Can rock music and colostomy bags mix? (Insert your own hilarious Shine a Light joke here.) The subject of Stephen Walker’s new documentary is Farmingham, Massachusetts’ “Young @ Heart” chorus, a 24-member group with several international tours under its belt. The singers’ median age, we’re informed, is 80.
Since 1982 the choir has been directed by one Bob Cilman, who undertakes the Sisyphean task of trying to transmit songs to an audience via the leaky vessels of geriatric minds, many of whose active enjoyment of contemporary pop largely ended at USO dance halls and Lawrence Welk. During a nine-week rehearsal process to prepare the group’s new revue, Cilman introduces his assisted-living singers to a new program of tunes by the likes of James Brown, Sonic Youth, and Alain Toussaint. The show’s title, “Alive and Well,” becomes increasingly ironic as the rehearsals move along and health problems intervene—viscerally emotional plot devices that Walker gladly hooks onto.