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Seniors get opportunity to shine
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‘The Georgia Senior Follies’
When: 8 p.m. Today-Saturday and April 22-24, 3 p.m. Sunday and April 25
Where: Cumming Playhouse, 101 School St., Cumming
How much: $25

After tapping his feet and twirling an umbrella just like Gene Kelly performing "Singing in the Rain," Gary Casten joined two fellow cast members sitting on the stage’s front steps.

He got into the pose, sitting sideways, legs slightly crossed and started to lean.

"Oh, I can’t go back," Casten said, laughing with his castmate and holding his back.

The 59-year-old then immediately popped back in show mode at rehearsal with another singing and dancing performance of "Good Morning" from the same musical.

The cast of "Georgia Senior Follies" is gearing up for show time, with performances beginning today at the Cumming Playhouse.

Actors need only to have talent, passion and be at least 55, said Kathy Russell, director of the show.

Russell and her husband, Bob, started the annual show locally last year after watching a similar performance in California.

"When my husband saw it he said, ‘Oh, we’ve got to bring this to Georgia,’" she said.

The couple write the show based around the talents of the cast, who audition for parts in the show.

This year’s two-hour, two-act performance begins with Hollywood musicals and finishes with a variety of entertaining acts, ranging from a ventriloquist and a magician to a dance from a former Rockette.

Russell said those who watch the show will realize that it’s never too late to get up on stage.

"Seniors who are very talented don’t have an opportunity to perform usually," Russell said. "We’ve given seniors an opportunity to shine."

Cherilynn Paris, 65, has been dancing her whole life.

But she jumped at the chance to get on stage with the seniors, even though she drives two hours each way to practice.

"Now there’s a place for over-the-hill dancers," she said.

Paris landed the part of a Hawaiian dancer alongside the show’s Elvis since she had trained in Hawaii.

She also appears in a number with seven other ladies smacking their backsides and bending low — well, as low as they can — while singing "Big Spender."

Some of the other women dancing don’t have a lifetime of experience, but rather a few golden years.

Dorothy Jones, 75, said she didn’t start tap dancing until she got her first pension and Social Security checks.

"Then I had enough money to buy tap shoes," she said.

"You weren’t 70, though," teased Nancy Long, 77, who was the latest of the group to take up dancing.

Jones and Long were in last year’s show and also perform with local senior group the Sophisticated Ladies.

For 62-year-old Marty Baker, this year’s "Senior Follies" is his first time back on stage since high school.

Baker recently made a list of 22 things he wants to do before he dies, and after this show, he can check one off his list.

The return to the stage has been a blast and the opportunity to work with other talents from the community has brightened up his life, he said.

"It’s like I’m the newest member of a club," he said. "Nobody’s having a bad day. Everybody’s having a good day up on stage."

Cheryl Rogers, 63, helped devise the idea for the show with Kathy Russell, her fellow performer in local group the Mood Swingers, to provide this forum for local 55-plus talents.

"We were amazed at how much talent there is in this community," she said. "It gives people our age an opportunity to do something they wouldn’t be able to do otherwise."

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