Cast members of the Klondike Follies meet with David Branigan, food and beverage manager for Northern Vision Development, to sign a mock contract for the 2018 season. (Submitted)

Whitehorse’s favourite revue finds new life as Klondike Follies

‘It’s like going back to the family home in a way’

The follies will have a new home this season.

Grant Simpson, co-owner of the vaudeville revue, says the show will move from the Westmark Hotel, where it operated for decades, to the Coast High Country Inn. The show will operate under a new name: Klondike Follies.

“It’s like going back to the family home in a way,” he says of resurrecting the revue, which called it quits in March 2017. “You know when your parents move to a new house and you have to get used to it? That’s what we’re going through a bit.”

One thing the cast won’t have to get used to is performing again, something Simpson says they’ve been missing since the show folded due to falling numbers (it had previously operated in Whitehorse for 48 years).

Since the show ended its run, Simpson says that anytime he ran into his former cast mates around town they’d ask him to start up another show.

That opportunity presented itself when David Branigan, food and beverage manager for Northern Vision Development (NVD), approached Simpson about bringing back the follies.

“We always recognized the value the Follies had in the community and everyone, I think, was quite shocked when we heard that it was shutting down last summer,” says Adam Gerle, vice president of marketing for NVD.

He says that after the announcement about the show’s end, NVD worked with Simpson to put on two shows last summer, both of which sold out. Gerle says there were a lot of locals in the crowd, and while some of that local attendance might have been sentimental, it showed promise.

Gerle says NVD spoke further this year with the Westmark, which offered to promote the shows to the Holland America bus tours that come through the hotel. Show dates were then chosen to coincide with peak traffic times for those tours.

NVD then worked with Simpson to come up with a plan for a 20-show run over the course of two months.

Simpson says that when he made the announcement to the cast (including Grant Hartwick, Dale Cooper, Malo Gendrau and The Divine Ms. Jones), the reaction was overwhelming.

“These people really love performing together and they love being out there and they’re really good at it,” he says.

He says it will be strange to operate out of a new venue (when the cast took the backstage area apart at the Westmark for the last time, there were years-old pictures of Simpson’s kids still tacked on the walls), but that the inn offers a lot of great new opportunities.

In fact, new things are kind of a theme for the show. In its previous incarnation, Simpson says the follies were static. Each show was largely the same, and designed for a new audience every night.

This time around, he says the show will be different each night, in order to appeal to locals as well as tourists.

One of the ways he plans on doing that is by developing three different shows, each of which allows for a rotating featured performer to be plugged in.

On June 26, 28 and 30, the Yukon’s own Gillian Campbell will perform. From July 10 to 12, folk singer Roy Forbes will be part of the show. From July 17 to 19, Wes Barker will perform comedy and stunt magic. From July 24 to 26, the Roma Swing Ensemble will play violin. On July 31, Aug. 1 and Aug. 2, Tim Allen will play banjo and perform comedy (additional shows include July 28, and Aug. 7, 9, 14 and 16).

Simpson says that in addition to each performer plying their own particular trade, they will participate in sketches with the core cast.

“That way it’s more like authentic vaudeville anyway,” says Simpson, noting that vaudeville used to act as a kind of showcase for what was new and hot rather than repeating the same show for weeks on end.

One way in which it won’t be like traditional vaudeville? Simpson is working on an arrangement that incorporates the theme from Star Trek.

He says the cast is also re-working Klondike Kate’s famous Flame Dance for Gendrau, who will start out her bit working with the chiffon typical of Kate’s dance before moving onto aerial silks.

“We’re trying to sort of bring it into the modern day a bit,” he says.

Tickets will be available at the Coast High Country Inn and at the Westmark Hotel beginning soon. The cost is $29 for the show, $55 for dinner and a show, or $79 for VIP seats to dinner and a show.

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

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