Follies continues its ‘Mystical Magical Journey’

By PHYLLIS HODGES

The chorus opens the Follies with “Magic We Do” from the Broadway musical Pippin. The two-hour extravaganza also includes eight singers/soloists, four comedy routines, six dance groups and The Sounds of Time from East Bay High School. Bill Hodges photos.

The chorus opens the Follies with “Magic We Do” from the Broadway musical Pippin. The two-hour extravaganza also includes eight singers/soloists, four comedy routines, six dance groups and The Sounds of Time from East Bay High School. Bill Hodges photos.

Why do the 100-plus organizers and performers spend long, arduous hours preparing for the Follies, held each year in the Kings Point Veterans Theater in the North Clubhouse?

Sure, we all know the annual show has become a tradition here in Sun City Center (first show in 1984), but that doesn’t mean it “just happens.”

Querying some of the performers and sponsors, “Why do you do it?” brought an overall three-pronged response:  It gives them the opportunity to showcase their talents, they enjoy the camaraderie formed during the hundreds of practice hours, and they feel good about contributing to the worthy causes that benefit from the show. This year, beneficiaries are Moffitt Hospital, SCC Emergency Squad and East Bay High School’s Sounds of Time Chorus.

Table seating sold out quickly for this year’s production, themed The Mystical Magical Journey Continues — but riser seats ($14) were still available at press time, either at the Kings Point ticket box office, open weekdays until 4 p.m. or at the door. By the way, riser seats do have backs. The show starts this Friday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m., and continues on Saturday, Feb. 27, at 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The Follies were formerly sponsored by the Pelican Players, a local theatrical group. Last year and now in 2016, it is being sponsored by Vesta Property Services, which manages the Kings Point amenities. Matt Permuth, general manager, said it was a no-brainer for them; after all, their business is getting people involved. The Vesta activities director, Nicole Howell, serves as producer and handles publicity, programs, etc.  Vesta gets none of the proceeds.

During rehearsal, Director Rose Ostrander, right, tweaks the performance of Vince Robbio, Babs Cominoli and Rick Barfield (guitar), who are presenting “Granada” with a semi-comedic twist.

During rehearsal, Director Rose Ostrander, right, tweaks the performance of Vince Robbio, Babs Cominoli and Rick Barfield (guitar), who are presenting “Granada” with a semi-comedic twist.

Rose Ostrander says she got involved 25 or so years ago. Long story short—she auditioned, got two solos and continued to perform until she moved up to assistant director; five years ago, she became director and writer for the show.

Music has always been Ostrander’s first love. Although she served primarily in administrative roles in the New York school system, she also directed a high school musical group.

Before she and husband Tom returned to New York last summer, she and key members of the production group decided upon a 2016 Follies theme so the dance groups could start practicing. When she returned with the script in the fall, the real work began.

“This year is the most fun I have had with any of the Follies; our team is exceptional,” she said, beaming.

That team includes Linda Stone, assistant director and stage manager. For the past three years, Stone has used her exceptional organizational skills, fine-tuned over the years in hotel sales and event planning, to keep everyone on track. Ostrander is delighted to have such a talented right-hand person.  “Linda is great. She steps up and handles anything the cast needs; she also works backstage during the show,” she said.

Diane Lefrancois is chalking up her second year as choreographer for the Follies chorus. Dancing is in her blood; she started at age three. Lefrancois always found time for dancing, either as student or teacher. She moved here in 1998 and quickly became involved in community theater. In addition to the time she spends with the Follies chorus, she serves as choreographer for the Jazzmatazz dance group year-round. That’s in her spare time; she still works as a pediatric dental assistant.

The 2016 Follies begin with a dedication to Al Spatola, who sang in 25 Follies before moving to Boston last year. Those familiar with Al’s voice say that “when he sang, he tugged on your heart strings and enriched your soul.”

The 2016 Follies begin with a dedication to Al Spatola, who sang in 25 Follies before moving to Boston last year. Those familiar with Al’s voice say that “when he sang, he tugged on your heart strings and enriched your soul.”

And where would the performers be without a capable sound team to manage the sound and sets? That’s Technical Director Keith Postle and Stage Coordinator Carlyn Postle. Along with their four assistants, they ensure that the performers have whatever they need — when they need it. The Postles live in Brandon and also volunteer with several Tampa area theatrical groups.

The organizers and cast are ready and anxious to thrill you with their three performances this weekend (Feb. 26 and 27). Be prepared to be awed!

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