It wasn’t that long ago when a young Jill Amantea rushed over in the summer to the Miners’ Union Hall to watch and idolize the ladies performing in the Gold Fever Follies.
The region’s only professional summer stock theatre company was an institution in the former mining town, and contained some of the best young singers, actors and dancers from the West Kootenay and across the province.
And Amantea knew it. She absorbed as much as she could from what was happening on the stage, and looked on wishfully when she saw the adoration and fame the cast members held on the street in the community.
One day she snuck out of high school to audition and she landed a part. A small part in the cast that usually ran about 10 members, but she was in.
Three years later the 19-year-old Rossland resident—now attending the School of Contemporary Dancers in Winnipeg—is a show veteran with a major role (Florence Phillips) in the Gold Fever Follies new season that opens this Saturday night (7:30 p.m.) at the Miners’ Union Hall.
“I used to come every summer with my mom and I’d always be so intimidated by the all of the dancers and I would think ‘I want to be like that one day,’” she said.
“They would be neighbours or people I would see around town. And now it’s just really cool to be that person and have little girls come up to you and say ‘Hello.’”
A new generation of singers, dancers and actors will be inspired when the Follies opens Saturday for its two-month run.
The new season of Gold Fever Follies is unearthing some pretty valuable and rare minerals never seen before on any stage with an all new play, A Job Well Done, loosely based on the historic events and people of Rossland’s early gold rush days.
Written by Follies alumnus Kate Eldridge, the play is directed by three-time Follies director R.J. Peters, who brings his humourous touch to the stage.
It’s an all new show, says casting director Lisa Henderson, who took over as president of the Follies’ society last year.
“One thing the locals don’t understand is that it is a completely different story every year,” she said.
“Some people think ‘Well, I saw the Follies last year.’ But it’s not one of those shows you see on cruise ships where they do the same show every year because they have thousands of tourists go through each day. We actually create a whole new story.”
The show runs from Tuesday to Saturday, with two shows daily, a matinee at matinee at 3 p.m. and an evening show at 7:30 p.m. After the opening Saturday night the regular shows run starts Tuesday, July 2.
Tickets are available at the door for $13 (general admission), while children under five are free. Children from six to 12 are $8, while seniors (65+) are $10.
The show runs until Aug. 24.
The plot thicken …
This year’s A Job Well Done, written by past Follies member Kate Eldridge, takes place in the Columbia, a new dancehall that was the first of its kind.
Frank Hanna Jr. (Casey Gray), son and namesake of the founder of Trail, is miserable in life and in love, but when he meets Josie (Alexandra Wever), a dancehall girl from Spokane, his world is turned upside down.
However, he isn’t the only one vying for her affections. His competitor, Ed Roberts (Vaughn Naylor), is a newcomer who claims to be a contractor hired by the CPR, but he appears to be doing the town more harm than good.
Frank needs to win Josie’s heart for both his sake as well as for Rossland’s.