For 17 years, Bob’s Broadway Chorus has been delighting residents at retirement communities throughout Atlanta. Drawn together by their love of music, specifically Broadway show tunes, the Atlanta-based chorus is comprised of 40 volunteers, with 20 to 28 vocalists performing at each show.
Over the years, the residents have come to know the singers, many of whom have been with the chorus since its beginning, and eagerly anticipate their semiannual visits. During this past fall season, Bob’s Broadway Chorus performed at 11 communities, including the Jewish Tower, Berman Commons, Sunrise of Huntcliff Summit and The Piedmont at Buckhead. The look on the residents’ faces during each show conveys their deep appreciation for the chorus members and their music.
Led by director Barry Levin, and Richard Siegel, the musical director and accompanist, the chorus is as committed to building relationships with the residents as they are to delivering a fine-tuned performance. According to Levin, “Over the years, we have gotten to know many of the residents at the communities who return to our performances season after season.”
Ellen Frisch, the lifestyle director at Somerby Sandy Springs, where the chorus rehearses each week, agrees. “So many of our residents look forward to sitting in on their rehearsals. They are a wonderful group to have here. They remember our residents and have gotten to know many of them,” she said.
Begun at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta, the group was renamed Bob’s Broadway Chorus in 2018 to honor their beloved director of many years, Dr. Bob Schultz, a pediatric endocrinologist who had passed away earlier that year. Many of the original chorus members, in fact, were drawn from the popular musicals performed onstage at the MJCCA. According to Michele Fox, a longtime chorus member, Dr. Schultz knew just about every Broadway song and was not only an excellent chorus director, but also an accomplished singer and actor in his own right.
Today, the group carries on his legacy, performing more than 25 well-known Broadway show tunes, with a few pop songs added in, during each performance. Bob’s Broadway Chorus continues to perform completely free of charge at all of the senior communities, whose activity directors are quick to rebook before each new season even begins. The chorus rehearses nine weeks in advance of each fall and spring season, logging 18 hours of practice at Somerby Sandy Springs. During this past fall, there were 11 performances at retirement communities all around Atlanta and Sandy Springs.
And while there is plenty of fun and laughter at rehearsals and performances, the group is serious about turning out stellar performances. “Bob’s Broadway Chorus takes pride in sounding unified. I stress to new members that we are not a singalong group. We want to sound strong and cohesive, and we work hard to reach that goal,” said Levin.
Siegel echoed that sentiment, saying, “We are here to pull it all together and do business. Barry runs a tight ship and, as our group has grown, he has introduced more discipline regarding how we operate – from our musical arrangements to the harmonies.”
Before each season, Levin and Siegel are hard at work, often with Fox and Sandy Ferko, two other group leads, to select the specific songs and keys, add in new songs, set the arrangements, and send regular updates to all the chorus members. The longtime bond between the singers is evident at any rehearsal or performance, and most have become good friends through the years. According to Ferko, the administrator for the group, “During COVID, we were not able to perform, and we genuinely missed each other. We could not wait to see each other again once it was safe.”
Several songs from the group’s repertoire are taken from popular Broadway shows dating back decades and beloved by audience members. This past season, the group reprised such favorites as “Somewhere” from Westside Story; “I Got Rhythm” from Crazy for You; and “Impossible Dream” from Man from LaMancha, among many others. In addition, new songs were introduced, including a three-song Carpenters’ medley and “Seasons of Love” from Rent.
“We have introduced pop songs that will bring back happy memories for the residents. We believe many will remember driving carpools with their children as they listened to this music on the radio. We hope they enjoy these additions,” said Fox.
John Abel, a certified music therapist at A.G. Rhodes, a skilled nursing facility, understands the power of music and the value it brings to the lives of senior citizens. “Music is vital to older people. And live music is even better than recorded music because listeners are more engaged in the performance, making it more impactful.” In his work with older people, Abel sees a significant change in a person’s demeanor when listening to music that brings them back to happy memories from their past.
At the beginning of each performance, Levin says to the audience, “We have four goals. We have fun. You have fun. We get invited back. And no one in the chorus replies to ‘All’ in our group emails.” And then the show begins.
Each performance is divided into three segments, with Levin as the funny, high-energy emcee of the evening. During the first part, Bob’s Broadway Chorus sings an eclectic mix of songs drawn primarily from popular Broadway shows. Throughout the performance, Levin injects his signature humor and background information about many of the songs into the mix. For the second part, the chorus members disperse into the audience with sheets of lyrics to share as the audience members sing along. The group wraps up with a patriotic medley curated and arranged by Siegel.
At this time, any veterans or service providers such as nurses, EMT workers and firemen and women are recognized. During a showstopping version of “God Bless America,” everyone in the room is on their feet, loudly singing in unison, many with hands over their hearts.
The Mansions at Sandy Springs was a new venue for the chorus this season. The recreation room was packed with residents as they waited for the fall performance to begin. The excitement throughout the audience was palpable. Bob’s Broadway Chorus sang for a more than an hour. Transposed to a different time and place, the residents clapped to the upbeat songs and swayed to the ballads. Many closed their eyes, perhaps recalling memories from years past. More than a few wiped their eyes as they listened to fan favorites, “Moon River” and “Where is Love.”
Aimee Minton, the community’s activity director spoke about the group in glowing terms following their performance. “I cannot say enough about Bob’s Broadway Chorus. Our residents told me that they are the best chorus they have ever heard. The excellent harmonies and song selection, as well as their engagement with our residents, made the evening wonderful. We can’t wait to bring them back next season,” she said.
And so, with a promise to “see you next season,” Bob’s Broadway Chorus closed out their fall schedule, captivating audiences with the same magic that they have brought to senior communities year after year, season after season, and song after song.
To book Bob’s Broadway Chorus at a senior living community or to audition for the chorus, please contact Sandy Ferko at email@example.com.
- Senior Living
- Arts and Culture
- Debbie Diamond
- Bob’s Broadway Chorus
- Broadway show tunes
- Jewish Tower
- Berman Commons
- Sunrise of Huntcliff Summit
- The Piedmont at Buckhead
- Barry Levin
- Richard Siegel
- Ellen Frisch
- Somerby Sandy Springs
- Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta
- Dr. Bob Schultz
- Michelle Fox
- Sandy Ferko
- Westside Story
- Crazy for You
- Man from LaMancha
- A.G. Rhodes
- John Abel
- Aimee Minton