We’d like to share an inspiring story about a group of older Americans who’ve made the most of their retirement years by performing in a unique musical review that was created specifically “by older people, for older people.”
The show’s called the Palm Springs Follies and NPR spent some time with the performers as they wrapped up their final season after an impressive 23-year run.
An old-fashioned musical revue, the Follies became an “institution” in Palm Springs over the past two decades. It had dance numbers, a juggling act and a headlining performer, which was 72-year-old Darlene Love of Twenty Feet From Stardom fame when NPR visited.
Follies co-founder Riff Markowitz got the idea for the show when he saw a remodeled old theater in downtown Palm Springs that reminded him of the variety shows of his childhood. The venue inspired him to put on a “Follies with performers old enough to understand what they were doing, instead of young people acting like they were old.” Markowitz said. “We (all) remember, because we were there.”
All of the Follies performers were former professional dancers that ranged in age from 55 to 84.
Over the years, the Follies catered to their older audience in every conceivable way. Almost all of their performances were matinees and Markowitz employed a team of ushers to check walkers and scooters.
The Follies developed a loyal following in Palm Springs, “fans came back year after year,” NPR’s Ina Jaffe said. Yet all good things must come to an end, and after the 2008 financial crash, fewer people were able to afford tickets. “Ultimately, the financial hole was just too deep to keep going,” Markowitz said.
The Follies played their final show (in May) to a packed audience who “could remember when this sort of entertainment wasn’t old fashioned,” Jaffe said. The final performance ended, “with a traditional patriotic medley. They blew out all the stops, balloons, fireworks effects and a blinding amount of gold sequins.”
The performers said goodbye as “the entire cast and some of the audience joined together in a chorus of Auld Lang Syne, that ode to old friends and times gone by.”
Listen to the full story here.