by Patrick B. McGuigan
EDMOND – Older and wiser — and even more skilled now than a couple of decades ago – all members of the cast of the Oklahoma Senior Follies bring grace, style, aplomb, slightly racy humor and great performing skills to this year’s production.
Beloved business leader “King” Dias Sias is joined onstage by an assembly of beauties, including Jan Henry, Sandy Meyers, Vicki Miles-LaGrange, Terry Neese and Sandra Naifeh. The ladies wear the classic “Ziegfield” style costumes that stormed the nation more than a century ago.
The show itself opens with Paul Coulter and the Codgers (think: Oklahoma City Dodgers, but in a few decades) singing the great Broadway tune, “Heart.” Ladies of the esteemed company collaborate for “Match.com” – to the “Fiddler” tune, “Matchmaker.”
Margie Peebles shines in each of her songs, especially so with the Broadway version of “The Sound of Music.”
Jim Henline brings his dignified delivery to the “South Pacific” romance of “Some Enchanted Evening.” Dewayne Couts is spot-on as Professor Henry Higgins in “I’ve grown accustomed to her face.” Each year this reviewer looks forward the basso profundo of Davjd Anderson, who knocks it out of the ballpark with “Cara Mia.”
Susan and Mark O’Brien often dance across the stage in perfect collaboration. They turn up the pace for “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” as Pam Berrymore, Karen Kay and Jackie Short (see below) deftly deliver the tight harmonies of the Andrew Sisters World War II-era hit. The dancing pair deliver late in Act One, to the accompaniment of Ms. Rapp’s “I Could Have Danced All Night.” Pam and Karen later collaborate in a strong version of “Chattanooga Choo Choo.”
Count Gregor (another ageless stage and screen veteran: John Ferguson) pops up frequently, most memorably from a coffin as he sings “I hate to get up in the morning.”
Mercedes Russo, apparently ageless after 96 years, brings aplomb and dignity to a selection of classic George Gershwin tunes. Speaking of ageless, Bob Windsor and four gals from the “Generations in Tap” group take the stage in a couple of solidly choreographed and performed numbers, including a bouncy Big Band number near the top of the show, and “Judgment Day” in Act II.
Mary Owen is fresh and spry in several numbers, particularly “Someone to Watch Over Me.”
Carol and Gary Sander have fun with “Anything You Can Do,” another fine duet comes from Henline and soprano Barbara Giager (“All I Ask of You,” from “Phantom of the Opera”).
Barbara Demaio will bring tears to the eye, and fond memories to heart, in a peerless rendition of “You’ll never walk alone.” Billie Nash nicely does the forlorn, “Falling in Love with Love.”
Coulter joins with Mr. Sander and Kingsley Adams for the bookie’s classic, Fugue for Tinhorns.
John Peebles is superb with “Stranger in Paradise.”
Some show-stoppers must be highlighted.
Jane Hall and Charlotte Franklin are stellar in every moment on stage, none more memorably than in the “Cha Cha,” their never-out-of-date performance. Hint: it comes at the end of Act I, and you won’t forget it. At the show close, Franklin delivers the last solo with a senior anthem, “I’m Still Here!” and Hall provokes the explanation for the passion of performance: “Applause!”
Then there’s Jackie Short, laced throughout the show. She and country music stalwart Larry Darnell collaborate in numbers to open Act II. Ms. Short delivers a powerful set of strong woman country tunes in one of this year’s best performances.
Sherman Andrus, sharply dressed at stage-center, is the focus of an all-case performance of the Gospel Music Classic, “Oh Happy Day” in Act II. This number is worth the price of admission all by itself.
Immediately after that spiritual tune, the Follies Barber Shop Quartet (Anderson, Henline, Court and Peebles) help spirits soar as they sing a spotless “Lisa Rose,” soon joined upstage by Margie Peebles who interlaces “Sweet and Low” (from Music Man).
Director Terry Runnels has brought the show together nicely, and comes to the stage with humor and aplomb, including in a nice duet with Owen.
Thanks to to Bobbie Burbridge Lane and her family’s charitable foundation for founding and sustaining this annual event.
Tickets are available at UCO’s Mitchell Hall Box Office, 100 North University Drive in Edmond — or visit the website for more information.