It shouldn’t come as a surprise that members of The Mature Mob – Springfield’s over 50 singing and dancing troupe – are a little more “hip” than average senior citizens. The unpaid group whose annual production benefits Senior Services of Central Illinois (SSOCI) is now in its 19th year. Randy Roller, who co-directs this year’s show with Charley Cross, says the performers are out to prove that “it’s never too late to try something new.” Even the Internet validates his comment – the Mature Mob and its members are now on Facebook.
The Mature Mob was born in 1992, when a group of seniors took dance classes at the Senior Center and decided to put on a show. The first production – A little Past Sixty But a Long Way from Over the Hill – set the tone well. Almost two decades later, the dedicated volunteers still focus on two things: enjoying life and SSOCI fundraising. To date, the group has raised more than $200,000.
This year’s theme is Seasons of Life, which Roller says “compares different age groups with the calendar seasons and reflects on important periods like childhood, adolescence, young adulthood and others.” The musical numbers are mostly familiar, with the group reprising classics like “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Pretty Woman.” The show runs for nearly three hours. Other well-known songs include “Teenager in Love,” “Soldier Boy,” “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” “Old Bones,” and “As Time Goes By.” Roller estimates 40 singers and musicians and 12 dancers have worked together with countless volunteers to make this performance a reality. Many in the Mob have dedicated several hours five days a week for the past two months.
The group remains dedicated because each member believes in helping the Senior Center. “Funding and staff have both been cut,” Roller says. He and his cast are hoping to raise more than $20,000 before the curtain closes on their annual revue.
SSOCI is not the only group helped by the Mature Mob – the performers themselves benefit in several ways. Roller, a physician with more than 30 years of experience, says his older patients do best when they remain “actively engaged in living.” Senior Citizens who participate in hobbies or groups like the Mature Mob, he has found, enjoy a better quality of life. “People who do what they enjoy are happier, and that helps them tolerate their medical problems,” Roller explains.
Mature Mobsters must be at least 50 years of age, and the current group has members in their 80s. Some use a walker, and one is hoping to be released from the hospital in time for opening night. “Our group is a wonderful microcosm of life,” Roller says, adding that he has fallen in love with his new friends. “I work all day and am sometimes tired when I come to rehearsal, but these people are full of life and energy. They’re amazing,” he remarks.
Roller says a love for performing draws most participants to the group. “They do this because they like to laugh,” he says, adding that natural performers who reach a certain age sometimes find it hard to land big roles with mainstream theater groups. Roller continues: “A big part of this is doing something good for senior citizens. The overall message is that you’re never too old to do something important and good for the community. What you do really does make a difference.”
The Mature Mob’s 2010 production, Seasons of Life, runs at Knights of Columbus #364 on Oct. 28 and 29 at 7 p.m. and Oct. 30 and 31 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15, and all proceeds benefit Senior Services of Central Illinois. Call 217-528-8001 ext. 11 for more information.
Contact Zach Baliva at ZachBaliva@gmail.com.