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Linda-Marie Singer is The Live Wire

Linda-Marie Singer - Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge

The Palm Springs Follies:  Golden Girls of a Golden Era

Palm Springs, Ca.: We all remember the hit television show “The Golden Girls” about four wacky roommates (Okay, Bea Arthur’s Dorothy was not wacky) that included their octogenarian mother, Sophia. Now try to imagine those golden girls sashaying around the stage in a buoyant musical revue of the 1930’s and 1940’s called “The Palm Springs Follies.”

I know, it’s difficult to picture – women of “a certain age” cavorting like showgirls or pin-ups, but that’s what “The Palm Springs Follies” is offering to audiences of all ages: a physical and emotional elasticity of showgirls exuding admiration, razzle-dazzle, and open-mouthed wonder.

NATASCHA ALBORN, 68, "My Heart Belongs To Daddy" - click to enlarge
NATASCHA ALBORN, 68, "My Heart Belongs To Daddy"

Now in its fourteenth season, the three-hour knockout features a vaudeville-style song and dance revue. Playing at the historic 1936 Plaza Theatre in downtown Palm Springs, the show single-handedly has rejuvenated the village that was once Playground of the Stars.

When creators Riff Markowitz and Mary Jardin took over the vacant Plaza Theatre, no one could have believed that they would turn it into the home of one of the most successful shows of its kind. Nearly three million people have flocked to see the extravaganza jam-packed with nostalgia that echoes back to an era of Big Bands, memorable tunes, and fanciful costumes.
 

Today’s tribute spotlights showgirls numbering in ages from 57-87! One of the most sensual is Natascha Ahlborn in her solo “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.” At 68, the German born performer has danced professionally at The Follies Bergere, and the Lido in Paris.

Glenda Gulfoyle 70, in "That Old Black Magic" - click to enlarge
Glenda Gulfoyle 70, in "That Old Black Magic"

If you don’t believe these “tap dancing grandmas” are the real deal, take a look at 80-year-old Dorothy Kloss as she glides serenely across the stage in “The Continental.” Joined by Judy Bell, 66, and Glenda Guilfoyle, 70, the threesome do a rollicking version of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” made famous by The Andrew Sisters. As the women stars introduce themselves to the cheering audience, Kloss, one of the oldest performers in the show, gets a warm welcome from the crowd. But it’s not until Glenda Guilfoyle announces that she has seven children and eight grandchildren do the people go wild.

Having read this far, you will notice that I haven’t elaborated on the male performers in the company, only because we seem to be mesmerized if not delightfully surprised by the glamour that women can radiate in their 80’s. Among the male entertainers, Dick France and Lou DeGrado, both 74, are graceful and energetic assisting the women, while the Male Ensemble provides a nimble accompaniment in “Sentimental Journey,” “Steppin’ Out With My Baby,” and “Chattanooga Choo Choo.”

RIFF MARKOWITZ, debonair creator of "The Palm Springs Follies" - click to enlarge
RIFF MARKOWITZ, debonair creator
of "The Palm Springs Follies"

Although not strutting or stomping, Riff Markowitz, Master of Ceremonies, keeps things moving along at a comedic pace. Debonair in a tailored tuxedo, the emcee cuts a fine figure as he warms up the crowd. Much like Jack Benny, Markowitz is most successful delivering deadpan humor. Each show highlights a talent to amuse – not to mention Markowitz’ consummate timing and rip-roaring jokes that poke gentle fun of seniors.

Headliner Kay Ballard, 79 - click to enlarge
Headliner Kay Ballard, 79

This year’s headliner is Kaye Ballard. At seventy-nine, the charismatic Ballard is a show business miracle who has been an enduring personality for sixty years. Discovered by bandleader Spike Jones in 1943, Ballard has appeared in Broadway musicals, movies, and was a regular on the Perry Como Show and The Doris Day Show. But it was her starring role in the television hit series “The Mothers-in-Law” that brought Ballard appreciable acclaim. Primarily known for her comedic timing, this headliner can belt out a song as evidenced in “Stormy Weather,” and in her loving tribute to her grandmother. Affable in person, the star conducted a book signing of “How I Lost 10 Pounds in 56 Years” after the show. The cast also greeted members of the audience and posed for pictures as well as compliments.

With musical arrangements by Johnny Harris, costumes designed by Connie Furr, choreography by Joan Palethorpe and Tap Choreography by Carri Burbank Glen, “The Palm Springs Follies” concludes exuberantly with a patriotic red, white and blue tribute. Featured songs include “The Yankee Doodle Boy,” “Strike Up The Band,” “Over There,” and “America The Beautiful.”

And beautiful it is.

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For more information:

“The Palm Springs Follies”
128 South Palm Canyon Drive
Palm Springs, California 92262

Phone: 760-327-0225
Web:  http://www.psfollies.com
Tickets from $39-$82

Photos by Linda-Marie Singer

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