Falling for the Follies, Part Two: It’s a Wrap!
I was having a really bad day last week; in fact, it was a bad day in a string of bad days, and what I wanted most was to wallow in a nice bath for the evening and go to bed early with my cat. Instead, someone reminded me that the Follies was ending a week earlier than normal (something I should have known from my visit with the cast, crew, and producers at the end of June) and I realized that I’d better get my act in gear and attend a full performance before the chances ran dry. So I pulled it together and went. After all, I don’t have bathtub in my place.
In the end, I was so glad I went. This year’s Follies, Trapped at the Murphy Inn, tells the story of a group of Rosslanders trapped at an inn for the night because someone shovels snow over the door. It was the first I’d been to since 1994. The light-hearted, sitcom-esque show turned out to be a great way to end my day and chase away some of my crankiness. And that can be hard to do, trust me.
I arrived at the Miners’ Hall about half hour before curtain time and was greeted by Follies founder and artistic director, Ray Furlotte–and the scent of burnt toast in the air. I asked Ray if this smell was the product of a pre-show snack gone bad, but he just chuckled and said, “You smell burnt toast because we want you to smell burnt toast! It’s foreshadowing!”
Because I had some time, Ray and I chatted a bit before I went to find a seat. Overall, he said they’d had “good houses” all summer and hadn’t suffered any ill effects from the lack of mine tours. If Rossland residents had been around Ferraro’s in the afternoons and seen buskers dressed in Old West costumes, that would have been Follies cast members out promoting the show; this was part of the job, according to Ray, and he remarked also that next year there would be much more marketing of the show outside the area.
As I settled into my seat, olden day saloon music played through the sound system and director Kyle Collins, dressed in saloon-owner finery, played card games with the considerable number of children who had shown up with their families. As the show started, many of the kids sat in a group together on the floor in front of the stage, rather than with their parents in chairs. I found this to be a cool detail, making the atmosphere seem very relaxed and much like we were all sitting in someone’s living room watching a movie together.
When the show started, I was immediately drawn in by the lighting, the costumes, the music, the stage, and the ability of the cast to transport the audience back in time with their combined stage presences. As I noted in my previous article about the Follies, the costumes were absolutely exquisite. The props were simple, and the story was humourous and engaging. There was even a reference in there to The Office, which cracked me up, but might have gone over some younger peoples’ heads.
The musical acts were all very well executed. I had seen the “stomp dance” during my preview in June, and I was looking forward to seeing it again. It was delightful. The other song and dance act I really loved was the “Gin Demon” dance that involved all the cast and some cool lighting effects by lighting technician A.J. McKerracher, all of which combined to create a very surreal experience of shadow and silhouette. The other musical piece that really caught my attention was the song “At Peace”, performed by Matthew Johnson, who played the slightly boozy Father Pat. It was a quieter, emotional song sung with a lot of power and passion, and the final note, held so well and so steadily, yet so softly, captured my heart.
As for the acting, the talent came from all over Canada.There were two standouts for me. The first is Andrea Page, who was born and raised in Rossland, and who played Wendy. Wendy was crazily empty-headed but so lovable you just wanted to hug her. Andrea did an excellent job of rendering a hilarious, charming, and highly idiosyncratic character with tremendous energy.
The other notable, to me, was Ian Fundytus as Olaus Jeldness. Now, I am not a live theatre officianado or anything; indeed, live theatre is really not my cup of tea at all. But watching Ian’s eyes alone during his performance gave me a much better idea of why live theatre is so compelling. His eyes were fascinating, and despite his face being nearly drowned by a huge fake moustache, he carried that character in his eyes. I loved that.
Written by Rossland’s Brian Turner, Trapped at the Murphy Inn had everything necessary for success: a funny plot, some romance, lots of toe-tapping tunes that got the audience clapping along, great slapstick humour, and an enthusiastic cast that kept their energy up even though it was the day before their last performance, after a summer of two performances a day, five days a week.
2011 will mark the Follies’ 25th anniversary, and if I’m as cranky next summer as I am this one, I think I’ll buy a season’s pass!