The folly of tour cutbacks

The Frantic Follies is has lost its biggest fan, Holland America. "As of 2012, Holland America has cut us off," said co-founder Lyall Murdoch. "Right now, they are about 60 per cent of our revenue.

The Frantic Follies is has lost its biggest fan, Holland America.

“As of 2012, Holland America has cut us off,” said co-founder Lyall Murdoch. “Right now, they are about 60 per cent of our revenue.”

The Alaska-Yukon tour company has never funded the Whitehorse-based, vaudeville show, but it has been included in the company’s tour packages, guaranteeing the show a summer audience.

“No third-party companies will be included in Holland America anymore,” Murdoch said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen, but we’re going to try and continue next year.”

Murdoch and his brother Jim started the Follies 42 years ago.

The show depicts entertainment the stampeders might have seen during the Klondike Gold Rush of the 1890s.

“I think we’re the only full-time vaudeville show in North America,” said co-owner Grant Simpson. “I don’t know of any that have had this kind of run before. So, in terms of preserving that style of entertainment – you know, that was the learning ground for Bob Hope and Jack Benny and that whole era of great showbiz people. That’s why I was so excited about being involved with it, in 1980, was when I started.”

At least 15 people are employed each summer to dance, sing, act or play an instrument on stage, with at least 10 more working behind the stage and in the office, said Simpson.

“We’re a big part of the summer community here and we’ve put a lot of kids through college,” said Simpson, noting that most of the staff is youth, working full-time for the first time.

“In that real, practical sense we create employment here, and it’s all outside money, so it’s good for the economy that way.”

But being cut off by the tour company doesn’t mean the end of the Follies, said Murdoch, noting the company has never taken a penny of government money.

“When we started out, 42 years ago, we didn’t have much money and we went along for, like, 10 years with very little money, but we kept going,” he said. “So now we’re going to try and just do it again.”

Both men mention that when Holland America came in, it elbowed out a lot of other businesses.

Smaller contracts have continued with other companies over the years, and the hope is that if a hole is left, it will eventually be filled, said Simpson.

But Murdoch won’t criticize the multinational for its decision.

“It appears that they want to be just a cruise ship company and not a tour company,” he said. “It’s a business decision on their part. And I’m not saying that they’re wrong. They’ve decided that this is how their business has to go. Now we have to decide how our business is going to go.

“We’re going to do whatever we have to do to stay alive and I think nobody can criticize them for doing what they have to do to stay alive.”

And it is the local support; the people who have been to opening night every year for the past 42 years that has kept the show going, said Simpson.

“There’s a lot of people who would really miss it,” he said. “As a theatre person it would be sad (if the Follies shut down) because there’s nothing like it anywhere else. It would be a shame. But our plan is to keep going, we just have to make sure it’s financially feasible to do that.”

Holland America could not be reached for comment before press time.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

Just Posted

Northwestel says it is investigating into the cause of the total communications blackout throughout the territory after a power failure in Whitehorse on Wednesday night.
Internet outage prompts criticism on Dempster fibre project delays

The Liberals responded that they have proceeded cautiously to avoid high costs.

A motorcycle with driver pulled over on the right side of the North Klondike Highway whose speed was locked in at 171 kilometres per hour. (Courtesy/Yukon RCMP)
Patrols of Yukon highways find poorly-secured loads, intoxicated drivers

The ongoing patrols which police call ‘Operation Cooridor’ is mainly focused on commercial vehicles.

Awaken Festival organizers Meredith Pritchard, Colin Wolf, Martin Nishikawa inside the Old Firehall in Whitehorse on May 11. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Performing arts fest plans to awaken artistic talent in Whitehorse and the rural North

‘A value of ours is to make theatre as accessible as possible.’

April Mikkelsen tosses a disc during a ladies only disc golf tournament at Solstice DiscGolfPark on May 8. John Tonin/Yukon News
Yukon sees its first-ever women’s disc golf tournament

The Professional Disc Golf Assocation had a global women’s event last weekend. In the Yukon, a women’s only tournament was held for the first time ever.

Dave Blottner, executive director at the Whitehorse Food Bank, said the food bank upped its services because of the pandemic. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Food Bank sees Yukoners’ generosity firsthand

“Businesses didn’t know if they could stay open but they were calling us to make sure we were able to stay open.”

More than 25,000 people have received the firsdt dose of the vaccine, according to the Yukon government. (Black Press file)
Yukon has now vaccinated 76 per cent of eligible adults

The territory has surpassed its goal of 75 per cent as a first step toward ‘herd immunity’

A prescribed burn is seen from the lookout at Range Road and Whistle Bend Way in Whitehorse May 12. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Editorial: Are you ready for a forest fire?

Citizens for a Firesmart Whitehorse have listed some steps for Yukoners to boost safety and awareness

Caribou pass through the Dempster Highway area in their annual migration. A recent decision by the privacy commissioner has recommended the release of some caribou collar re-location data. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News)
Privacy commissioner recommends release of caribou location data

Department of Environment says consultation with its partners needed before it will consider release

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Family pleased youth will be able to get Pfizer vaccine

Angela Drainville, mother of two, is anxious for a rollout plan to come forward

Safe at home office in Whitehorse on May 10, 2021. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Federal government provides $1.6 million for Yukon anti-homelessness work

Projects including five mobile homes for small communities received funding.

Drilling at Northern Tiger’s 3Ace gold project in 2011. Randi Newton argues that mining in the territory can be reshaped. (Yukon government/file)
Editorial: There’s momentum for mining reform

CPAWS’ Randi Newton argues that the territory’s mining legislations need a substantial overhaul

At its May 10 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved the subdivision for the Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s business park planned in Marwell. (Submitted)
KDFN business park subdivision approved

Will mean more commercial industrial land available in Whitehorse

Most Read