Golden-agers give ‘Vaudeville 101’ lesson

NORTH DELTA – It is, typically, one of the quietest times of the day during one of the quietest times of the week at Kennedy Seniors Centre. The lunch bunch has come and gone, the dinner crowd has yet to arrive and the hubbub of the weekend is a day removed. It is Monday afternoon.

But pop the door to the facility’s main hall on this Monday afternoon (Oct. 20) and prepare to wave bye-bye to solitude. It’s dress-rehearsal time for a local theatre troupe called The Vaudevillians, and the pace, as they prep to hit the stage, is manic.

Over there working the sound board is Marilyn Paulin, twirling knobs and listening intently to a pony-tailed dude who’s running, literally, back and forth to the stage, setting up the wired and wireless microphones and figuring out last-minute issues. His name is Morgan Montgomery and he’d be handling the audio duties himself, like he’s done so often before, if he weren’t also singing and dancing and emceeing instead.

Morgan Montgomery, a supreme multi-tasker. Photo: GORD GOBLE.

Twenty feet from Paulin sits Marilyn Remus. The director of the troupe’s latest effort, she pores over the script, appending this and altering that, when not fielding questions and conferring with the many actors and assistants who approach her.

One of those people is Pat Trimble.

Trimble, along with hubby Jim, is a founding member of the troupe and, in many ways over the years, its backbone, talks practicalities with Remus, heads off to quickly change into costume and returns for another strategy session.

On stage, the action is hot and heavy. Actors move scenery into position, disappear and return in costume. Individual scenes are practiced. Mics and props are passed about. Conversation is everywhere.

Suddenly, the curtain is drawn. It opens again and the play begins.

There is singing, there is dancing. There is truly funny comedy and there is witty dialogue. Actors enter and exit from stage left, stage right, stage rear and even from the audience. There are seemingly more costume changes than there are minutes in a day. Surely on athleticism alone, this gang deserves accolades.

But here’s the thing. These guys and gals are… mature. Quite mature. Supreme multi-tasker Montgomery, he of the ponytail, is 67. Director Remus is 75. Pat Trimble is 77 and her husband Jim, who, due to heath issues will retire from active stage duties after the current project, is 83.

Hard to believe? You betcha. I wanted to ID most of them.

Dorothy Perkins takes her fun seriously. Photo: GORD GOBLE.

Take Dorothy Perkins, who says she "got serious" about this singing and acting thing at the tender age of 70. Prior to that, her only experience came as a youth. "When we were young, there was no TV, so we made our own fun. We sang all the old songs, and dad played violin."

Perkins began visiting Kennedy Seniors Centre at 70, joined its choir on a whim and was soon asked to duet with the choir director at local nursing homes. "When he passed way, it was just about the time The Vaudevillians started coming to Kennedy for practice. I thought, ‘Oh well, I think I’ll give it a try.’" Perkins claims, amid much laughter, that her first tune with The Vaudevillians was "I’m just a girl who can’t say no."

Today, she has two numbers. In the first, the 1927 standard "Among My Souvenirs," she reveals not only her impressive voice but also a mid-song shocker that’ll have the audience in stitches. In the second, a comedic take on "Bicycle Built for Two" that Perkins herself rewrote, customized lines ("For I’ll be damned if I’ll be crammed on a bicycle built for two") are commonplace.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is director Remus. Trained from a child under the mentorship of famed ballerina/actor Bebe de Roland, Remus would eventually travel the United States with her husband, staging region-specific "outdoor spectaculars" in towns throughout the land. The two ultimately settled in Florida, where she choreographed shows at the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theater. Indeed, Reynolds became a great friend.

Remus returned to the Lower Mainland to be near her brothers. These days, she has roles at the Massey and Anvil theatres in New Westminster and, of course, her position with The Vaudevillians.

To say she’s had a big hand in the current production, Vaudeville 101, is an understatement. Apart from directing it, Remus also wrote much of the dialogue and conceived the premise – that of a "professor" (played capably by Alannah Jacques), who explains vaudeville to the audience with the aid of liberally interspersed song and dance numbers and skits.

That it works so well and seems so fresh is not testament to Remus alone, but the entire 24-member troupe. These kids love what they’re doing, and most of them add their own twists and spins to their individual bits. It’s a group effort, and it shows.

Vaudeville 101 opens Saturday, Nov. 8 and Sunday, Nov. 9 at Surrey Arts Centre, in support of the bursary Jim Trimble initiated a decade ago for Douglas College Performing Arts students. Show times are 2 p.m. both days. For details and tickets ($20), visit Vaudevillians.com or call 604-501-5566.

The production will continue to run at smaller venues throughout the Lower Mainland well into 2015, even as the troupe chooses and rehearses its next show. This is a busy and ambitious bunch. When Remus says "We’d like to get on the convention circuit," it’s hard to believe they won’t.

Gord Goble is a freelance writer and photographer.

Goble@shaw.ca

Photo Gallery by Gord Goble

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