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

roxannes@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Are they coming?

One of COVID-19’s big economic questions is whether it will prompt a… Continue reading

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, along with Yukon health and education delegates, announce a new medical research initiative via a Zoom conference on Jan. 21. (Screen shot)
New medical research unit at Yukon University launched

The SPOR SUPPORT Unit will implement patient-first research practices

Yukon First Nation Education Directorate members Bill Bennett, community engagement coordinator and Mobile Therapeutic Unit team lead, left, and Katherine Alexander, director of policy and analytics, speak to the News about the Mobile Therapeutic Unit that will provide education and health support to students in the communities. (yfned.ca)
Mobile Therapeutic Unit will bring education, health support to Indigenous rural students

The mobile unit will begin travelling to communities in the coming weeks

Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley, speak during a live stream in Whitehorse on January 20, about the new swish and gargle COVID-19 tests. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Swish and spit COVID-19 test now available in Yukon

Vaccination efforts continue in Whitehorse and smaller communities in the territory

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (1213rf.com)
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

A file photo of grizzly bear along the highway outside Dawson City. Yukon conservation officers euthanized a grizzly bear Jan. 15 that was originally sighted near Braeburn. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)
Male grizzly euthanized near Braeburn

Yukon conservation officers have euthanized a grizzly bear that was originally sighted… Continue reading

Most Read