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Now that Rainbow's Comedy Playhouse is closed, patrons want answers — and their money back

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Rainbow Dinner Theater in Paradise announced its permanent closure on Friday, Aug. 30.

Wallace Kamper said he’s very angry after Rainbow’s Comedy Playhouse abruptly closed last week leaving him wondering if he’ll be refunded for the unused portion of his season tickets.

“That shouldn’t happen,” the Strasburg resident said Wednesday.

He’s not alone.

The Paradise Township theater notified patrons it was closing permanently in a message posted at its Facebook page at 4:34 p.m. Friday.

In an Aug. 18 letter to employees notifying them they would not be paid for the July 29-through-Aug. 11 pay period, co-owners Amber Besash and Jonathan Erkert pointed to a “profound misappropriation of finances and revenue.”

The letter advised employees to file for unemployment, and it also said former co-owner Kelly Sechrist resigned and forfeited her keys on Aug. 9 and had not returned to the theater.

Besash, Erkert and Sechrist have not responded to several requests from LNP for comment.

‘It was a good time’

Kamper was a Rainbow’s Comedy Playhouse season ticket holder for the 2019 and 2020 seasons and had gone to shows at the theater over the last 15 years.

He said he contacted his credit card company and was able to receive a temporary $440 credit for next year's season pass while the company investigates his claim. If successful, he’ll try to retain the more than $180 in funds he’s owed for the rest of this season as well.

Ilene Kochel, of Earl Township, said she used her end-of-the-year bonus to purchase two gift cards for Rainbow’s Comedy Playhouse’s Saturday night package deal for $112 each.

“It was a great night out,” said Kochel, who attended the theater for 10 years. “Dinner and a show and some adult beverages, it was a good time.”

Kochel said she’ll be looking for something else to do, and she said she’ll be contacting the gift card company to see if she can recoup any of the funds.

Casey Allyn said she was the first employee hired at Rainbow’s Comedy Playhouse in 1984, when it operated as Rainbow Dinner Theatre out of the Revere Tavern. She said she remembers hand-drawing rainbows in markers on brochures to save money on ink during its early years.

She said she’s “one of the lucky ones” because she has another job as the morning drive show host on WIOV-FM, she said.

“For me, I don’t know if I’ll be able to do theater again,” she said, adding Rainbow’s Comedy Playhouse was conducive to her non-traditional work schedule at the radio station, for which she wakes up at 2:30 a.m.

Allyn most recently played the lead’s best friend in the comedy show “Divorce Southern Style.”

“The Rainbow is dear to my heart because I've been there all these years,” she added. “I’m sorry that this whole thing happened, and I’ll miss (the patrons).”

‘We are in total dismay’

The theater’s former owners, David and Cindy DiSavino, transferred their stock in the company to Besash, Erkert and Sechrist in January after running the theater for 34 years. David DiSavino stayed on as a bookkeeper through mid-February as the new owners transferred to a new bookkeeping program.

He said the business had “more money in the bank account than there had been in the previous year,” adding it had small profits in 2018 and substantial profit in 2017.

The Rainbow employed approximately 20 to 30 people when the theater was in production, including its dinner staff, David DiSavino said.

“Rainbow productions was something we thought was stronger than both of us, that could easily go into the future,” Cindy DiSavino said in a phone call on Wednesday. “And we are in total dismay that this could happen to our company that we built.”