Yorkville Seniors Turn 'The Bachelor' into a Musical
By Kiratiana Freelon on February 20, 2013 9:22am
YORKVILLE — It's "The Bachelor" meets "The Golden Girls."
At Carnegie East House, an assisted living facility for seniors at 1844 Second Ave., residents and administrators have made a tradition of producing original, pop culture-influenced musicals — most recently culminating in their own spin on the reality TV show "The Bachelor."
These productions, however, don't just poke fun at modern media.
Scott Gordon, Carnegie's activity director, started what's become a beloved program about three years ago to engage residents with activities that go beyond classic bingo gatherings.
"Seniors citizens aren't stupid. They've got a great sense of humor. You want to talk to them like human beings, get them involved," Gordon said. "My job is to get people to forget this is the end of life — that their time isn't over."
Gordon uses the twice-yearly musicals to explore serious themes associated with aging — such as illness — in a lighthearted way specifically applicable to Carnegie East House.
With Carnegie's production of "Cinderella," for example, Prince Charming wasn't looking for a glass slipper.
"Instead of her losing her shoe, Cinderella lost the seat cover on her walker with her butt print," Gordon said.
With "The Bachelor," the fictional dates involved regularly scheduled Carnegie House activities, such as movie night and happy hour.
Fans have come to expect the unexpected.
The bachelor — described by Gordon as "one of those hopeless mama's boys" with "back hair and nose hair and ear hair" — decides to marry a woman he incorrectly thought was his mother.
"It's kind of my twist," said Gordon, who does most of the writing and directing.
Participating residents said they revel in Gordon's efforts — and appreciate that he goes out of his way to listen to their input.
Gerry Lukeman, who played the hirsute bachelor, said his favorite part was that he got to reminisce about his work in the theater industry. The extra attention from the ladies didn't hurt, either.
"I loved being the only guy that everybody was battling over — the big man on campus," said Lukeman, 81.
Vivian Pon, who played a spiritual medium in the musical, most liked interacting with the audience.
"I had some lines that were funny," she said. "I loved listening to the audience response and laugh.
Beatrice Ringel, who plays the bachelor's stepmom and would-be wife, came up with the idea for "The Bachelor" after hearing residents talk about the popular reality show.
"I've never seen the TV show," said Ringel, 87. "I'm not a big TV person. But it's from what everyone is saying."
The residents and Gordon are busy preparing for their next musical adventure — with help from newcomers Pat Makris and Charles Peck, who decided to participate after enjoying the comedy twists in "The Bachelor."
"I saw the last one, and I liked it, so I decided to join," said Makris, 69. "I thought it would be fun!"
Production veterans say the next musical offers another opportunity for them to live out their creative dreams.
Gisela Selo, whose motto is "a diva likes to be a diva," graduated from The Juilliard School with hopes of becoming an opera singer.
"I never made it," the 81-year-old said. "So here's my chance."