My mom is in her late eighties. When it comes to giving her gifts, it can be a challenge. So, this past Christmas, I bought tickets for her and I to go to a live stage show in Palm Springs. There is something remarkable about this show, which I’ll divulge in just a second.
The show is called the Palm Springs Follies and they are celebrating their 21st season. Mom and I have both seen the show before. In fact, mom introduced me to the follies about ten years ago when made the trek to the low desert with her retiree’s club. We’ve been back twice since then.
The Follies is housed in the Plaza Theater in the heart of Palm Springs. It’s a cozy venue, with the appearance of a 1940’s movie theater (complete with balcony section) with hints of a nightclub thrown in. As guests file into the theater, television commercials from the 1950’s and 1960’s play on a big screen.
It’s hard to miss the fact that the audience for this show is a senior crowd. Oh, there are a few younger faces in the mix – and by younger, I mean folks in their 40’s and 50’s. But there is a reason for this.
The show is not only tailored for an audience made of an ‘older’ majority, but the entertainers are well into their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s! Yes, you read that right…singers and dancers from their mid-fifties up into their eighties.
Initially, the idea of watching septuagenarian and octogenarians showgirls might instill visions of flabby-skinned, wrinkled, osteoporosis-bent, women in faded feathers and sequins. Let me assure you, this is NOT the case. In fact, the first time I saw the show, I didn’t believe the age of the performers. The singers and dancers in this show have better bodies, more energy, and more life in them than many twenty and thirty-year olds I know.
Every season there is a theme to the show. One year I attended, it was Get Your Kicks on Route 66. This year’s theme is, Hot, Hot, Hot! The first scene included well-known summertime songs: Surfin’ USA, Under the Boardwalk, Summer in the City, to name a few. Singers and dancers sang, gyrated, and tapped their way in stupendous costumes across the stage.
Scene two was an ‘honor roll’ of the beautiful women who grace the stage. Their male counterparts, each in tux’s with tails, lead each female performer across the stage. The women wore traditional Las Vegas-type showgirl costumes with huge, lush headdresses. It wouldn’t be an easy feat for a woman in her twenties – much less her seventies.
In this scene each performer tells a little about their life and how they came to wind up in the Plaza Theater in Palm Springs. At the end of their recitation, they proudly announce their age…and gasps from the audience can be heard throughout the theater.
But there is even more to this show. Each time I’ve come to the Follies, a talented ventriloquist has handled the third scene. This show it was Brad Cummings and his smart-aleck dinosaur. I’ve always found the ventriloquists to be entertaining and a pleasurable break in the action.
The second act of the show opened with favorite songs from various eras and featured the cast singing and dancing to Stepping Out With My Baby, Two Darn Hot, Rock and Roll Music, Tutti Frutti and more. The cast comes out strong and vivacious in every number and has never disappointed.
Scene two in the second act is usually handled by the guest star. In this case, the guest was Maureen McGovern probably most famous for singing the song, The Morning After from the movie, The Poseidon Adventure. I have to tell you that I’ve known Ms. McGovern’s music, but I think all these years she has been highly under-rated! I was blown away by her performance and the strength and versatility of her voice. Frankly, I would have paid the price of the ticket for the whole show just to see her. Bravo, Ms. McGovern, bravo!
The last scene in each performance is a patriotic extravaganza where the cast sings and dances while saluting our great country. In this version, the veterans in the audience were asked to stand for recognition while their particular branch of service was honored. My mother was proud to stand along with other men and women who have served our country. It’s a crowd-pleasing way to end the show. But wait…I’ve saved the best for last.
In every show of this type, there has to be a guide, a leader, to stitch the scenes together with clever banter. The ‘king’ of the Palm Springs Follies is none other than their Managing Director and Producer, Riff Markowitz. While probably not a household name, Markowitz has been in show business for 60 years. I can’t vouch for his earlier accomplishments, but in the Palm Springs Follies, Markowitz can’t be touched. His sometimes un-politically correct humor is embraced by the audience. If you’re sitting in the first couple of rows in the theater, you may find yourself the target of zingers…and the unprepared participants and the audience love it!
So, if you can’t tell, I love this show. If you’re coming to Southern California and can afford $50 – $93 dollars for a show that lasts approximately two hours and forty-five minutes (with one intermission), I encourage you to give the follies a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Because of the heat during the summer months, I believe the Follies season runs from September to May. If you’re interested, you can visit their site at http://www.psfollies.com/
Until next time,