The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

July 21, 2013

10 years of follies fun for talented seniors

By Melissa Klaric
Herald Staff Writer

MERCER COUNTY — The first Mercer County Senior Follies was themed “That’s Entertainment,” and entertainment is exactly what the cast has been presenting for a decade.

Donna Murray, 81, of Sharpsville, is one of the founders of the follies. “It was a dream come true,” she said. “Every year the show gets bigger; every year it gets better.”

This year marks the 10th anniversary for the variety show, which will be staged at 7 p.m. Aug. 3 and 2 p.m. Aug. 4 in the auditorium of Hickory High School, Hermitage.

The Mercer County Senior Follies came about when members of Toast of the Town Tappers – Bonnie Banick, Marilyn Moss, Michaelene Sasala and Murray – performed in a senior variety show in Warren, Ohio. That show left such an impression that the dancers decided to start a senior follies across the border.

“We have that kind of talent in Mercer County. Why can’t we do a show every year like they do?” Murray and her three co-founders wondered.

“That’s Entertainment” captured the spirit of the whole idea. It was a total variety show with skits, solos and dances.

“The thought was people can do whatever they do best.” Murray said. “It launched us beautifully.”

For this year’s show, “Age is Just a Number,” there are two directors and three choreographers.

Julie Morris directs the choir and Murray’s daughter, Maureen Murray-Jaklic is the music director.

Linda Lucas, who has a dance studio in Sharpsville, and Eileen Ferrence, who has been affiliated with several community theater performances are two of the choreographers.

Although Lucas’ sister and frequent follies choreographer Bonnie Banick is not one of the choreographers this year, Murray said Banick’s going to get credit whether she wants it or not.

“She’s a very modest person. She’s done a lot this year,” Murray said. “She’s staged numbers and choreographed three or four numbers.” Banick is planning to retire and move with her husband to Lexington, Ky.

For the 10th anniversary show, Murray said the cast numbers about 100 people ages 50 through 90.

“We have an amazing amount of talent on a senior level,” Murray said. “We have so many things that are so outstanding.”

To start the show, the senior chorus sings, “I Just Wanna Celebrate.”

The chorus started rehearsing in March, and meets three to four times a week for two hours at a time.

“Our chorus gets better and better in terms of harmony; it’s fantastic,” Murray said.

Skits, songs and dances abound at the anniversary show, including music from Broadway shows, oldies and rock ’n’ roll music.

Murray is particularly excited about the senior chorus’ rendition of “Love Shack” by the B-52s for their production number.

“We’re really rocking it,” she said. “We’re singing and we’re dancing. We’re having so much fun.”

The absolute top attraction in the first act, according to Murray, is the medley, “Moments We Missed,” which pays homage to past themes of the senior follies shows.

A unique way to start out the second act is a performance by the seniors with Hickory High School drama students.

To close the show, the chorus and cast members perform “Forever Young,” a bittersweet closing but very appropriate, Murray said.

One of Murray’s favorite shows was last year’s “Salute to Dick Clark – American Bandstand.”

“We all agreed if we can top that one, we’d be miracle workers because that was one great show,” Murray said. “The most memorable to date.”

The Mercer County Senior Follies is a yearly fundraiser. The proceeds go to the Mercer County Area Agency on Aging to pay down the mortgage on Shenango Valley Senior Community Center in Hermitage, Murray said.

If the coordinators, directors, and cast of the senior follies have it their way, the show will go on for many more decades.

Murray said new people come in every year and that’s the way they want it.

More and more young seniors are signing up for the show and that’s what is needed to keep it going on.

“We all bond. If you spend that much time with people you get to know them and you care about them and they care about you,” Murray said.

So many seniors who have nothing to do could join the show and their lives would change, according to Murray.

She said they would become acquainted with so many people and have reason to get up and do things in the morning.

“I wouldn’t trade one moment of time,” Murray said, “It’s just amazing, wonderful.”

Tickets are available from cast members, at Shenango Valley Community Senior Center, or at the door for $10 each.