There’s not much to smile about in this Summer of Tsuris. Governor Rick Scott has fled the jurisdiction as Dream Defenders occupy the Capitol. Deck chairs are being shuffled at the Department of Children & Families. The Agency for Health Care Administration is using the children it warehouses in geriatric nursing homes as an excuse to bash Obamacare. Obscene “compensation” pours into the pockets of shameless officers and directors at Florida Blue.
So it was a welcome and altogether unexpected surprise this weekend to see hundreds of old folks dancing down Broadsway at Florida State University’s Opperman Music Hall.
That’s not a typo. “Broadsway” Productions is the second act of self-described recovering lawyer Elise Judelle and Peggy Brady, who recently retired after a 21-year run as Executive Director of the local Council on Culture and Arts.
Judelle and Brady are in show business full time now, and this weekend was the world premiere of a cabaret they call TGIO (Thank God I’m Old). For two solid hours, Broadsway’s troupe of singer-actors took an unsparing musical look at all manner of unfinished business people contend with in the 4th quarter of their lives. The characters portrayed come from the songbooks of pop, rock, and country, as well as the Great White Way, and the stakes are high, because time on the clock is running low.
The Judelle-Brady spirit of “hey kids, let’s put on a show!” made for a great performance, but even more interesting was the audience.
The 442 seat venue was close to full of local retirees. Some of the faces were recognizable, but most were unsung heroes of generations of state workers, educators and journalists who served Florida in the decades before it was the world’s leading exporter of late night comedy.
The token young person in the room was cast member Kelly Staver Elliott, who sang the role of a beloved granddaughter in a reimagined version of “For Good,” a signature song from Stephen Schwartz’s “Wicked.” More often, Elliott was camping it up as a sweet young thing who catches the eyes of over-the-hill men armed with high hopes and a few hits of Viagra.
Audience emotions were toyed with in ways not generally associated with attorneys like Judelle, who spent much of her career doing the mind-numbing work of a bond lawyer at Bryant Miller Olive, the firm founded by the late Gov. Farris Bryant.
Show-goers toggled between uproarious laughter and barely-muffled sobs. There was a relaxed camaraderie in the audience that one used to see in the halls of power back when public service was an end in itself, and not a pit stop on the path to a lucrative life of influence peddling and no-bid contracts.
At intermission, people who used to be bold-faced names worked the room. They recognized people who, long ago, did real work competently at metal desks far removed from the corner offices of agency heads and managing partners. Unlike today’s “executive leadership teams” who always have their eyes on the name tags, looking for someone more important to talk to, they greeted old subordinates as equals, and asked after their children.
Judelle and Brady’s Glee for Geezers seems destined for future performance on the road and on the Internet. But on opening night, it felt like it was the audience that should be taking the bow.
Florence Snyder is a corporate and First Amendment lawyer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org