This is the website dedicated to celebrating and promoting the art of vaudeville for the nostalgic sensibilities of some – and the introduction of its magic to others.
Vaudeville was the perfect training ground for over 30,000 performers between the 1880s and the 1930s. Performers travelled the continent performing in camp towns, mining towns, cities small and large. When a performer was hired to “do an act”, they generally did “that act” 4 to 6 times per day for decades at a time. So for instance, let’s take a typical vaudeville act of the time – “Gertrude the Concertina Contortionist Extraordinaire”. During the 50 years that make up the vaudeville era, Gertrude would perform her act anywhere from 1400 to 1600 timers per year. This doesn’t include rehearsals and practice. As you can imagine, Gertrude was a master at what she did.
When vaudeville gave way to radio, movies and television, this opportunity died with vaudeville. Now instead of 3000 “Gertrudes” to entertain the masses – you only needed one. As vaudeville wound down – 30,000 Gertrudes scrambled to find new careers as vaudeville theatres became movie theatres and finally (a good many of them) became parking lots.
Prairie Vaudeville was created by Grant Simpson, a veteran vaudevillian, musician, writer, performer, producer, director and owner of vaudeville theatre companies.
Up in the Yukon, The Frantic Follies Vaudeville Revue began as an armature theatrical production by the Whitehorse Drama Club in 1968 and was produced to entertain the tourists who were beginning to flood through the Yukon on their way to Alaska. By 1970 the Follies became a private business and entertained for the tourists seasons for the next 48 years.
Grant was hired in this world of vaudevillian culture in 1980 at the age of 21 – and stayed with the company for the next 38 years (becoming the owner in 1995) until the final curtain dropped in Sept 2016.
By the time the Follies closed Grant was virtually unemployable in any other walk of life – so he he has just kept on producing vaudeville performances, big and small whenever and where ever there is an audience for it.
In 2018, Grant and his partner – Shauna Jones, who is star vaudevillian herself – relocated to Winnipeg where the theatre tradition is burning bright.
Shortly after their arrival in Winnipeg they met Howard Swan, a musician and singer who performed on the vaudeville stages from 1938 – 1950s as part of an act called “The Hay Makers”. It was on the stage of the Beacon Theatre in Winnipeg where Howie first laid his eyes on a beautiful tap dancer who was one of “The Dale Sisters”. They married soon after and that vaudevillian pairing continued to glow with love for the next 65 years. What a team!
When the final traces of vaudeville drizzled out – Howard performed with dance bands and on radio. He began to split his time between Winnipeg and Arizona – playing music regularly no matter where he happened to be.
From the first time they met, Grant, Shauna and Howard have been inseparable buddies and along Winnipeg’s own homegrown vaudevillian stars like the unsurmountable Brian Glow, the World Renowned Magician and Comedian and Al Simmons – the master of props and laughter and fun, and with old vaudeville pals like Gillian Campbell – Canada’s Leading Lady Extraordinaire, the spirit and reality of vaudeville live on.
Grant performs for the 55 Plus groups and at Senior Care Facilities bringing both his one-man vaudeville show to older adults and also his Silent Movie Hour where he brings silent movies and then plays silent-movie-piano behind them. Two great ways to bring something different to your communities.
“Grant Simpson recently led our 55 Plus group on a fun-filled musical romp through the glory days of vaudeville. His talent and ease with multiple instruments is evident as he tells stories of the early days of vaudeville. He weaves jokes and novelty numbers spontaneously into his show while playing ragtime piano, banjo, guitar and even the musical saw. With his engaging and personal manner, he connects easily with any audience, and we can’t wait to invite him back again.”
– Linda Thorlakson, Crescent Fort Rouge 55 Plus Program
“The residents of Riverwood Square love the variety of entertainment that Grant Simpson provides. Grant engages them with musical favorites, Vaudeville music or simple piano background music. We surprised our residents with a Silent Movie theme and we knew which entertainer would captivate our resident’s attention. Grant was a huge hit! He is a skilled piano player and entertains our residents with music and stories.” – Shannon Gaulke, Health & Wellness Director at Riverwood Square
“Thank you for recommending Grant. He was a real hit! Many attendees spoke to him afterwards about how much they enjoyed his performance or to ask him about future gigs. He was so popular, he was given a standing ovation!! That hasn’t occurred in over 13 years.” – Kathy Deyman RWTA
For booking and inquiries contact us at email@example.com
or phone/text 431-373-3108