A funtastic time at music hall

Jan DeGrass / Staff writer
April 18, 2014 01:00 AM

The Swamp Sisters jug band perform a real good stompin' show. 

"Down by the old mill stream," croons a men's barbershop quartet, four members of The Funtastics Vaudeville Troupe.

"That's going to work out just fine," said Susie Francis, artistic director and walking repository of vaudeville lore, who is coaching the entire group through a dress rehearsal for their three performances April 25 to 27. She comments on one man's choir boy voice and soothes another's stage fright nerves. Then it's back to work on the rehearsal.

Musical director Berni G hits the piano keys and Al Burns takes up the drums to accompany the musical acts. Francis who grew up in the musical theatre tradition would be the first to tell you that vaudeville also includes much silliness and slapstick. It makes the audience laugh.

So it is that the Keystone Cops will return for an encore performance. In another scene from the 1920s, a dysfunctional couple tango across the stage to a popular tune of the day and a women's quartet shows their own crooning abilities. Ed White and John Duff parlay on the famous Who's on First routine. Modular Bells is a deadpan look at what happens when religious music serves the secular. Though the average age of The Funtastics is upwards of the boomer generation, a chorus line of seven women shows that these women can still can-can.

"Higher, higher!" shouts Francis. Tough, yes, but her 50 years of theatre experience helps make the show possible.

Maurice Farn, with 20 years of theatre experience, is the producer and he gives credit to a group of talented amateurs and behind the scenes crew. From 17 members in the first year, the group has grown to nearly 44 in this fourth annual event. Many business sponsors have helped to get the show on the road and some are featured on the old-fashioned stage backdrop.

The jug band is worth the price of admission alone. The Swamp Sisters and their hillbilly cousins give up a fine performance with Burns playing washboard and Duff on the one-string, converted washtub bass. Tony Fraser on guitar and Sharon Russell on fiddle are great and Sweet Pea is let loose on the triangle. (She's a graduate of the Orange Julius school of music, jokes the banjo player).

The two-hour production titled Old Time Music Hall runs next Friday, April 25 at 7 p.m., Saturday, April 26 and Sunday, April 27 at 3 p.m. at the Sechelt Seniors Activity Centre. The show is served cabaret style with a bar for refreshments. Tickets are $18, available at the Activity Centre, Mosaic Market (Davis Bay) and Swish Apparel (Gibsons). Last year two of the shows were sold out right away showing that old time music hall is very much alive on the Coast.

© Copyright 2015 Coast Reporter


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