The 30th annual Gold Fever Follies production debuted on Tuesday with a highly talented cast delivering an entertaining Rossland tale.
Love and Business tells the story of the race to open Rossland’s first bank. As Miss Chandler (Jill Amantea) from the Bank of Montreal and Mr. Ulysses from the British Royal Bank battle it out to see which will open a bank first and snare British mine mogul Whitaker Wright as a client, the love-sick Willabilla (Kirsti Hack) and Joe (Vinny Keats) find themselves caught in the middle with their relationship on the rocks.
The script was written by four-time Folly Casey Gray, who also co-wrote the music and lyrics, performed in the play and acted as stage manager. He played the delightfully morbid undertaker, Lockhart, who first appears on stage clutching a skull he later refers to in song as his best friend. But this later clearly turns out to be untrue as he’s part of a bromantic duo with Ty Wright’s Mr. Jordan, who builds furniture (and given the partnership, also coffins, as back in the 19th century furniture makers built those too). Wright is also a returning Folly and played fire chief Guthrie in last year’s performance.
Amantea displayed multiple talents as well. Not only does she play the Quebecois bankeress, but she also choreographed the show, working with the less-than-conventional space in the old Bank of Montreal building. Rather than set up a more conventional stage, the Follies used the length of the room, with audience members seated on either side. Amantea’s choreography made use of having the audience on both sides of the stage and particularly memorable was the tap-dance-off during the song where the two banks declare that the race is on.
On the music side of things, first-time Folly Rebecca Peterson also played more than one role, co-writing the music and lyrics with Gray and co-music directing with returning music director John Han. She also played the sunny would-be biologist/bar room girl Violet and played accompaniment on the piano. Playing her fellow bar room girl Hattie was the sassy and funny Kendra Bidwell. The pair perform one of the play’s feminist songs, about breaking the glass ceiling. The other is sung by the men, as a barber shop quartet performance that breaks out in Joe’s barber shop.
Keats’ performance as Joe is endearing and his acrobatics are not to be missed. Those who saw last year’s show will be recognize his love interest Hack, who played Mabel last year. She is just as funny and over the top as last year, but this time gets to spend a little more time in the spotlight and break a few hearts (audience members will know the scene when they see it).
Another returning Folly is Vaughn Naylor, whose last performance on the Rossland stage was two years ago. He did an excellent job playing the sexist and deplorable British Royal Bank representative, while still managing to be likeable. And joining the Follies for the first time, local high school student Marco Santano played Joe’s Russian barbershop client Crookshankov, earning laughs with his “Russian saying” about a bear.
Director of the historically-fulled and musical romp was RJ Peters, who returned for his sixth season. He took a moment before the show to thank everyone who makes Gold Fever Follies possible, particularly this year when so much work needed to be done to secure a new venue and make it work for the performance.
The grand opening of the 2016 Gold Fever Follies performance will be Wednesday, July 6 at 7:30 p.m. Performances are Tuesday through Saturday, at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at the old Bank of Montreal building.