OLMSTED FALLS, Ohio — Have you heard about the hottest show in town? It’s a spirited revival of a classic musical with an impressive cast of 66 thespians including such stars as Marge Coble, Eleanor Dreshfield and Lois Riamer.
And if those names don’t sound familiar, they might soon. Everyone has to get their start somewhere and for these new actors, that place is Renaissance Retirement Community in Olmsted Township, and I was honored to receive an invite for a sneak preview of their very first production -- the Broadway musical "Guys and Dolls."
"We are a continuing care retirement community, which means that we have independent living. We also have assisted living on this campus and skilled nursing," explained Executive Director Sandy Skerda, "We actually developed a drama club by demand of the residents."
The brainchild of Events and Programs Coordinator Marie Diamond, the demand proved far greater than expected.
"Marie thought we would get maybe 15 people that would want to participate," Skerda said. "And I believe we have over 60, so it's quite a production. And we have a lot of talent here."
The cast consists of 65 residents, ranging in age from 75 to 96 years old. And not all of them are first-time performers. Resident Dick Poyer, who plays Sky Masterson, had dabbled in showbiz before.
"I did one show in college. I did 'Anything Goes,' but I was just a song and dance man at that time. I [also] had a quartet for several years during the seventies and eighties, and we did the Music Man," he said.
And despite that professional history, Poyer says he was surprised to score a lead role at 92 years old.
"I had not known exactly what it was all about. I just decided I've done some singing before. I've done a lot of coral work and a lot of quartet work over the years, and I thought, I can do this. So I signed on and never looked back."
Some of the cast members, like Jean Driggs, who plays Adelaide, were already familiar with the production.
"I was at Ohio State University, and they did Guys and Dolls, and I did Sarah. But you have to remember, that was 65 years ago," she recalled. "I used to think that my friend Kay, who was Adelaide in the show, I used to think she was having more fun than I was. And now I understand."
The staging may look a little different this time around, but resident and accompanist Carol Foley, says the cast is nimble and ready.
"It's amazing at the ages that we have included this group, eighties and nineties, and they've just taken to it beautifully. I mean, wonderful music is a wonderful thing to bring, be people together anyway. And I think they've gotten very excited about doing it, and I've loved being part of it. It's been great."
She even recruited her son to help out.
"Marie needed someone to direct, and I just said, I volunteered my son. I said, well, he's a music teacher in the Parma schools, and he could do after-school rehearsals."
Naturally, interest has been high, and if you’re looking for a ticket, you’re out of luck. It’s sold out. And as for the chances of them adding additional shows to meet the demand, when I asked the cast they seemed…reluctant.
And who can blame them? Showbiz is tough work and it’s always better to leave them wanting more.