“Like a virgin, touched for the very first time”— these iconic Madonna lyrics will boom from Helen Gamblicher’s mouth on Saturday, June 23.
“This is a bit of a joke,” said Gamblicher, 66. “We are seniors, but it doesn't mean we’re not young at heart.”
Seven years ago the Astoria Performing Arts Center created the Senior Stars group, a humorous, over-60, musical 19-person team, which offers two performances of an original show each year.
The theme changes annually. Last year the group boogie-woogied to the swinging beats of the 1940s. There’s been a vaudeville theme, and other years the show has focused on the tastes of the senior performers, APAC Executive Director Taryn Sacramone said.
This year it’s all about pop songs. These talented seniors will perform “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond, “Yesterday” by the Beatles and even “Hit Me Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears.
“It does a great deal for my self-esteem,” said Gamblicher. “I’m much more out there and I look forward to it each year.”
The seniors all joined for different reasons, Sacramone said. One man told her it helped him get over the loss of his wife, another member said she was trying to show her grandchild what it meant to be brave, while other seniors come for the sense of camaraderie and their love of music.
“One thing they all have in common is a real sense of fun, play, bravery and humor and a love of making people laugh,” Sacramone said.
The seniors have practiced twice a week for the last five weeks.
“It’s fun going to rehearsals and seeing how the show develops,” Edna Robinson, 86, said.
Robinson, like Gamblicher, has participated in the shows for all seven years. For Saturday’s two performances she will belt out a combination number of two Whitney Houston songs, “All the Man I Need” and “Run to You.”
When asked if she’s nervous about her solo tribute to the late diva, she answers with a resounding no. The retired Jackson Heights nurse has ample stage experience. In 2007 she performed for the mayor at the Mayor’s Awards for Arts and Culture, and last year she shot a commercial for WellCare. And she added, she has performed karaoke on many a packed cruise ship.
The APAC annual show usually attracts about 100 audience members.
Senior Pop Stars
When: June 23, 3 and 6 p.m.
Where: Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, 30-44 Crescent St., Astoria
Tickets: $12, firstname.lastname@example.org