LIke fine wine 

A group of Oklahoma seniors has been honing their skills — or at least re-sharpening them — in anticipation of this year’s Oklahoma Senior Follies.

click to enlarge The ladies of the Senior Follies in Ziegfeld regalia.

Photo provided

The ladies of the Senior Follies in Ziegfeld regalia.

A group of seniors will prove that age is nothing but a number as they showcase their talents in this year’s Oklahoma Senior Follies.

A company of singers, dancers, actors, musicians, and comedians, all ages 55 or older, dazzles and entertains with a fresh script each year. They return to the stage this May with a new theme and a big goal.

“Our main theme this year is movies and music from the 50s and 60s,” said Linda Wright-Piro, singer and original Follies cast member. “We’ve got a lot of really great music planned. We have sopranos that do beautiful classical; we have great country singers, folk singers, a little jazz, a little bit of everything.”

More than 40 professionals and those who simply love to perform will make up the cast of this year’s Follies with a one-of-a-kind show. Among them are Lyric Theater alumni Charlotte Franklin and Jane Hall, who will bring their comedic talents to the stage alongside Bill Perry and Billie Rodely. Mercedes Russow, the group’s beloved 103-year-old pianist, is a regular Follies performer who lights up the room with her Gershwin medley. In addition, Emmy award-nominated David Hooten joins the cast this year with a special trumpet performance.

An array of musical genres are highlighted in the Follies show, along with multiple dance styles, including ballroom dancing, clogging, and tap. John Peebles of Ouachita Baptist University, a cast member since 2014, will be directing this year’s show and bringing his own vocal performance to the stage. Music director Stephanie Mooring will perform with her five-piece band.

The group is active year-round, but the annual Senior Follies is their largest show, with all proceeds from the ticket sales benefiting the Alzheimer’s Association. They’re hoping to have a big comeback this year after the COVID-19 pandemic produced low attendance.

“Throughout the year we do what’s called a Joy Tour,” Piro said. “We take members of the cast, and we go to different rest homes, assisted living, independent living, and nursing homes to perform for the seniors there. It’s a year-round activity, but the Follies is our big extravaganza and fundraiser. Our goal is to raise as much money for Alzheimer’s as we can. The year after COVID was so pitiful. We went on with masks, and we still were able to donate $2,500. That’s all we could muster. There was hardly anybody in the theater, but we went on anyway. We promised them $10,000 this year, so we’re all feverishly working to make that happen.”

The special guest this year is Oklahoma native and country music artist Vince Gill, who will give a video performance. Gill is a Northwest Classen High School alumnus and recently received the Country Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Oklahoma actor John Ferguson will be crowned as the annual Follies King. Ferguson, 94, is best known for his role as Gregore in Count Gregore’s Horror Theater.

In a nod to the Ziegfeld Follies, Philanthropist Bobbie Burbridge Lane founded the Oklahoma Senior Follies in 2010 and anyone aged 55 years or older with a penchant for performing was invited to enter. The small nonprofit has grown ever since, with more and more volunteers donating their time and talent.

“We’re all volunteer performers,” Piro said. “Really, our greatest joy is just to bring joy to the seniors and let these elderly people know if they can still get up and get going and enjoy life.”

The Oklahoma Senior Follies’ twelfth show has three performances scheduled for May 20-22 at Northwest Classen High School, 2820 N. May Ave. Tickets are available at oklahomaseniorfollies.com or by calling 866-966-1777.

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