SANTA CRUZ—For performer Joe Ferrara, being a member of the Santa Cruz Follies is like being part of a large, extended family.
Since joining three years ago Ferrara has become an enthusiastic spokesperson for the group, which has performed in Santa Cruz for the past 64 years.
“We all get so close,” he said. “It’s always comfortable to come here, hang out and practice. It’s a warm, welcoming environment.”
Founded in 1956, Santa Cruz Follies consists of performers aged 50 and older—dancers, singers and instrumentalists. The group is the longest-running organization that has utilized the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium. Every autumn, the Follies perform a string of shows at the Civic—after rehearsing for months at the Market Street Senior Center.
The shows bring audiences from as far away as Grass Valley. One year, said member Dee Sargent of Watsonville, there was even a group from Reno, NV who made the trip to see the show.
“For whatever reason… I don’t think people expect it to be so good,” Ferrara said. “But it really is. There is so much incredible talent in this group.”
Joe Ferrera will perform “If I Were a Rich Man” from “Fiddler on the Roof” at this year’s Santa Cruz Follies show. (Photo by Steve Niemann)
This year’s show, “Fascinatin’ Rhythms: Broadway to Hollywood,” is slated for Sept. 11-14. It will cover a wide range of pieces; from classics such as “Guys and Dolls” to Disney hits like “You’ve Got a Friend In Me.” The lengthy program consists of “fast acts;” one piece quickly following the next.
“You come up with an idea and it just blossoms from there,” said director and longtime member Jo Luttringer. “That’s what happened. This is a true variety show.”
This is Luttringer’s third time directing the Santa Cruz Follies. She said she enjoys seeing people in the audience getting inspired by the show.
“When they see people their age perform, they might think, ‘Hey, maybe I can do it too,’” she said.
Dee Sargent, who has been with the follies for about 10 years, said that the show’s success is just as dependent on the people offstage as the ones performing. She singled out costumer Kris Wheeler, who has accumulated an impressive amount of outfits in her years or so with the Follies.
“The community really rallies around us,” she said. “All of our volunteers, the tech team… everyone is so supportive.”
Ferrara said that for many, being a part of the Follies has been life-changing.
“Some of our members face significant challenges,” Ferrara said. “That is the reason why we’re all here. It keeps us going, it keeps us active and part of the community.”
“Fascinatin’ Rhythms: Broadway to Hollywood” is dedicated to the memory of cast member Jacqueline Lockwood. Shows will be held Sept. 11-14 at 1 p.m., and Sept. 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, 307 Church St. Tickets are $22 for adults and $5 for children 10 and under. Preorder at santacruztickets.com. or purchase at the box office prior. Proceeds benefit the Market Street Senior Center. For information call 423-6640.