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Residents at Largo's Royal Palms take to the stage to belt out Broadway classics

They tapped their feet, shimmied their hips and belted out Broadway tunes.

About 30 Royal Palms senior living community residents, ages 78 to 98, took the stage Tuesday afternoon for A Splash of Broadway — The Royal Way.

The fully costumed production featured vignettes from about a dozen theater classics, including Cats, Oklahoma, Guys and Dolls and Damn Yankees. A few of the performers live elsewhere on the Palms of Largo campus.

About 60 residents from Cypress Palms and Regal Palms, two other communities on the campus, came to see the show. They clapped heartily and often sang along during the refrain of popular numbers.

The show, which was full of surprises, kicked off with Cabaret performed by the whole cast.

One show highlight featured the cast "baby," Phyllis Birnbaum, 78, as Lola. Donning a red sequinned dress and a black wig, Birnbaum sang Whatever Lola Wants as she sashayed around Bob Scheider, who portrayed Joe.

She shook her hips robustly, but later admitted she restrained herself a bit because she's recovering from back surgery.

Birnbaum and many others in the cast said they hadn't been on stage before Dee Ragan, Royal Palms lifestyle director, recruited them for the show.

Ruth Frick, who portrayed Grizabella from Cats, said she had been in a choir, but never theater.

"You can't help but get nervous," she said after the show.

Others had a bit of high school drama or a little theater in their backgrounds. And a couple, like Clark Sullivan, had a bit of professional experience.

Midway through the show, Sullivan, 85, blasted out Ol' Man River from Showboat, his voice rich and bold.

After the show Sullivan, who called himself a "born ham," explained that he used to be a vaudevillian in the Chicago area.

Some of the cast said they loved being on stage. Others said they relished the social part of rehearsing and performing together.

"It's a great way of meeting people," said Frick, 86.

Ragan and the assistant lifestyle director, Jim Abegglen, both ordained ministers of music, directed the show.

Each year, residents perform two Broadway-themed shows and a holiday show, Ragan said.

Ragan, who wrote narration and scenes to accompany the hit songs in the show, said she was hired about eight years ago to infuse arts and theater into the Royal Palms community.

"If I can keep their minds going," Ragan said, "I can keep them going."


If you go

If you want to check out A Splash of Broadway — The Royal Palm Way, two performances remain.

When: At 7 tonight and at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Where: The theater at Royal Palms, 200 Lake Ave. NE, Largo.

For information: Call Dee Ragan at (727) 437-1566.

Residents at Largo's Royal Palms take to the stage to belt out Broadway classics 08/04/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 4, 2009 8:47pm]
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