Old songs, and new joy

Entertainment: A group of Howard County performers takes its show on the road to nursing homes and hospices.

April 12, 2001|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

Now in their second season, members of the Fabulous Fifty Plus Players are taking their act on the road to entertain contemporaries.

Aided by a $10,000 grant from the Horizon Foundation, the troupe is performing before audiences at nursing homes and hospices in Howard County. The new outreach company provides entertainment to the sick and shut-in, and satisfaction to many of the performers.

"It's so wonderful for the audience to see people their own age performing," said Coleen West, executive director of Howard County Arts Council in Ellicott City, which helped form the troupe last year to provide performing opportunities for senior adults. "It's great for them."

The group is in residence at Howard County Center for the Arts, where members routinely put on shows for the public. Members sing old tunes, dance and perform a bit of schtick. The troupe consists of about 30 members ranging in age from 50 to 80-something. Of that group, 15 perform in the touring company.

Participants must audition to become a part of the group. Harriet Lynn, musical director, said auditions are held once or twice a year.

"We pretty much accept anyone," said Lynn, 55, who lives in Columbia. "If they can't sing, we let them dance. And if they can't do either, we put them on the crew. It's just very gratifying for me to see people active."

At a recent show at St. Agnes Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Ellicott City, audience members -- many of them in wheelchairs -- watched with rapt attention and smiled as the performers sang classics such as "Rockabye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody" and "Bill Bailey Won't You Please Come Home."

Mistress of ceremonies Irene Patton got a laugh and a round of applause after she lifted her skirt a bit and vamped while singing "Some of These Days."

"I had to wait until I was 80 to be sexy," Patton, wearing a white feather boa, told the crowd as she sashayed through the group.

Pam Garnett, director of recreation therapy at the center, said residents were thrilled to have a visit from the Fabulous Fifty Plus Players.

"They love singing and they love all of the old songs," Garnett said.

Connie Harrison, 86, said the show lifted her day. "I really liked it," she said. "The music was really good."

Singer Charley Ward has been with the troupe since its beginning and said he enjoys staying active and entertaining. Ward, 71, lives in Elkridge and said he especially likes performing for other seniors.

"I enjoy bringing some happiness, love and joy to some of these people who are confined, sometimes permanently, to some of these facilities," Ward said. "All it takes is a little touch, a small handshake or a hug."

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