Anyone acquainted with Susie (Francis) Hall already knows she’s a star. Now she has a trophy to prove it.
Hall – well known in Cloverdale for heading up The Versatiles, a local performing arts troupe of golden agers – has won the Langley regional division of Senior Star, a talent contest open to seniors aged 65 and up.
Her (somewhat bawdy) rendition of the sultry blues classic “The Birth of the Blues“ won over the panel of judges at the June 14 event, held at Langley Gardens Retirement Community.
The multifaceted performer beat out nine other contestants, including Cloverdale’s Irene Reed, a previous regional Senior Idol who sang her way to the nationals in 2010. Working the crowd, Francis won over the judges, Langley Township Coun. Grant Ward, school music instructor Jamie Thomas, and performer Gail Hawksworth, to take top prize.
Senior Star is Canada’s largest talent competition dedicated to seniors. Surrey seems to be something of a wellspring for senior talent; Dan Miner of Surrey was among the 2009 finalists.
This year there are 60 regional competitions being held across Canada. Contestants are given five minutes to sing a song, play an instrument, or do both. Videotaped performances of the winners are then submitted to a celebrity panel of judges.
From there, the list is narrowed down to nine competitors to compete in the senior Star National Finals taking place this November in Niagara Falls, Ont.
Meanwhile, Susie and The Versatiles are enjoying a steady set of engagements at area seniors’ residences and other venues. Earlier this week, The Versatiles were set to perform at Westminster House in White Rock.
This August, after they perform their variety show at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds during the Blueberry Festival, they’ll perform their biggest show yet – an anniversary show at Vancouver’s historic Kitsilano Showboat at Kits Beach.
The Aug. 11 performance is an historic occasion for The Versatiles. Hall comes from a long line of performers. Seventy-five years ago, her grandfather Frank Dowie and “The Versatiles” performed a tribute to King George IV during Canada’s Coronation season in English Bay.
Hall, who founded the re-booted version of The Versatiles in 2005, has spent her life in the theatre, and loves the vaudeville tradition, which encompasses singing, dancing, and comedy.
She got her start in theatre at the age of seven, gracing stages with her parents, Fran Dowie and Candy Kane. In 2010, she was inducted into the Northwest Western Swing Music Society’s hall of fame.
The Senior Star competition is presented by Chartwell Seniors Housing REIT, which owns and operates a network of retirement homes and facilities.