The Central Coast Follies celebrates its 10-year anniversary with “That’s Entertainment” and a dancing, singing cast of 125 on the big stage at the Clark Center.
The Follies dancers are joined by guest singers, children and aerialists in a program of favorites from Broadway, movies and television.
Proceeds from the show go to The Parkinson Alliance, a national nonprofit organization that raises funds for research to help find a cure for Parkinson’s disease. In the last nine years the Follies has sent $217,000 to the alliance.
During the decade the Follies has become known for its energetic dancers and lavish costumes.
“To be a Follies dancer one must be 55 years young,” explained producer Dixie Parker. “This year there are 23 hard-working, vintage Follies dancers ages 57 through 87.”
By “vintage,” she doesn’t mean old, Parker said, but gently aged like fine wine. The Follies holds open auditions for the annual show and has an ensemble of cast members from previous shows.
“It’s a wonderful group of women who are fulfilling a dream of dancing and performing on the big stage. Women (of that generation) sometimes have a guilt complex about doing something for themselves. Now they have raised their children and have time, and they are doing it not only for themselves, but for millions of people.”
The Parkinson Alliance donation is enhanced by matching funds from the Tuchman Foundation, explained Parker, whose husband has Parkinson’s disease. “It’s good to know that 100 percent of what we donate is used for research.”
Jason Sumabat, director and choreographer, is also devoted to the cause. A Central Coast native, he now teaches and choreographs in San Diego, but rehearses the Follies every Sunday for months before the show. He also teaches dance classes here during the year.
“Jason is the creative genius behind the show,” Parker said. “He’s an inspiration. He comes up every weekend.”
His brother Randall Sumabat designs and helps create the dancers’ often elaborate costumes. The dancers pay for their own costumes and dance lessons. They have a sewing committee to help make the clothes, Parker explained.
To celebrate the show’s anniversary, the director created “Diamonds,” a dance piece for the seven Follies dancers who have been performing for all 10 years. They are Parker, Ruth Abram, Pat Alex, Mariene Docterman, Dolores Fischer, Judy Hearn and Nancy Ottsman.
“Jason named us the Decadancers.”
Also new this year is a number that features three generations of dancers — grandmothers, mothers and children. The grandmothers are Follies dancers Ellie Ripley and Joan McKenna. There are always children in the cast, some as young as five years old.
“Once they start, they want to come back year after year,” Parker said, “until they grow out of it.”
Some go on to be singers in the show. The mothers of the youngsters often become involved as well. Aerialists have been part of the action during recent years, and this year some of the children have learned to perform with them.
“Some of the Follies dancers were tempted to do it, too, but we decided we’d better leave it to the kids,” Parker said.
Special guests include an array of singers – some who have appeared in previous Follies, some who are new. Kindred Spirits, a women’s choral group, returns for the second time.
The song and dance numbers are familiar favorites like “You Make Me Feel So Young,” “Razzle Dazzle,” Make ‘em Laugh,” and “If They Could See Me Now.”
“Some of the singers are professionals,” Parker said. “Some have family members with Parkinson’s disease, some give up other gigs to do this.”
“Two local Parkinson Support Groups are part of our team—the Central Coast Parkinson and Santa Maria Parkinson groups.”
The Follies, with a new show every year, has become a popular Central Coast attraction. “We now have tour buses bringing theatergoers to see our show,” Parker said.