Ever watched a stage play and thought “I bet I could do that?” And then thought, “Nah, I’m too old.”
Freddie Gershon doesn’t think so. The spitfire 80-year-old from New York City has just launched Broadway Senior, a series of adaptations of popular Broadway musicals starring seniors…and he is auditioning. He’s put on productions in a handful of senior communities, just to test it out, and it’s full steam ahead.
It was a natural evolution, he tells Senior Planet, from the Broadway Junior (learn more here) program he launched in 1994 for middle school and elementary students. (Since that launch, more than 165,000 separate productions have been performed, with about 5 million children starring in “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Into the Woods,” “Annie” and many more.)
Now it’s seniors’ turns. “Into the Woods” was also one of Gershon’s early productions with senior participants, put on recently at the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.…and he’s put on “Guys and Dolls” at Juniper Village in State College, PA.
Here’s some backstory and scenes as Juniper Village residents in State College, Pennsylvania perform Guys and Dolls.
The feedback and appreciation from the senior cast has been wonderful, he says. “It makes me feel so good inside,” he reveals. He recalls one woman who confessed she’d always wanted to try false eyelashes, and she was giddy that her stage performance would now give her the chance.
The administrators of the facilities so far have been supportive and welcoming.
Gershon told Playbill: “We had a 92-year-old cast member in our production of “Guys and Dolls” who began to sob after our first performance. He said, ‘I’m overwhelmed that the audience would respond to me, that they really loved it. I never knew what it was like to be an actor.”’
The 60-minute adaptations planned for Broadway Senior will be accessible for all, Gershon promises, included those with dementia and other issues.
Gershon has played many roles in real life. He was an entertainment attorney and ”cocktail pianist” and a would-be songwriter. He likes to say he graduated from law school (Columbia) the same year the Beatles went on the Ed Sullivan show. He was involved in film financing and distribution, including the legendary “Tommy.”
For more details on the Broadway Seniors, see the writeup in Playbill.
And check out Gershon’s latest news at MTI Shows.
Photo: Performance still from Into the Woods SR at Lenox Hill Neighborhood House
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What’s your favorite musical? Let us know in the comments!