A group of Oklahoma City seniors is positioning itself to be a glittering example of living with joy and to inspire others to be all that they can be, regardless of age.
These energetic and vibrant seniors reject the popular notions of spending their golden years idle. Instead, they strive to sing, dance and make people laugh with joyous abandon while helping provide needed food and human contact for those who aren't as healthy or fortunate.
The cast and crew of the 2012 Oklahoma Senior Follies is putting the final touches on the second annual show set for June 8 through 10. The event is designed to raise the spirits of the audience and all involved and also raise money to feed thousands of Oklahoma residents in need.
Proceeds from last year's Senior Follies went to provide nearly 58,000 meals to homebound seniors through the Follies' primary charity, Mobile Meals of Oklahoma County.
The show is the brainchild of veteran performer Bobbie Burbridge Lane, who herself is an example of how many would want to experience his or her senior years — Lane's vitality is contagious as she interacts with the all-senior cast members.
“What we're all about, among other things, is we want to re-energize the senior community to take their lives back and use their talents,” Lane said.
Whether you are 91 years old and tap dancing in the Follies like Betty Windsor, who will perform for her second year in the production, or an 86-year-old ballroom dancer like Betty Catching, who also performs in the show, doing something you love will help keep you healthy and feeling good, Lane said.
Even if that favorite activity has nothing to do with performing, seniors can find an outlet for their particular skills, such as through volunteering, that will get them out of the house and among like-minded people.
By surrounding themselves with vibrant people doing work they care about, Lane said she believes seniors can avoid the depression that often comes along with retirement and aging.
Oklahoma City University President Robert Henry and former Miss Oklahoma and Miss America Jane Jayroe will emcee the show that spotlights a collection of Oklahoma's prestigious performers, including Grammy Award winning singer Jody Miller; world-class dancer, professor and choreographer Jo Rowan; award-winning opera singer Michael Crowley; decorated Maj. Gen. Jay T. Edwards, and a host of other stars of music, movies and television, all of whom call Oklahoma home.
The music-filled variety show will also feature Generations in Tap, The Senior Sensations, Lynda Tarpley Dancers and a group of “Follies Beauties” who will model Ziegfeld Follies-inspired showgirl costumes complete with plumed and bedazzled headdresses, all designed by Ashley Bellet, Oklahoma City University resident costume designer and assistant professor.
“This is the one time of year that I get to deal with feathers and sequins, so it's a blast,” Bellet said. This year's Beauties' costumes are encrusted in sequins with a black and silver color scheme and pops of vibrant pink.
Jan Henry, wife of Robert Henry, and dubbed the First Lady of Oklahoma City University, is one of this year's Follies Beauties.
“As soon as I saw the Follies girls (at last year's show), I wanted to be a follies girl,” she said. She said she was most inspired by seeing Betty Windsor tap dancing in last year's show.
“Last year, I watched the tap dancers and I immediately signed up for tap dancing,” said Catching, who is also a Follies Beauty, along with Windsor, Joy Richardson, Carol Sander and Elizabeth Alexander.
David Herendeen, director of Oklahoma City University's Opera and Music Theater Company, directs the Follies. The show is a project of The Burbridge Foundation and OCU.
Herendeen said this year's show continues last year's “wonderful sense of giving.” Not only will the proceeds be donated directly to Mobile Meals of Oklahoma County, but The Humane Society of Central Oklahoma, also will benefit from sales of special kerchiefs the audience can buy and wave during the show's final production number of “Oklahoma,” the official state song.
More than anything, Herendeen said, the show is “a demonstration of this demographic ... this group of people that are so special and the core of any city and any society. And that's our seniors. And we've got nothing but rip-roaring, great talent and great spirit.”