NEXT STAGE #11 April 22 2005

The Frantic Follies is a Yukon institution. For 36 years this Vaudeville revue has been delighting audiences in the Yukon and around the world.

Originally created by Jim and Lyall Murdoch the follies ran as an amateur production from 1968 to1970 when it went professional. Since then there has been no looking back for this popular show.

The Frantic Follies gets its vitality from a legacy of stage traditions: the arrangement of a Vaudeville revue, the talent of the actors and the stories of the Yukon it presents in song and dance

Around the turn of the 20th century, Vaudeville and its cousin the British music hall was king, before television, before radio and even before film grew to its prominence in popular entertainment.

It was stage that coined the phrase “bums on seats”. In one performance you could see high opera, slapstick humour, musical acts, and adaptations of plays and other popular literature written for the stage by skilled and talented writers.

As the gold fever of the Klondike attracted huge new masses of people to this area, theatres were built and the entertainment of the age, Vaudeville, was imported to soothe the savage sourdough and perhaps glean a bit of gold from his pocket.

In our own Frantic Follies we have a loving tip of the hat to the tradition that one acting troupe could write play and perform all the parts. The Revue takes you back to the dancehalls of the Klondike gold rush, and presents good old-fashioned songs, dances, musical numbers and adaptations of Robert Service poems, some at breakneck speed. All of the cast members sang danced and played instruments.

Apart from being an accomplished pianist with a CD release, Grant Simpson, a 25 year veteran of the Frantic Follies, is the co-producer, musical director and acts on stage as the master of ceremonies among other roles.

Amanda Leslie sang in her role as the chanteuse. She gets all the good costume changes in the show and gets to pick out a special pookey to sing to every performance.

As the opera singer, Michael Eckford try’s throughout to performance ply his chosen singing style only to get shut out by cast and audience equally. He also plays some powerful trumpet in the Dixieland band.

What show about the height of the Yukon Gold rush would be complete without high kicking dancing girls? The Frantic Follies is replete with gorgeous girls in feathers and sequins, garter belts and high steps, all in good taste and good fun. The dancers in the performance I saw, Adrienne Pelchat, Nikki Swerhun, and Rebecca Reynolds are all accomplished dancers in there own right.

Bernie Phillips, under great globs of grease paint, was a pleasure to watch. This actor can really chew the scenery as needed.

What I saw was serious actors who worked tirelessly in many roles to get the performance right for the stage, night after night in the best tradition of the theatre. Vaudeville is not dead; it lives on here in the Yukon, downtown Whitehorse, two shows a night at the Westmark Hotel.

Though they may have gleaned a bit of gold from my own pocket, at least I left with my wallet.

Bill Polonsky