Senior Cabaret Brings Best to Edmond

Elvis. Willie Nelson. Jerry Lee Lewis. Nelson Eddy. Joan Colee, veteran singer, actor and tap dancer, assembled the best of the best entertainers. With them she formed the Oklahoma Seniors Cabaret.

Originally from Hugo, Oklahoma, Joan studied the performing arts extensively in California after graduating from high school. After seeing the huge variety of performing arts activities for seniors in California, Colee decided to start a senior program here in Oklahoma.

Colee encourages seniors to “get going.” She assembled the Oklahoma Seniors Cabaret in October 2008 and it has big plans on tap. Its first large public appearance is scheduled for the fall of 2009.

When she first started the cabaret, Colee lost sleep because of the excitement shown by other seniors about the project. “I never dreamed it would take off like this,” says Colee.

The cabaret formed with nine charter members and the initial audition brought in 18 acts. The oldest senior to audition thus far is an 88-year-old tap dancer. The trombonist is 74, and a honky-tonk piano player is 76.

The cabaret’s performances highlight the musical classics of yesterday. No rap, no alternative rock—just familiar songs presented in new and fresh ways. Audiences enjoy the music of Willie Nelson, Elvis Presley, Jeanette McDonald and Nelson Eddy and see Jerry Lee Lewis dancing on the keyboard.

While the cabaret’s big bang is planned for 2009, shorter performances are available for private parties, retirement homes and company conventions. The cabaret is a non-profit organization and donations support the Senior Services of Oklahoma.

Colee’s devotion comes in part from the example set by her father. Colee says her father told her, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing. Your mind is a powerful tool and age is simply a state of mind.”

Colee began studying the art of singing at the age of eight and after graduating from high school, she took a full music scholarship from Oklahoma City University. After graduation, she founded the Oklahoma School of Performing Arts and the Joan Colee Modeling Academy in Tulsa. Many of her students went on to perform professionally.

By this time, the arts ran deep in Colee’s blood. In her 50s she returned to OCU in 1975 and received a Masters in Performing Arts. In 1985 she took a giant step and moved to Los Angeles to attend the Estelle Harmon Actors Workshop where she took a teaching position. She eventually opened the Brentwood Vocal Studio and stayed in Los Angeles for 19 years.

Her example inspires seniors. While in Los Angeles she won the First Runner Up Award for Ms. Senior America of California at the age of 64, singing “The Waltz Song” from the opera, “Romeo and Juliet.”

Having had enough of California, Colee returned from Hollywood in 2002. She decided it was time to go back to “God’s Country.” Back in Oklahoma City, her first endeavor was relocating Brentwood Vocal Studio. Up and running, she now instructs students ages nine through 75.

Talented seniors take note. The Oklahoma Seniors Cabaret needs more actors, singers, dancers, musicians, artists, and seamstresses. The next audition will be in January 18, 2009. For information and to join the fun, please call
405–840–1242.

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