I can't even remember how early I got swept away by the "Fabulous Follies" in Southern California's sunny Palm Springs, but it must have been no later than its first or second year.
But one thing is definitely clear: I can't imagine my not continuing to see them for the rest of my life.
With the theme of "Tin Pan Alley," this season's show at the historic Plaza Theater is filled with nostalgia from beginning to end.
After Johnny Harris leads the orchestra in an overture of tunes from Irving Berlin and Cole Porter, the amazingly talented and buoyantly youthful cast lights up the stage with such razzmatazz, you'd never imagine that they are all senior citizens, most of them in their 70s, and one the petite and agile Dorothy Dale Kloss an amazing 84 and also the Guinness Record holder as the "Oldest Still Performing Showgirl in the World."
Fifteen numbers rapidly follow one another with their own choreography and costume changes while the radiant cast vibrantly sing and dance to such old favorites as "Toot, Toot, Tootsie," "Yes Sir, That's My Baby," "Alexander's Ragtime Band," and "Aba Daba Honeymoon."
And that's only Scene One with seven more dazzling scenes to follow.
Next comes Joanne Wilson and her Wonder Dogs, followed by the 10 trim and gorgeous senior-citizen chorus girls coming on, one by one, each to a themed melody "Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails," "Over the Rainbow, "Sayonara," "Jungle Drums" and so on and all dazzlingly costumed with grand and elaborate Ziegfield-Follies-type gowns and headdresses.
The second act, also with three scenes, begins with an all-star singing-and-dancing tribute to Cole Porter, then moves to another guest star, this time the talented entertainer/impersonator known as the Father of Impressions and the Man of a Thousand Faces Babe Pier.
He's 78 now but still an absolute knockout. After doing a jaw-dropping impersonation of Robert DeNiro, in a matter of seconds, he'll turn his back and then come back to the microphone to not only sound like Kirk Douglas, Tom Jones or Tony Bennett, but look like them as well. It's uncanny and quite marvelous.
Next up are this season's featured guest stars, The Four Aces who, with lead singer Fred Diodati who is 77 (the others are in their 60s), reprise their beloved hits from the '50s, such as "Love is a Many Splendored Thing," "Tell Me Why," "Shangri-La," "Three Coins in the Fountain" and "Stranger in Paradise."
They are my personal favorite group from my teenage years, and I heard them at the "Follies" a few years ago. Although the old familiar songs were nicely song, gone was the unmistakable rollicking "dum-te-dum" rhythm of the percussion, which had been such a significant part of the "Four-Aces sound" we had all known and loved. I couldn't resist writing them a letter when I heard they were coming back and much to my surprise the rhythm was now there, intact! (Hey, who says critics don't matter?)
The Four Aces, incidentally, were only there until Feb. 9, followed by Tony-winner Melba Moore through March 22, and followed in turn by Anna Maria Alberghetti through May 17.
In Act Three, the whole cast is back, recalling in song and dance, what America was like at mid-century, with zany tunes like "Maizy Doats," "Three Little Fishies," through the lovely melodies of "I'll Be Seeing You" and "We'll Meet Again" and into the rock-and-roll of "Earth Angel" and "Little Darlin'."
Then Scene Two, as always, becomes a rousing, tune-filled, red-white-and blue tribute to the armed forces of all the wars, ending with cannons, confetti, streamers, and the audience going berserk with applause for a show you wish didn't have to end.Personally, I can't imagine anyone not wanting the "Fabulous Palm Spring Follies" to be a part of their lives. But beware, it's addictive. However, it's also as rewarding as almost any form of entertainment I can think of. These wonderful performers are not just super-talented. Good grief, at their ages, they're an uplifting and inspiring reminder to us all of what we, as human beings, can aspire to in our lives. And if you don't float out of that theater, you really need help.
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