Seniors Take The Stage In Sold-Out Lenox Hill 'Music Man Sr.'

UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — Alan Myers spent his career on the stage.

He worked as a stagehand in Manhattan for 40 years, working on productions and shows like Wonderama, The Dick Cavett Show and All My Children, among many others.

But come Friday night, Myers will step in front of the curtain for the first time in a full-production as Tommy Djilas in the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House’s production of “The Music Man Sr.,” a version of the musical by Meredith Willson performed entirely by seniors.

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All three nights of the show, held at the House’s building on East 70th between First and Second Avenues, are sold out.

He’ll be joined by a mix of amateur and more professional actors, including one with a list of credits — most notably a speaking role on the HBO hit show “The Sopranos” opposite Dominic Chianese.

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For Myers though, it’s a first time thing.

“At the age of 78, to be playing a 19-year-old is a thrill,” said Myers.

Myers fits into a more typical mold of the talent — acting was always a hobby fulfilled over the years through a mix of acting classes, stand-up or improv.

Being an actor is not exactly new for Myers, who was cast as the Admiral in a production of “H.M.S. Pinafore” in a Catskills bungalow colony when he was nine, and continued performing through high school.

“I’ve loved theater since I was a kid,” Myers said, whose father was also a stagehand. “I’ve never been far from the theater.”

“It Feels Good, It Feels Scary.”

Myers lives across town and was asked to audition for the play by his acting teacher, director of the show, Scott Klavan, who teaches at the Upper West Side JCC on Amsterdam Avenue.

Klavan also directed the House’s last production in 2019, “Into the Woods Sr.,” which was chronicled by the New York Times.

Robin Jacobson, who plays Winthrop Paroo in the production, also takes classes at the JCC with Klavan. She has for 10 years.

And this is her fifth time taking to the stage at the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House.

“I actually use to work here,” she said, as the director of institutional giving.

From there, Jacobson, 69, found out about the theater and just jumped right in. In addition to the full-length productions, Jacobson said she’s also performed in about 10 one-act plays, too.

But this is her first time back on the big stage in years.

“I auditioned and got the part,” Jacobson explained, “then COVID happened, and then three years passed. And now here we are again.”

The cast, many of whom are performing in this production, had already started rehearsing when the pandemic curtain fell.

Jacobson said she used to do improv in her 20s, then standup, but she still feels nervous about how her performance will go.

“It feels good, it feels scary,” she said, “but it’s just nice to be back in that arena.”

Giddy Cast Mates, And Letting Go

Another cast member, Ellen Orchid, isn’t new to the stage — she’s been acting since the 1970s and is a member of the Actor’s Guild and SAG-AFTRA — but she is kind-of new to the neighborhood.

“I moved to the Upper East Side in 2016,” Orchid said, after living most of her life in south Brooklyn, “I wanted to move to Manhattan and I like this neighborhood a lot.”

Orchid has a long career as an actor — and as a practicing psychiatrist.

And one time, she got to combine both on one of television’s biggest hits: “The Sopranos.”

“I played a psychiatrist interviewing Uncle Junior,” she said, in a Season four episode called “Whoever Did This,” but she started off doing shows back in the 1970s in Park Slope with the Gallery Players. In addition to that, and later theater work including a MFA in acting, Orchid has also done standup work on “The View” and background work with “Saturday Night Live.”

Orchid also researched and wrote a book about her grandfather, Russian-Jewish composer Jacob Weinberg, who performed at Carnegie Hall and wrote the first Hebrew opera, she said.

Orchid started coming to the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House in 2017 for events, classes and meeting people — and to perform a few stand-up acts — but this is her first production on their stage and her first time in “The Music Man.”

“It’s really a love letter to Iowa,” Orchid said, explaining the research she did on playwright Meredith Willson.

One part of this production that has struck Orchid the most is just seeing her fellow cast mates realize their dreams of taking to the stage.

“There are people in the cast that have never been in any shows,” she said, “and seeing the delight, seeing the joy that people are finding, maybe for the first time having this opportunity — I mean, people get giddy — that’s been very touching to see.”

Another member of the original cast, Upper East Side resident Julie Down, was also primed for the role by her teacher Klavan.

“I’m playing Zaneeta,” said Down. “I think for a 65-year-old I’m passing pretty well for a 16-year-old.”

She says the sense of community at the House has really helped her “step outside of myself” and take her mind off of more serious topics.

“Acting,” Down said, “allows you to take on different emotions and characteristics that you wouldn’t necessarily give yourself permission to do otherwise — it’s a broadening of your perspective.”

“It’s really a matter of giving yourself permission to let go,” she said, “and try on something new.”

“There’s Always A Role.”

While the three nights of “The Music Man Sr.” are all sold out (the tickets are free), all of the actors agreed that it’s never too late to be a star.

“Don’t give up,” said Jacobson, pointing out that there’s a woman in the chorus who is in her 90’s. “It’s never too late.”

“When I was doing improv in my 20s, if someone told me then I’d be doing ‘The Music Man’ at 69, I’d be like: ‘how does that happen?'” Jacobson added. “How does it all happen?”

Even if you aren’t sure, but just have an inkling you might enjoy it, Orchid says just try out for a show. “You learn you grow you discover things about yourself,” she said. “That’s the great fun.”

And for Myers — he recalled what an acting coach once told him in the 80s: “there’s always a role for the age you are.”

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