Special to the Record
In the very near future, you will be able to travel into the past.
You don’t need a time machine to go back 100 years. Just buy a reasonably priced ticket from the Sid Williams Theatre and show up Jan. 10 for the Sid’s salute to the City of Courtenay’s centennial.
In the spirit of Skattered Skits and Barkerville’s Theatre Royal, the Sid Williams Theatre Society will present 130 minutes of Sid’s Vaudeville Follies starting at 7 p.m.
“I actually started talking about the centennial with Deborah Griffiths from the (Courtenay and District) Museum, probably more than a year ago,” says Sid general manager Deb Renz.
After learning Theatre Royal no longer tours, the Sid sought a special person who could organize a vaudeville reincarnation.
Local funnyman Kenny Shaw expressed keen interest, and was awarded the task, which he is busy working on.
“Kenny Shaw has the full artistic direction for the show,” explains Renz. “He’s written the script, he’s selected the music and he’s selecting the performers.”
Besides Shaw as the MC, the lineup will include Go Dog Go, Steve Rossner, Black Swan Fiddlers, saxophonist Rachel Fuller, violinist Blaine Dunaway, Valley Dance, Rob Petrie, 7 Story Circus, vocal quartet Swing Set, Papa G, Cody Rodgers and “Sid Williamson” (rumoured to be local musician, volunteer and regional district chair Edwin Grieve).
Entertainers, Shaw explains, will include singers, dancers, a circus act and a ventriloquist.
The spirit of the theatre’s namesake, a legendary Comox Valley stage performer, permeates every aspect of the presentation, Renz states.
“I feel we are bound and obligated to make Sid proud, so we’re going to try and do as good a job as he would do,” she says.
After extensive research into the various phases of vaudeville, Shaw is doing all he can to replicate an authentic days-gone-by theatrical experience.
“We’ve got honky-tonk piano, double bass, several fiddles, a saxophone and clarinet,” he reveals. “We’re making this as true to form as possible, all acoustic instruments … there will be one broadcast mic … in the centre of the stage. All the singing acts will have to group around it.”
Most of the lighting will be supplied by vaudeville-like footlights.
True to the unruly nature of vaudeville audiences, Shaw encourages the crowd to be rowdy, but not in a negative way – “lots of cheering, standing and yelling your approval, that sort of thing,” even dressing in the style of the day, which the Sid staff will do.
In addition, the theatre society will screen what it’s calling Bickle Theatre Originals – three films from the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s – to reflect the theatre’s heyday as a movie theatre.
Sid’s Vaudeville Follies happen Jan. 10 at 7 p.m. at the Sid Williams Theatre in Courtenay. For details and tickets, visit www.sidwilliamstheatere.com, phone 250-338-2430 or visit the Sid box office at 442 Cliffe Ave.
Mark Allan is a freelance writer and a former editor of the Comox Valley Record.