SASSY SENIORS PROVE THE BEAT GOES ON FOR THE YOUNG AT HEART
At 80 years young, Jackie Goldberg, a.k.a. The Pink Lady, is on a mission. After becoming a widow at 70 she created a series of seminars entitled “Get Up, Get Out, & Get A Life” to encourage baby boomers and seniors to follow new paths and enhance their golden years. Further branching out, she produced a trio of shows under her Rockin’ With The Ages production company that have featured an army of often ignored and forgotten performers whose only transgression was reaching age 60 and up. Her long term goal is to create a permanent year-round Senior Theater and Arts Complex in Hollywood. Moving one step closer to that end she now presents a “World Premiere Musical Event,” The Beat Goes On! (A Musical Celebration of the Young at Heart), written, directed, and choreographed by Cate Caplin.
Dubbing the production an “Event” turns out to be quite fortuitous because it really isn’t a musical play in any sense of the word – it’s a glorified revue. Convoluted though it might be, Act I does get under way with some slight conceit of an actual plot. A group of performers are on stage rehearsing a number when they are unceremoniously informed the money man has backed out and the show is closing before it opens. What’s the troupe to do? Is it curtains for them all? Not so fast! It seems there’s a new show that is casting and if they pull some strings they can get the producer down to the theater to watch them audition. Let the good times…and songs… roll. When that doesn’t work out in quite the way they had hoped, it looks as if the bread line is looming once again. But wait; not easily dissuaded, the group asks, “What would Mickey and Judy do?” Of course the resounding response is “Put on a show!” Act II throws all semblance of plot to the wind and simply lets the musical numbers flow one after another without any rhyme or reason. Plot – schmot! Who needs a story when you’ve got a song in your heart and a little tap in your toes?
As it turns out, at least in this case, plot is totally inconsequential when it comes to the overall enjoyment of the “Event.” The cast of seniors, which the press material boasts brings over 3000 years of combined life experience to the stage, is thoroughly entertaining, possessing a joie de vivre that is downright contagious. They are veterans who know how to strut their stuff, let loose and let it fly. They’re good because they’re good, not because they are over 60 (many are even about to hit the big eight-oh) and can actually still move. It’s never a case of, “Oh look, isn’t Grandpa cute. Bless his soul trying to sing and dance like that.” The performances captivate the audience because they’re fun, talented and a joy to watch. While it may be true some sing better than others, some dance better than others, and some are funnier than others, they all shine in one way or another, winning their way into the audience’s heart. Out of the cast of 16 the diminutive duo of Joe Giamalva (65) and Robert Towers (76) were real standouts. Their impeccable comedic timing harkened back to the days of Vaudeville when the slow burn and triple take were alive and well. It was impossible to wipe the smile off my face when they were on stage.
Despite her shortcomings in the script department, Ms. Caplin keeps the action moving and is quite adept at managing 16 bodies all on stage at the same time. Too often directors resort to a “line-up” but she, for the most part, avoids that pitfall. Her choreography definitely calls for the cast to keep up the pace; she in no way goes easy on them because they are seniors. This is not “creative walking for the infirm” but real dance steps that would no doubt tire a teenager.
With the exception of 4 original songs by Rick Soloman or Carmelita Pittman, the numbers are all standards mostly from the 30′s and 40′s that will be familiar to a majority of the target audience. The song list is nowhere to be found in the program, and the producers have requested that reviewers refrain from mentioning the actual ditties by name, so as not to diminish the surprise element. I really didn’t see that as a concern, but have decided to acquiesce to their wishes (so if you want to know what they sing, I guess you’ll just have to buy a ticket). Arrangements and musical direction are in the capable hands of David O, who manages to get a full sound out of his small quartet (he doubles as keyboardist with Mark Breitenbach on bass, Adrienne Geffen on woodwinds and Kurt Walther on drums). Once the red curtain is parted, the orchestra is in full view on the single unchanging set, which is a basic one stop slightly glitzy, slightly art deco proscenium designed by Keith Mitchell.
Then there are the costumes. Designer Ann Closs-Farley has gone above and beyond the call of duty. Every time an actor leaves the stage (and there are a ton of exits), they return in a different outfit. Seriously, there must be literally hundreds of wardrobe changes and we’re not talking rinky-dink dime store duds. We’re talking flashy and splashy with more sequins than a Vegas revue. It has got to be absolute mayhem backstage getting the cast in and out of their clothes in time for their next appearance.
The message of The Beat Goes On! is certainly applicable to all age groups, although the show is clearly aiming for a more mature crowd: Carpe Diem (or “seize the day,” to you youngsters). Live your life while you can and enjoy every moment because we all eventually face the final curtain. For the Pink Lady and her sassy, sexy, sizzling seniors, life, like the beat, goes on. Theatergoers are fortunate that it does.
photos by Guy Mack
The Beat Goes On!
A Rockin’ With The Ages and The Pink Lady production
at the Arena Stage in Hollywood
scheduled to end on November 25, 2012
for tickets, call 818-606-6679 or send Email: firstname.lastname@example.org