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On the Town: An evening spent in tribute to Gene Bua

March 19, 2013|By David Laurell
  • Among those in attendance to celebrate the life of Gene Bua were his son, Justin Bua and granddaughter, Akira.
Among those in attendance to celebrate the life of Gene… (Photo by David Laurell )

Stepping into the spotlight on the Colony Theatre’s stage, Toni Bua thanked the venue’s capacity-plus crowd for coming out to honor her late husband, Gene Bua, this past Wednesday evening.

“It means the world to me that you are here tonight, sharing and enjoying Gene’s life through what he loved so much — creating music and entertaining audiences with joy, delight, and his outrageous sense of humor,” said Toni.

Gene Bua, who died in November after a 13-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, may be remembered by some as the lead singer of Gene Bua and the Cardinals, who recorded the 1950’s hit song “Golly Gee,” or from his starring role in the Broadway revival of “The Boys from Syracuse.” Many more knew him for his work in the 1960s as Bill Prentiss on the long-running CBS daytime drama, “Love of Life.” Since the early-1980s, Burbankers best knew Gene for his establishment of the Gene Bua Acting For Life Theatre on Magnolia Boulevard in which he mentored thousands of singers and actors — not just on how to hone their craft, but their very lives.

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The Buas wrote and performed numerous musicals that were specifically geared to uplift and give hope to at-risk teens and people of all ages who were battling substance abuse and striving for recovery. Their best-known production, “Pepper Street,” was the longest-running musical in Los Angeles and served as the catalyst for the creation of Youth Suicide Awareness Month. Honored by the White House, the United Nations and six California mayors, including former Burbank Mayor Michael Hastings, who attended last week’s tribute, the Buas also founded the Here’s to Life Foundation to sponsor and promote self-esteem, compassion and positive life choices through art and entertainment to teens at-risk, and others, who need an uplifting, inspiring, transformational experience.

Last week’s memorial concert included tributes and songs by those who had been mentored by Gene Bua. It was hosted by Tracey Bregman of “The Young & The Restless” and Kenny Morse, who starred as Prince Edward with Gene Bua in the 1969 film, “The Adventures of the Prince and the Pauper.”

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