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Another sold-out Follies

Fifth edition of Brooksby’s variety show delights audiences

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July 24th, 2014
Guitarist Jack Lamb meanders through the audience while delivering a standout, soulful rendition of “I Walk the Line.”
Guitarist Jack Lamb meanders through the audience

In customary Brooksb... Follies fashion, the show began with a bang, as the performers marched through the audience to “76 Trombones,” energetically playing instruments, clapping, and waving to friends and family. 

This year marked the fifth edition of the Brooksby Follies, a variety show featuring music, original skits, and dancing performed by talented Brooksby community members and a handful of guests. More than 40 people, including the backstage crew, were involved in the production. Directed by Joanne Averay, who lives at the Peabody, Mass., community, the Follies brought humor and fun to audiences and performers alike. 

“They have fun doing this; they’re like little kids,” remarked audience member Joe Nazzaro, who lives at Brooksby. 

The Follies’ three sold-out performances not only took place onstage in Brooksby’s state-of-the-art catering room—performers expertly wove their way between sections of occupied audience seats and in front of the stage, filling the room with a dynamic and entertaining variety, from tap dancing to country music and comedic interludes. 

Colorful entertainment

Between numbers and set changes, Joanne added colorful commentary. “People ask, ‘What’s the Follies?’ There are many kinds of entertainment—Broadway plays, operas, ballet, burlesque—Follies is none of that,” Joanne told audiences. “There is color, music, entertainment, dance. We are not on a strict script—as you can see. This is just to have some fun.” 

This year’s show featured three numbers by the Senior Moments tap group, which includes three Brooksby dancers, one of whom is Joanne. As the tappers traveled in artfully choreographed lines to “Boogie Shoes,” audience members tapped their toes in time. The upbeat atmosphere continued with the following number, six gentlemen singing “Hey Good Lookin’,” joined by ladies donning sequined scarves.  

“Dancing is so much fun,” one performer exclaimed as she sashayed by. 

Young guest performer Lauren Savia joined to sing two numbers from the musical Annie with genuine, practiced vocals. She was later visited onstage by a dog owned by Ronnie Chase, the show’s musical director. 

Guitarist Jack Lamb delivered a standout, soulful rendition of “I Walk the Line,” while meandering through the catering room. Other memorable solo performances came from newcomer and eloquent vocalist Cal Probst, who sang “Swanee,” and comedic expert Cynthia Goldston, who sang “Second-Hand Rose,” while casting off layers of hats and dresses. 

Between acts, a recurring mustachioed deliveryman, played by Jim Cush, wandered through the room looking for the recipient of a house plant. Each comedic entrance featured a slightly larger version of the plant, until the final appearance, in which Jim rolled in the floor plant on a dolly.  

Real-life couple and seasoned entertainers John Murphy and Joan Pappalardo performed “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue,” a reprise from a previous Follies show. Playing up the dramatic difference in their stature, John rolled out a staircase for Joan to walk up and reach him, culminating the number with a kiss.    

For “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” the women wore colorful skirts and white tops, while the men sported oversized red bow ties. The performers encouraged the audience to sing along and the result was a pleasant and powerful sound. 

Audience involvement continued for the finale, a military salute in Follies tradition. Veterans in the audience were granted flags to wave along to “Anchors Aweigh,” joined by the tappers in sailor suits.  

Casual fun 

During the opening matinee performance, delayed entrances and Joanne’s frank commentary between numbers added to the casual, at times improvised, feel in the room, where chairs were added when more guests arrived than expected.  

Despite the small number of rehearsals before the opening performance, audience members and performers were delighted with the result. 

“For a little bit of practice, it went excellent. They just had fun,” Joanne says.

“Everybody really contributed tremendously and rose to the occasion,” says Dorothy MacDonald, the show’s assistant costume designer. 

“Now I can relax,” remarked Lorraine Probst, wife of soloist Cal, after the show. Of the Follies and Joanne’s directorial role, Lorraine adds, “She put on a good show. I was impressed.” 

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