Fittingly enough, an upcoming local musical about senior citizens actually made its start as an item on a “bucket list.”
Alexander Caputo can now cross “produce a musical” off that list. The 69-year-old has also recently marked off “get an earring and a tattoo.” At a Christmas party in 2009, he proposed the idea of a senior-based play to Karen Helenthal, a longtime friend and Winter Springs resident with a writing skill that matched his vision.
“It’s like she’s in my mind,” Caputo said. “She can create what I put out.”
Setting the stage
The musical comedy, called “Suddenly Seniors,” produced and funded by Caputo, will have its big debut March 25 at The Plaza Theater in Orlando. The play follows a group of seniors who decide to put on their own show to raise money to save the senior trailer park they live in, which is being foreclosed on.
There will be 12 musical numbers, six recognizable favorites and six original works by local songwriter Glen Gettings. All of the cast members and creative team are older than 50, excluding one actress, whom they call an “aspiring senior.” The play’s tagline is “We’re not done yet,” and Helenthal said that’s the message she hopes the audience receives.
“Too often we forget that there’s an accomplishment in reaching an older age,” she said. “It’s all about aspiring to be a senior.”
Helenthal, who said she ended up being a writer by accident, spent years writing promotional scripts for companies and then started her own keepsake business, Expressions from the Heart. Each item purchased comes with a sentiment written by Helenthal, which has kept her pen to paper over the years. But this is the first time that Helenthal has written a play. She said she loves the power and motivation that words can hold for people.
“I just find our language to be a wonderful tool,” she said.
Life after 50
She hopes audiences use her play to realize that seniors can still find new love, adventures and friendships, even though today they can be perceived as “done” with life.
“You don’t have to give up,” Helenthal said. “As long as you’re living and breathing, you still have a life worth celebrating.”
The cast agreed.
“It is really a time to embrace,” said Carlene Mitchell, a Winter Park resident who plays Georgia Jones in the musical.
And for those younger audience members, the team hopes that they’ll learn to appreciate what the seniors in their lives have to offer — invaluable wisdom and advice.
“You can’t replace life experience with anything,” said Mark Huffman, director and choreographer for the play.
Anyone can relate
Helenthal also said that anyone can relate to the “senior boomers” her characters are experiencing. In a competitive economy where newer, faster skills and technologies are developed every day, even 30-somethings can find themselves feeling a little worried at the thought of competing with new college grads.
The cast could really relate as well, all saying that they see themselves in their characters. And, considering they’re in an industry that doesn’t value the senior age group, this play put life into some dead careers, which also mirrors the overall message. They said they’re happy to participate in a show about seniors by seniors, a uncommon occurrence.
“At this age it’s rare that we get to see ourselves onstage,” said Winter Park resident Natalie Doliner, character Margaret’s understudy. “It’s nice to see a whole show for us.”
Helenthal can’t wait to see her and Caputo’s message spoken, sang and danced in front of an audience.
“I think I’m just going to feel like the moon was hung just for me,” she said.
“Suddenly Seniors” starts playing Thursday, March 24, with the official opening Friday at The Plaza Theater in Orlando. For more information and to buy tickets, visit www.suddenlyseniorsthemusical.com