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by Dan Price

How many of you have seen The Spectacular Follies? Since 2008, this fantastic group of talented people, ranging from their 50s to their 90s, has entertained the people of DFW, wowing us with exciting dance routines, beautiful songs, and side-splitting humor.

And they make it look so easy! That's because this incredible cast puts in the work. For weeks before, hours at a time, this cast of singers and dancers put it all out there to ensure this year's Follies show is better and grander than years past.

DeeAnne Meece, Director/Artistic Director of the Spectacular Follies, leads the charge these days. While the Follies was started in 2008 by Ned Startzel and Mark Caroll, DeeAnne joined the Follies in 2014 as the Artistic Director and Show Writer. "The original concept is still there," DeeAnne explained, "It's just a larger cast." Oh, boy, is the cast larger. When the Spectacular Follies began in 2008, it was a cast of 15 or 20 people. "Now, we have 90 to 92 people. We learned really quickly there was that much talent here in the metroplex," DeeAnne told me.

It takes a lot of people to put the show together. DeeAnne works double duty as Director/Artistic Director and has a great team behind her. Amy Kay handles the Choreography, and Sammy Davenport is the Music Director. The dancers, the singers… And don't forget about the Show Girls!

And with all these people to work with, so many new to the cast, it takes the whole community to get everyone on the same page. Starting with Orientation, the veteran cast members help the newbies find their way. "We picked up quite a lot of new people this year," DeeAnne explained. "More than we have picked up in the past, and they're all super talented. As a director, I couldn't be more thrilled! We get some of our cast members through word of mouth… and from Celebration Magazine. Some see the show, and they sit there in the audience and think, 'I've got to get on that stage. I want to try out next year'."

When I asked DeeAnne about the day in the life, what it was like backstage at the show, that feeling you get on opening night, DeeAnne was in synch with my menagerie of questions. "It's different for performers who have not performed in years. The butterflies are a little more intense, they are a little more nervous, or maybe a better word would be excited," DeeAnne said. "Many of them feel like, 'Oh, my gosh, I have another chance to show off what I can do.' And many had put their talents on the shelf to raise families or pursue other careers. And now they are returning to performing on stage, so it's different from somebody who does this professionally every day. [The Follies cast] are kind of reinventing themselves again."

"It's so inspirational to me, and to anyone who sees them, that these seniors, a lot of them in their 70s, who dance and dance well. They still have bodies that can do all that," DeeAnne told me. "My granddaughters are both theatre majors in college, and they come to the follies every year… and they are so awestruck when they leave because [the cast] are pulling it off."

As far as rehearsal goes, the cast has some days off and downtime, but don't get me wrong, a lot of sweat and strength goes into this. Sometimes, the singers are off the day the dancers work or vice versa, but other days, it's all hands on deck. "They seem to really look forward to and enjoy rehearsals because they know I am pulling from them their very best. And they all become friends. It's a family."

Family. Community. I think, at the end of the day, that's what it's all about. The ability to be a part of something greater than yourself is key. To push yourself and strive to bring joy to people. Whether you are a young person in Cub Scouts or swim team or someone young at heart putting on tap shoes again for the first time in decades, we all yearn to be a part of something bigger than us. DeeAnne knows it. The technical team and the musical group know it. The actors and dancers of the follies know it. And the fans in the crowd can feel it. From the robust musical numbers to the jokes that keep you laughing, the hard work of the follies cast and crew shines through during every performance.

Thank you to DeeAnne and the whole cast and crew of the Spectacular Follies for doing what you do for all of us.

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