighboring restaurant Parea, cocktails, cupcakes, piano music by Andrew Flasch, and over 15 gift baskets provided by local business that were raffled off throughout the night. A special addition was also front and center, by taking their place right in front of the stage, were wedding dresses provided by Catherine’s Bridal. The vintage gowns were picked out specifically to resemble all of the contestants own dresses.
As the night came to a close there was only one thing left to do - announcing the winners of the Newlywed Game. The winners determined by the combination of points and money that was donated by the audience. All of the factors were tallied up by Jack Hines, Ann Nellessen, and Camie Marfoe. The trophies and flowers were handed out by the ‘Vanna White’s of the night Ruthie Marfoe and Isabel Blaney. The Blaneys took first place with the Frataccias were right behind with second and the Stalbaums took third. Winning, though, was only a minor factor of the night because the the real focus was raising money for the theater.
“We really support the Opera House a ton. [Dr. Frataccia] was on the committee for the 100-year anniversary and when this came up of course we said yes because it was going to be crazy - and be a lot of laughs,” Kaye Frataccia, Project Manger for the Around the Table initiative of Empower Porter County Movement, explained.
The explanation of the whole night wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the chairman of the fundraising committee, Jacki Stutzman. Throughout the night, attendees praised of Stutzman's hard work and dedication - all things she humbly took it in stride. “This has given me such a boost of confidence, so I thank them very much. It turned out to be very fun because I have a super committee, all of the support from the Opera House staff and of course everyone who made it out tonight. It was a truly fantastic night.”
With community members like all of the couples who took the stage for the Newlywed Game, the laughs that filled the theater, and the fundraising for a Valparaiso landmark really pulled together to show how much everyone involved are passionate about the things - and people - they love.