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Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014 12:01 am

The Sky’s the Limit for the Mature Mob

Deanna Langheim delivered a lively performance of “I’ve Got the Sun in the Morning” at the Mature Mob’s practice.


Signs that fall is approaching: cooler weather, the beginning of football season, this year’s Mature Mob show....

Okay, that last one may not be an annual rite of the season for you, but in recent years it has been for me, as well as my castmates and a loyal group of fans who attend every year. The Mature Mob is a troupe of singers, dancers and performers, all of whom have seen their 50th birthday, and who have staged an annual show since their first one, Over 60 But a Long Way From Over the Hill, in 1992. This year’s show, The Sky’s the Limit, is the Mob’s 23rd. As with every show since its inception, proceeds go to Senior Services of Central Illinois.

Sue Dorsey is directing, with Maria Ferraro assisting this year. She came up with the idea herself: “I wrote down various categories, including things one finds in the sky.” The result is a mix of songs, dances, sketches and production numbers, all built around that theme. It includes such classics as “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” “Wind Beneath My Wings,” “Paper Moon” and “Swingin’ on a Star.” This year’s show has a few new elements, such as the opener: “For the first time, we’re opening with a dance number.” In this case, it’s a ballroom dance version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” performed by four couples. Another is a dog act, part of one of the sketches.

From the beginning, dancing has been an important part of the Mature Mob. In fact, it had its roots in the tap dancing classes taught at the Springfield Senior Center by Dorothy Irvine. One of her students was Rita Norris, who joined in 1991. The following year, she moved to an advanced tap class with Jim Myers. Along with several other students, they formed the Rockettes of Ages. From that modest beginning, the Mature Mob was born.

Marilyn Kyes and Bonnie and Cliff Ryder perform a tap number to “Singin’ in the Rain.” (Not pictured is Pat Newquist).

Their show in ’92 was also Rita’s first, and she returned for several more, but this year is her first show in several years. Rita’s husband, Ed Norris, has also been with the Mob for years, as a singer, dancer and show emcee.

When Dorothy Irvine and her daughter left the Senior Center, Rita took over the tap class. She calls tap “good exercise mentally as well as physically.” Her class numbers about 10, with seven dancing in the show under the name The Shufflin’ Seniors. “It’s a fantastic group,” she says, “very supportive of each other.”

As the Shufflin’ Seniors take the stage for the first time, the Golden Girls and a Guy prepares for their finale. Their leader, Bonnie Ryder, has been tapping for a long time. Her first show was A Grand Night for Singing in 2000. For Bonnie, that show is memorable in at least one other respect: “Cliff (her husband and the “Guy” in the group) and I remarried on stage, though it fit in with the show.” The Golden Girls have been a Mob fixture for years, but a dwindling membership (down to Bonnie, Cliff, Pat Newquist and Marilyn Kyes) has prompted Bonnie to hang up her tap shoes with Sky.

In addition to tap, ballroom (which first appeared in 2003’s A Musical Tapestry of Stephen Foster) and line dancing (since the Silver Steppers came aboard in 2007) are well represented.

The Silver Steppers dance to the country song “One Night at a Time.”

But singing occupies the majority of the Mob program, be it choral numbers, solo and small group songs or Mob on the Road, a sub-group of singers who perform throughout the year around central Illinois. Pianist Carolyn Quinlan has accompanied the singers for years. Retired music teacher Diane Waltrip is conducting the Mature Mob again this year. Her husband, Ron, is a soloist and somewhat of a comedian this year. But there’s a third family member on stage with them – Rascal, their toy poodle. Diane related how Rascal became the mascot when he was only a few months old: “We had just acquired him. I was still teaching school, and he wasn’t house-broken yet, so when I sat at the piano to practice, he had to sit with me to stay out of trouble. When the Mob was practicing, I didn’t want to leave him at home, so I snuck him into rehearsal one night. He sat with me for two hours without a fuss.” The director of that year’s show agreed to let Rascal stay with Diane, and “he’s been with me in every show since, doing his little tricks between acts.” In one sketch, in a talent show setting, Diane and Rascal are among the contestants, demonstrating some of his repertoire.

To join in the fun as a member, one must be 50 or more and try out. Sue, who first heard of the group through an ad in Illinois Times, says “we’re eager for new singers to join. We only have three new people this year, and we really want five or six.” To any prospective Mob wannabes, auditions for next year’s show take place in June, so mark your calendars. As this grizzled veteran can testify, it’s a lot of fun, and there’s always room for more.

Will Burpee is a Springfield freelance writer and occasional actor and singer. This year’s Mature Mob show is his eighth.

The Mature Mob presents The Sky’s the Limit at Sacred Heart-Griffin Theatre, 1200 W. Washington St.

Showtimes: Friday, Sept. 26 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 27 at 2 p.m.; and Sunday, Sept. 28 at 2 p.m.

General admission tickets are $15, available at the Senior Center, 701 W. Mason Street, Springfield, from any cast member or at the SH-G theater door.

For more information contact Maria at 496-6221 or maria22@casscomm.com. Group rates available for more than 10 from Celeste at 546-1507 or ccosta41@att.net.

All proceeds benefit Senior Services of Central Illinois.

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