Queens Seniors Take the Stage in Astoria Variety Show

By Jeanmarie Evelly on June 21, 2013 9:43am 

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 The Astoria Performing Arts Center's annual "Senior Stars" show will take place Saturday.
Astoria Performing Art Center's "Senior Stars"
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ASTORIA — When she was younger, Margaret Barnes had a hankering for the spotlight.

"I always wanted to sing when I was a child," said Barnes, a 70-year-old fundraiser and parks advocate who lives in the Queensbridge Houses. Instead of a life in show biz, her mother steered her instead towards more practical pursuits, and Barnes spent her career as a nurse.

But these days, she's finally getting to scratch her theater itch. On Saturday, she and 17 other seniors will take the stage at Good Shepherd Church in Astoria and sing their hearts out for "Senior Stars," an annual variety show starring Queens residents 60-years-old and up.

Barnes first auditioned six years ago after seeing an ad for the program in her local newspaper. At the time, she was getting over the death of a family member, and the twice-weekly rehearsals helped her get out of an emotional funk.

"This came at a very good time," she said.

The program is run by the Astoria Performing Arts Center, and was founded eight years ago by former director Susan Scannell.

"It was a dream of hers to do something with seniors, thinking that it would fun and interesting and unique," said current director Taryn Sacramone. "There weren’t many opportunities out there for seniors who were interested in performing."

The group rehearses for five weeks in preparation for a final one-day performance of song, dance and sketches, based around a theme that changes every year.

This Saturday's show is "Ready for Primetime," and features a roster of TV-sitcom theme songs: "Gilligan's Island," "Laverne and Shirley," "Three's Company," and the "Muppets Show," among them.

Edna Robinson, who turns 87 this summer and is the self-proclaimed oldest member of the cast, said she also discovered singing and her passion for it after she retired from a full-time nursing job when she was 71.

"I went to the senior center and they had a choral group, and the director started asking me to do solos," she said. "I began to realize that I could please audiences with singing and entertaining."

She started with Senior Stars at its inception in 2006, and the program has led to other opportunities: she's sang at an awards ceremony hosted by Mayor Bloomberg and in a commercial for WellCare Health Plans.

Patty Bagby, who was a theatre major in college before embarking on a career as a  psychologist, is performing in this year's show for the first time after hearing about it from a friend.

"It's a lot of work, a lot more work than I expected, but it's wonderful," the 67-year-old said. "I leave everyday smiling."

Editor's Note: Seniors Stars "Ready for Primetime," will take place on Saturday, June 22 at Good Shepherd Church, 30-44 Crescent St. in Astoria. Performances are at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Tickets are $12 at the door, cash or check only.

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