Hello Prairie Vaudeville Readers!
I thought it was about time that I put the effort into a bit of an update. Prairie Vaudeville was formed when I moved to Winnipeg in October 2018. For the first six months, it was a mere idea or wish and I didn’t really know what was going to unfold. But it did unfold on its own time and terms.
In March 2018 I met a man by the name of Howard Swan who used to play vaudeville in the 30s and 40s. He toured the Chautauqua Circuits and was a regular at all the main vaudeville theatres here in Winnipeg. From the time we met, we have been hanging out and doing things together and it has been one of the most wonderful and interesting connections to the vaudeville world I could have ever hoped for. Plus, we’ve become close friends in the process. Howie is 98 now.
Once teamed up with Howie, Prairie Vaudeville was given the opportunity to do a regular weekly radio show on CJNU 93.7 fm. From May on, The Prairie Vaudeville Radio Show has been aired every Friday at Noon. I’ve just completed the 30th episode which will air this coming Friday at Noon.
The radio episodes are a combination of vaudeville history, Winnipeg vaudeville history, famous vaudevillians and vaudeville and vaudevillians who are still practicing and performing. Howie has been a featured guest on several shows, and not a week goes by without me running my ideas for the new show by Howie. Archives of all the shows are on the website: www.prairievaudeville.com plus a bunch of supporting links for each program in the radio notes.
Besides the radio show, I take Howie with me on my regular performances at Care Facilities, 55+ Active Living Centres and any other shows he wants to come on. We have now played dozens of shows together, and there are more coming up.
I produced a full-scale vaudeville show for the Home Routes Crankie Festival in November and it was a wonderful affair. Our show was one part of the weekend, but the entire weekend was stellar with non-stop performances, workshops and classes. The Prairie Vaudeville Revue was the Saturday Evening Feature and the cast I was able to assemble was spectacular.
Gillian Campbell and her second husband (much better than the first) Edward Thompson came in and did what they always do. They were stars on stage and off. There is no-one on the planet that can do what Gillian Campbell does on stage. She is truly a one-of-a-kind star and when I produce a show, she is like an insurance policy that the audience will love the show.
I had the honor or including and working with some of the Winnipeg legends who have been performing in this style for decades. Al Simmons came on stage and did exactly what he has a far reaching reputation for. He had the audience in stitches every minute he was out there. What a brilliant performer and creative genius.
Brian Glow, the internationally acclaimed Magician Comedian who is a walking, talking show business master. He has worked every end of show business over his long, busy and esteemed career, and he continues to do so full-time.
Peter Paul van Camp has been a favorite monologist across Canada and beyond for half a century. He is a remarkably gifted performer who casually walks out on stage and in a somewhat dry delivery, holds everyone’s attention as long as he chooses.
Shauna Jones joined the cast and provided every ounce of sex appeal that any show could hope for. Shauna has mastered the art of sexy-but-funny and she rose to new levels at the Prairie Vaudeville Revue. It included a Buck Evans classic “Oh You Devil Man” and one of the show stopping moments, her very own Fan Dance.
Steve Cormier is a wonderfully engaging cowboy singer with a husky voice that resonated through the old Church-Theatre and held the audience in it’s grip the whole time. What a story-teller and collector of songs that we don’t get to hear much anymore. So great to have Steve in the Show.
Annie Avery came from the Yukon and held down the Musical Director chair for the show and that is also like having an insurance policy in place for the success of a show. Not every musician understands show business – but Annie Avery IS show business. She is a true pro at every level and a master of the every style a vaudeville show demands. She is also one of my longest and closest friends and from the moment she stepped off the plane, I knew I didn’t have to think about the music, it would simply be great. And it was.
Along with Annie, the band was made up of 4 brilliant musicians from Winnipeg. They were Grace Hrabi (Ukulele, Sax and Vocals), Jesse Popeski (Guitar), Quinton Bart (Bass), and Cameron Denby (Drums). These musicians are pro’s through and through and were able to deliver exactly what was needed to make this show exciting and seamless. Without a good band – you can’t have a good show. These folks were all brilliant.
Howard Swan closed the show with a number which he played and sang, his Granddaughter, Kelly Swan-Huck choreographed a dance that was performed by Howie’s two Great-Granddaughters, Sydney and Avery Swan. Now this was a number that brought tears to most of the eyes in the room. Of which there was well over 350.
All-in-all – it was an incredibly fun and successful show to be a part of and it was a thrill to produce as my first full show since my move to Winnipeg.
Coming up are several small performances plus a couple of bigger things in December4 that will be a lot of fun. The New Year is looking full of very diversified and interesting work, including two tours, one in British Columbia and one in the Yukon.
Thanks for keeping in the loop.