That’s entertainment

Annual event spotlights talent

Created date

May 24th, 2019
Resident dancers Guillermo Olivos and Doris Teti dazzled the audience with their fancy footwork at this year’s Riderwood’s Got Talent variety show.

Resident dancers Guillermo Olivos and Doris Teti dazzled the audience with their fancy footwork at this year’s Riderwood’s Got Talent variety show.

Norm Gordon got his first taste of show business when he was 16 years old. He sang “Bluebird of Happiness” on stage at his Washington, D.C., high school—and he was hooked from that moment on. 

He went on to become a member of several theater groups, including the Burtonsville Players, in Burtonsville, Md. Over the years, he played the rabbi in Fiddler on the Roof and the bartender in My Fair Lady among many other roles. When the Burtonsville Players bought a store on Main Street in Laurel, Norm and other members spent two years converting it into a theater, now known as Laurel Mill Theater.

“I did just about everything there is to do in theater—acting, dancing, singing, directing, producing, and serving on a board,” Norm says.

Norm and his wife Mary Ellen moved to Riderwood, the Erickson Living community in Silver Spring, about six years ago. Norm quickly got involved with the Actors’ Studio Players, a long-standing group of residents who put on entertaining variety shows two or three times a year.

“I made a lot of friends out of that,” he says.

A new gig in town

He also joined a committee that brings live entertainers in to perform at Riderwood. While working with the group to bring musicians, singers, and other performers to campus, Norm got to thinking about all of the talented people who actually live at Riderwood. That gave him the idea to start producing a talent show for residents.

“I picked out four other people, and we had a meeting,” Norm recalls. “I told them what I had in mind and that we would have auditions for people who lived here.”

With that, Riderwood’s Got Talent, an annual resident-run variety show, was born. When tickets went on sale for the first show in 2017, they sold out in one hour. The yearly performance has become one of the most anticipated events on campus, both for the people who attend as well as the many who work to produce it.

“This group of residents are really quite remarkable,” says Amanda Hixenbough, Riderwood’s community resources coordinator, who helps with scheduling and publicity for the show. “There are a lot of logistics that go into this, from coordinating try-outs to a technical rehearsal, a dress rehearsal, and two full shows.

Top-notch performance

Putting together this top-notch show takes a lot of time and coordination. Norm and his team meet monthly all year long, and as the date of the performance approaches, there are several rehearsals.

“Between the people that are in the show, the tech people, the stagehands, the people who sell tickets, I’ve got at least 50 people involved,” Norm says. “We have two shows each year with about 600 people watching, and it’s really done very well.”

Norm’s committee holds auditions once a year, and they work hard to curate a lineup of the most talented performers. There are usually several musical acts, including both singers and pianists. But other performers showcase uncommon talents.

Phil Weiner has told humorous stories about his life in Maine in the last two shows. This year, Marketa Ebert demonstrated tai chi, featuring the Wudang-style sword form choreographed by her teacher, Master Paul Ramos.

New neighbor Don Lowe, who has written poetry for many years, read poems and shared a song about Riderwood in the 2019 variety show. Another resident poet Icie Jackson, who has performed around the world, recited one of her original poems. Husband-and-wife duo Dolores and Ed Wachman teamed up to put on a skit about what happens when Ed isn’t home.

“It’s so rewarding for everybody involved,” Ed says of the annual production. “It takes a lot of people to put it on, and it satisfies a lot of people in a lot of different ways to have something like this here.”

A variety of talent

Riderwood’s Got Talent is also open to staff members who would like to audition. Executive Director Gary Hibbs sang in the first two shows.

“He really has a fantastic voice,” says Norm.

Of course, the variety show isn’t only about spotlighting talented residents and providing live entertainment. The elaborate production also provides rich opportunities for residents to get to know one another in a lively and unique setting.

“There are about 25 people in the show, and they’re getting together backstage for rehearsals, so they are making friends too,” Norm says.

With the 2019 production successfully completed, Norm says his team has already begun gearing up to put on another great show in 2020.