by Patrick B. McGuigan
The first-ever production of a “senior follies” musical extravaganza, this weekend at Oklahoma City University, is a “home run” production full of professional-quality music, humor, bright lights, classy costumes and good entertainment.
Additionally, there’s something special about watching a 90-year-old woman tap dance like a teenager. It is worth the price of admission to see that alone.
The Oklahoma Follies performs 7 p.m. tonight (Saturday, June 11) and 3 p.m. tomorrow (Sunday, June 12) at OCU’s Kirkpatrick Auditorium. Tickets remain available at the door for both shows.
The evening runs about two hours, with two acts packed with memorable moments. Jane Jayroe is the show’s narrative voice, and offers a fine interpretation of “People” (the Barbra Streisand classic) in the first act.
The Lynda Tarpley Dancers are invigorating, especially in a “Rockettes”-style adventure. Generations in Tap are also notable, and a nice “fix” for anyone missing the amazing coordination in this form of dance..
Country music is the framework for the strong First Act closer, with Larry Darnell, William Calvin, Darryl Baskett, Les Taylor and Gary Sander presenting “Jingle Jangle Jingle.” Jim Henline is Broadway quality all night, with “They Call the Wind Maria” certain to be a crowd pleaser. The men’s ensemble returns for a fine interpretation of “Tumbling Tumbleweeds.”
Other male tunesmiths woven throughout the cast included Bob Davis, Tom Brackett and Al Sochor — whose simple country set in Act Two was another high point.
As for that 90-year-old tap dancer, Betty Windsor is part of a troupe called Senior Sensations. These ladies brought charm and wit to their interpretations of some dance classics, particularly so in a rousing finale.
Windsor was also part of the “Follies Beauties” who moved across stage while males in the cast sang songs of tribute to feminine beauty and grace. This is an old and stylish form of entertainment that has faded from popular view. This recreation made the Follies a cultural touchstone for Oklahoma City this year. The other beauties are Kerry Robertson, Dorothy “Dot” Liles, Lynn Hefley, Jackie Short and Jane Hall.
Each of the latter ladies shone brightly in solos, duets or ensemble numbers throughout the evening. Robertson’s witty “Adelaide’s Lament” was beautifully delivered. Liles was a deft choice to endear herself with a fresh interpretation of Marilyn Monroe’s “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.” Hefley’s voice and style was perfectly suited to the classic “Blue Moon.”
Short is in fine voice as she joined John Ferguson (Count Gregoire himself) for “I’ve Got You Babe.” Hall joined Charlotte Franklin for “Bosom Buddies” – a great “cat fight” song – and most memorably for a dance duet dubbed “Cha Cha for Two” that cannot be described adequately in words. Franklin and Hall were simply outstanding in the funniest set of the entire night.
Jo Rowan, the legendary OCU dance teacher and leader, was graceful and lyrical in a first act dance, then uproariously entertaining in a second act vamp.
Perhaps the ultimate performance of the second act was Jody Miller, a Grammy Award winner, performing “He’s so Fine,” and a charming reinterpretation of a Roger Miller Classic, this time dubbed “Queen of the House.”
A rousing patriotic closer allowed the entire cast to shine, with Carol Sander and Hall leading “God Bless America.: The guys responded to dancing by the gals with a rousing chorus of “There is Nothin’ Like A Dame.” Windi Peterson and Linda Wright brought emotions to the fore in back-to-back songs about the loss of loved ones to war. Veteran dancer Robert Windsor danced like Jimmy Cagney as Bob Davis sang “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”
The Band consisted of Daleesa Flick, Brian Hamilton (who was amusingly drawn into the proceedings on occasion), Hamilton Pyburn and James Whitmarsh.
Bobbie Burbridge Lane pulled this production together with help from Oklahoma City University’s Robert Henry and David Herendeen of the OCU Opera and Music Theater Company. Herendeen directed the gala and did a spectacular job.