by Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY — Credit Bobbie Burbridge Lane for the vision of “Oklahoma Senior Follies,” which she has brought to joyful life the past three years. This year as “Follies King” she brings on-stage another local icon, publisher Leland Gourley of the Friday newspaper.
The Lynda Tarpley Dancers and Generations in Tap return for the third straight year. It must be a lot of fun for legendary dancer Bob Windsor to hang out with that array of lovely ladies.
The show is great fun, with the fanciful “Follies” strut at mid-point of Act II providing a stunning view of idealized mature womanhood. In their glittery attire, Noma Gurich, Lolly Anderson, Patsy Homsey, Jan Henry, Vicki Gourley and 88-year-old Betty Catching are, each and every one, fetching.
As for musical artists, Terry Runnels is superb in several numbers, including “Come Fly With Me,” “Too Darn Hot” (with Jackie Short and the company), and Act I closer “On the Street Where You Live.”
Linda Wright is in top form with her solos “Stormy Weather” and “I Feel the Earth Move” — and in several ensemble numbers. Tip-top in each of her stage turns is Jane Hall, particularly on “Get Proud of Me.”
If there is a more self-effacing and effective female performer in Oklahoma than Charlotte Franklin, I don’t know who it is. She is fall-out-of-your-chair funny in a faux burlesque number, and pitch-perfect in every appearance on stage. Kristina Rapp delivers graceful operatic-infused tunes, including a nice “Blue Heaven” duet with David Anderson.
Speaking of Anderson, he has a tender trio number with violinist Alton Scott and dancer Windsor, “The Water is Wide/Swanee River” in the second act. He and Jim Henline (“Maria” and “Old Man River” bring grand bass solos and harmonies to the OCU stage.
The show is well-arranged and carefully structured, highlighting the skills of performers as diverse as Kerry Robertson, Wally Brown, Kristina Rapp, Marjorie DuPree, Christy Carson, Virginia Wright, John “Count Gregore” Ferguson, Paul Coulter, Linda Slane, Neva Hames, Lou Anne Rice, Jay Edwards, Paul Coulter, Carol Sander and Gary Sander.
Early in Act II, country singer Larry Darnell excels in his annual tribute to Hank Williams, followed by the ageless Jody Miller singing two favorites (has this little gal really been in show business for 50 years?).
This year features a gentle spiritual coda to the show, as Wright leads a soaring ensemble rendition of “Everybody Needs a Rainbow,” laced with a few bars of “Amazing Grace” for good measure. Minutes before that, the ageless Jo Rowan of OCU delivers a tender and uplifting solo ballet to a nice orchestral adaptation of “Let There Be Peace On Earth.”
For comfort and care, these are top-drawer moments of live performance.
Credit Oklahoma City University and President Robert Henry, Dean Mark Parker at the school of Music and Theatre, and director David Herendeen from the OCU Opera and musical theater company for their indispensible roles in this extravaganza. This year, Bobbie’s son – former District Attorney Wes Lane – is Master of Ceremony for two performances.
Praise as well to the band – Jake Johnson, Clinton Trency and Roger Owens — and the production leadership of Herendeen, Ashley Bellet, Jake Johnson, Sheridan McMichael and all the crew.
The Senior Follies will open tonight (Friday, June 14) at p.m. in the Kirkpatrick Auditorium on the Oklahoma City University campus. The show continues Saturday (June 15) at 3 p.m., and closes Sunday (June 16) at 3 p.m. Tickets are available for purchse at the OCU Ticket Office, or by calling 405-208-5277.
As always, net proceeds benefit Mobile Meals of Oklahoma County. The 2011 and 2012 performances of the Oklahoma Senior Follies provided 67,048 hot meals to home-bound senior citizens.