Fresno’s acclaimed senior performing group opens ‘On the Road to Broadway’ at Fresno City College
Who says youth is just for the young? As “New Wrinkles” celebrates its 30th year, the beloved Fresno institution — a song-and-dance extravaganza featuring performers 55 and older — is trying something new. “On the Road to Broadway” is “unlike any other we have done,” says director David Bonetto.
I caught up with Bonetto to talk about the show, which opens Thursday, May 24, at Fresno City College.
Q: First off, David, can you believe that “New Wrinkles” has been around for 30 years now? You were just a whippersnapper when it started, right? Do you think the founders would be surprised that it’s still going strong?
A: I was young then — in fact, I was doing choreography for numerous acts (for “New Wrinkles”) back then. I opened my studio, Danceworks Unlimited, right out of high school in 1979 when I was 19 years old. Many of the ladies in the show started taking tap from me, so I would choreograph their duets and small group dances over the years. So you can say I’ve been around “New Wrinkles” for a while. I worked with both Tom Wright (the founding director) and of course Fred Bologna (who directed the show for many years). I have known Fred since I was a kid through the ballet and then I taught with him at Roosevelt High School. I think they are all proud that the legacy continues on. I speak often of the vision and dreams of Tom. Each night when we take the stage during showtime, we stop and remember those who graced the stage before us. They are never forgotten.
‘New Wrinkles: Viva Las Vegas,’ the latest incarnation of the annual senior revue show at Fresno City College, is packed with inspiring performances
Watch for the crazy tourist or you might miss her.
It’s just a small role in one number in the exceedingly well put together new production of “New Wrinkles: Viva Las Vegas.” But even with 50 other cast members on stage at the same time dressed as denizens of Sin City — a motley crew of folks portraying dealers, dancers, bartenders, cab drivers, showgirls, waitresses, singers (and, yes, a nun) — Julie Saldana managed to catch my eye.
She’s wearing a bright pink floral dress so loud it should come with matching earplugs. And a big, goofy purple hat that practically screams, “I am the last person in the world to carry traveller’s checks.” But what really made me laugh out loud on opening night was the priceless expression on Saldana’s face. She might only be known as Crazy Tourist in a script the audience will never see, but she gives the characterization her all.
Which is one of the things I find so charming about Fresno’s annual senior revue, now in its 29th year. The commitment of these performers to the material — and to making the audience happy — is stellar. Saldana might think she was lost in the crowd, but to me, her madcap Visitor from Other Parts is a highlight. Sometimes it’s the little things that count.
‘New Wrinkles: Viva Las Vegas’ includes cast members who liked the odds when it came to getting married in the famed gambling capital.
Cheryl Coddington’s son phoned her on a Sunday night and asked where she’d been all weekend.
“Brent and I got married in Las Vegas,” she replied.
“Yeah, right, like you’d do that,” she remembers him telling her. She was the ultra-organized mom, the career educator who planned everything weeks or months in advance. To skip off to Vegas without telling anyone — especially even her kids — was unthinkable.
Oh, she did it all right. And she’s been married nearly 17 years.
Coddington is sitting in the Green Room at Fresno City College, where she’s just slipped away from warm-ups for the cast of “New Wrinkles: Viva Las Vegas,” the latest incarnation of the long-running musical variety show featuring performers 55 and older. She’s in costume, wearing a glittery top with the words “Bingo Diva,” one of her roles in the show. Now in its 29th year, the annual production is one of the few senior showcases left in a country that used to be full of them.
In the spirit of the show’s theme, I asked Coddington, 63, a first-time “Wrinkler,” to share her Las Vegas matrimonial story with me. It was a third marriage for her new husband and the second for her. They’d been dating a long time, and the couple decided they “didn’t want to make a big deal out of it.” So they hopped in the car, made the six-hour drive to Las Vegas Boulevard and parked at the Chapel of the Bells.