geriatric theatrics (and not-so-idle idols)
Morgan County senior center takes on “American Idol”
Story By Katherine Purcell - Photos By Angelina Bellebuono
It was a scene fit for Simon, Randy and Paula.
The improvised stage, really the entrance to the cafeteria at the Morgan County Senior Center, including everything from blue curtains to red streamers and numerous icicle lights. A lone microphone and stand occupy the stage.
In front of the stage, a table is set up – three seats, three clipboards and three judges.
Past the judges, a crowd of more than 70 people fill the room, taking up space at each available table. All wait in anticipation.
Behind the scenes, most participants are talking to each other. Some sit and keep to themselves, going over their performance quietly in their heads.
And then there’s the computer room, where one entertainer is attempting to don his, well, dress.
“Is Thomas having trouble with his pantyhose?”
This was the atmosphere at the Morgan County Senior Center on Friday, where 16 seniors, from Morgan and Greene counties, made an attempt at stardom in the center’s third annual Senior Idol.
Lizzie Crutchfield, 72, in a breathtaking green hat, kicked off the show with a lively modeling routine to “Fly Robin Fly,” a song that had the audience clapping along with the beat.
Geraldine Hawkins, 60, then took the stage, with a moving recitation of a poem, “The Friend who Just Stands By.”
The Citizen’s own Rutledge News correspondent, Lois Harper, 83, performed an innovative skit where she played a Civil War soldier, after the war, attending a parade on the town square. Wearing a men’s coat and a drawn-in mustache and using a park bench as a prop, Harper portrayed the emotion and actions of such a veteran, as he might’ve reacted to the playing of a host of patriotic marching tunes.
Lucy Saffo followed Harper with a stirring rendition of “This Little Light of Mine,” a performance that had the audience echoing her with every verse.
Willie Waller, 77, then dazzled with a fabulous modeling routine to “I Will Survive,” a song that she chose in an effort to express her victorious battle with cancer.
With an introduction of “He’s single, ladies,” Willie Jones, 60, took the stage to sing a Jim Reeves tune before he, in all actuality, “broke it down like James Brown.” The audience cheered on his pyrotechnic footwork and blink-and-you’ll-miss-them splits on stage.
Annie Walker, 77, in sharp contrast to the act before, followed with a gospel tune, “Guide My Feet.”
Mary Heath, 66, performed a poem, and song as well, and she had the audience singing along.
Amy Boswell, 75, followed that with “Don’t Worry About Me,” which seemed to move the audience to clap, sing and affirm her with responses of “Uh huh!” and “Yeah!” Apparently, Boswell kept her talent to herself until this year’s Senior Idol, as multiple members of the Senior Center’s staff said, “We didn’t know she could sing!”
Debra Greene, 60, followed it up with a moving reading, “To My Friend.”
Clara Twilly, 66, danced to the song “Happy People,” which prompted the crowd to make comparisons to Beyonce.
Olether Hicks, 75, then performed a stand-up (or “sit down,” as she called it) comedy routine, including a joke involving God, an atheist and a bear, which made the entire audience laugh out loud.
Geneva Smith, 64, “got her groove on” when she modeled to “I Love the Night Life.”
Idonia Grimes sang a tune that had the audience clapping along.
Cora Smith, 89, then performed a soulful version of “Come In the Room,” which, again, had the audience clapping.
Carlos Zeggara, 29, did an outstanding job of entertaining the audience with his rendition of Matchbox 20’s “Unwell.”
Finally, to conclude the show, last year’s Senior Idol, Thomas Eller, 61, lip synched “Proud Mary” in a stunning black and gold dress, wig, pantyhose and make-up reminiscent of Tina Turner herself.
Well, sort of.
At the conclusion of each act, the three judges – Mary Alice Gilbert of the Morgan County Health Department, Sally Stephens, former Board of Education member and daughter of a member of the center, and yours truly, Kathryn Purcell of the Morgan County Citizen – scored the entertainers. Based on a 100-point scale, contestants could receive a maximum of 10 points for “Presentation Format,” 20 points for “Quality,” 35 points for “Skill,” 30 points for “Showmanship” and five points for “Time Limit.”
In the end, special awards were given to Eller, who couldn’t win this year as he was last year’s winner, and Zeggara, who wasn’t quite eligible to be considered a senior.
The “Bottom Six” included, in no particular order, Hawkins, Waller, Harper, Walker, Greene and Heath, while the “Middle Six” included, in no particular order, Crutchfield, Geneva Smith, Grimes, Cora Smith, Hicks and Saffo.
And the “Top Three,” right after this commercial break…
Willie Jones, with a little help from James Brown, came in third. The secretly talented Amy Boswell came in second. And Beyonce, I mean Clara Twilly, came in first.
Twilly received this year’s Senior Idol trophy, as well as a $25 Wal-Mart gift card.
“I thought they were good,” Gilbert said. “I really enjoyed it.”
“I really was surprised,” Stephens said. “You could tell this wasn’t the first time some of them sang.”
Concluding the show, the emcee urged this year’s contestants, and future participants, to continue working on their talent.
“Keep on doing those splits; keep on dancing; keep on singing; just keep on keeping on.”