When Susie Francis and The Versatiles take the stage at the storied Kitsilano Showboat in Vancouver next month, they’ll be walking in the footsteps – and treading the boards – of B.C. entertainment history.
The Versatiles, led by director Susie Francis Hall, are a golden-aged variety group specializing in Vaudeville-style entertainment, with a modern twist.
“We entertain all age groups,” says show emcee Terry Morrissey, who’s been with the troupe for 12 years.
It’s good, old-fashioned entertainment that involves, songs, corny jokes, skits and even a magic show.
“You can bring your grandchildren, or bring your grand father. We’re a clean family show,” explains Morrissey, adding there’s up to 30 costume changes in a single show.
Musical director Francis, a “versatile” multifaceted performer in her own right, comes from a long line of performers. (By some accounts, she’s the sixth generation in her family to take the stage.)
And on Aug. 11, Susie and the Versatiles will perform “Blast from the Past” at the Showboat, the outdoor performance stage at Vancouver’s Kits Beach.
In the tradition of her grandfather, Frank Dowie, her dad Fran Dowie, and her mom, Candy Kane, Susie will be teaming up with a colourful ensemble cast.
In 1937, Frank Dowie and “The Versatiles” performed a variety show at the Showboat, in honour of the coronation of King George IV in 1937.
“Seventy-five years later, she’ll be standing in the same place where her dad and her grandfather stood seventy five years ago,” Morrissey says with a smile. “We’re all looking forward to it.”
The group features performers in the 60s well into their 90s.
Doug, 91, “is our star comedian,” says Morrissey. “He is one of the most wonderful entertainers I’ve seen in my life. A comedian, a musician, a singer and just a fabulous guy.”
Morrissey says working with the group keeps him feeling young.
“I just feel like I’m 34 much of the time.”
Francis founded the Versatiles in 2005, and the troupe has been a steady presence on stage at charity fundraisers, seniors homes and community events like the Cloverdale Rodeo, introducing their brand of good, old-fashioned entertainment to the next generation.
When playing for an older crowd, their renditions of old songs – along with the zany comedy that’s reminiscent of an earlier, gentler time – are always a big hit.
The Versatiles are booked through 2012, and are in demand at charity fundraisers.
On Aug. 4, they’ll make an appearance at the Cloverdale Blueberry Festival. They’re scheduled to perform at noon on an outdoor stage set up at the Antique Tractor Pull at Fraser Downs Racetrack and Casino.
On Aug. 17, they perform a Hawaiian sing-along at Peace Arch Hospital.
And on Dec. 14, they’re performing at the Cloverdale Recreation Centre’s Christmas dinner party.