At a one-off charity gala concert of ‘42 Street’ on Sunday night at the London Palladium, there were several charming surprises, not least that many of the original cast (from the 1980’s spectacular at Theatre Royal Drury Lane) were brought in to dance the ‘Young and Healthy’ number.
As they were all sprightly chorines no less than 30 years ago the audience watched with bated breath to see how they would do in the taxing, energetic tap number, but not one of them put a foot wrong. They were as polished and professional as ever, and gave the up-and-coming youngsters a run (or a tap!) for their money.
(I was Production Assistant on the original production at Drury Lane, and watched the show then numerous times, including the night when the lead fell ill and her understudy, Catherine Zeta Jones, played the part of Peggy Sawyer. The U.S. producer of the show, David Merrick, was in the audience that night. Catherine took over the lead, and the rest – as they say – is history).
But back to the present day, and the charity performance last night….
Similarly inspiring was a parade of ‘ladies of a certain age’, (each escorted by a black-tied gentleman) who graced the stage for the ‘Dames’ sequence, including Angela Rippon, Rula Lenska, Arlene Phillips, Vanessa Feltz, and the organizer of the event Gloria Hunniford.
Veterens of the dance world Lionel Blair and Wayne Sleep also danced a short sequence spectacularly.
The gala was in aid of the Caron Keating Foundation which supports cancer charities in memory of Gloria’s daughter and TV presenter Caron who died from breast cancer in her 30’s.
Not only was the show uplifting and mesmerizing, it seamlessly blended young with old, energy with experience, and gave weight to the fact that age is no barrier to giving a truly professional performance. I doubt that any of the 'mature' dancers would want to take it up again as a full time career, but the point was they put on a fabulous performance and the organisers thought to include them, to their credit.
I think that we can learn a lot from this from a business perspective.
So many people over the age of 50 are struggling to find work, being made redundant from a job they had held for perhaps many decades, and finding themselves having to start over. It's no coincidence that the highest rate of business start-ups is amongst the 50-plus age group, and it is a wonderful thing that we can put our decades of experience and skills to good use creating a living not only for ourselves but maybe for a handful of employees as well.
Creative businesses such as handcrafted items, art, gifts, design, photography, interior design, catering, writing, and so on lend themselves to this particularly well.
To quote George Eliot “It’s never too late to be what you might have been”.
She was able to find career success later in life, and there is no reason why we can’t do so too.