What: Wenatchee Valley Follies, a benefit for Solomon’s Porch and Wellness Place
When: 7 p.m. today- Saturday, 1 p.m. Saturday
Where: Performing Arts Center of Wenatchee
Cost: $28-$32, $2 discount for students, seniors and military
Information: pacwen.org, 663-2787
Costumer Connie Morris handed out shiny black dresses with a friendly warning to her fellow Follies dancers, “These are tighter than you realize. Trust me, I’ve worn them.”
With just a week left before the variety show’s premiere, the Performing Arts Center hummed with excitement as the 150-or-so cast members tried on costumes for the first time. Some zipped up candy-colored space suits or wrapped themselves in green feather boas. The women in black shimmied in front of a full-length mirror on stage before the next number.
The ensembles were all from the stores of Jaime Donegan, a show director from New York who travels the country directing Follies productions. This year’s show is called “Shaken With a Twist of Sublime” but don’t expect James Bond. There’s a country hoedown, swing dancing, the mambo, the mazanga, an alien abduction and a dance number in space.
“OK, ladies, next set,” Donegan called out as people hurried out of the dressing rooms.
Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance,” boomed over the PAC stage, where a dozen women got into position for “The Hand Drill” dance. Their jerky, boxy arm movements looked strange without their silky-scarved costumes, which were still hanging on the racks backstage.
“The fast part needs to be sharp, sharp, sharp,” Donegan instructed, snapping his arms into position to demonstrate. “I think by next Sunday we’ll all have it,” he said jokingly.
The four-show run starts tonight. A third of the cast has never been on stage, and yet no one seemed too concerned. Marion Parkins, a first-time Follies member, said rehearsals feel more playful than pressure-cooker.
“I’m nervous, but not because I’m afraid that I’ll mess up — I might, and that’s OK,” the 53-year-old said. “We’ve been practicing for a month, five nights a week. I feel pretty good. I’m uncertain about the logistics, like fake eyelashes.”
This will be Patrick Lopeman’s third Follies show, yet the 43-year-old admits feeling nervous about his lead part in “Survival,” a demanding ballad by the pop rock band Muse.
“It always goes like that. He’ll give you something that pushes your limits a little more than you’re comfortable with,” said Lopeman, who also sings in Wenatchee rock band Identity Unknown. “You may not think you can do it, but by the time it happens you can.”
That’s the adrenaline rush that keeps Lopeman coming back, he said.
“And I meet so many people here, some of them lifelong friends,” he added. “The chaos and the excitement of throwing this whole show together in three weeks, it takes a little chunk out of your life, but the being on stage in front of 500 people, it’s addictive.”
Meanwhile, the kickline took the stage to practice a hip sequence in “Boogie Wonderland.”
“OK, ladies, we go bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp-bomp and everyone steps to the right,” Donegan said. The women mirrored his movements, jutting their hips side to side.
Someone from the seats shouted, “Wow! They look great!”
Donegan whipped around, “I know, right?!”
Marie and George Buckner sat among the small cheering section in the seats just below the stage. The couple returned from Hawaii just in time to join a comedy skit between acts.
“We’re thinking about making fun of the red-light cameras,” Marie Buckner said. “We’re going to walk into town thinking there’s a red light district.”
Marie, 78, has missed only one Follies show since the ’60s. She said the cast is growing year after year — attracting everyone from 18 to 80, affluent and not — in large part because of the director. As long they have Donegan, they’ll continue to put on a good show, she said.
“It’s just a wonderful thing because we have our small groups of friends, but all of a sudden for three weeks you’re in a different world,” Marie said. “You’re around people of all different talents, and age groups and professions.”
Rachel Hansen: 664-7139