When a dancehall girl can’t get attention from a hotel pianist she’s crushing on, she follows her friend’s lead with a moustache in hand.
In pursuit of love, the hopeless romantic dresses as a man to get closer to her newfound hunting partner.
“Dot” is just one of the “league of gentlewomen,” who suits up in slacks and suspenders to find work or to make it big back in the turn of the century in Rossland.
Inspired by a real anonymous letter, the cross-dressing story is only one of the historical truths that are torn out of a newspaper and brought to the stage in the Gold Fever Follies’ 25th anniversary show that just hit the Miner’s Hall.
“The Race, the Voice and the Gentlewomen” chronicles Augustus Heinze’s creation of a small copper smelter in Trail, what later developed into Teck. His race to complete a railroad and cash in big proves impossible without knocking other players down in the process.
The eccentric character, portrayed by actor Felix LeBlanc, comes to life with a thick German accent and tap-dancing feet. But his road to victory wouldn’t be complete without painting his nemeses (Thomas Shaugnessy) black by slanting the news in his investment, the Miner Newspaper, and later selling his holdings to the Canadian Pacific Railway.
“The shows about breaking the molds in more aspects than one – breaking the mold of genders and coming out of your shell and doing things that are important while making history,” said actress Emily Nadeau, who plays Dot, the girl who’s goo-goo eyed over the pouty pianist.
“Well he’s kind of an idiot,” laughed Harris Anderson of his character “Irvin,” who loses hope when hotel owner Mrs. Allan (Carly Friesen) dumps him for the newest flavour of the month.
“She’s a power house,” admits Friesen. “I can sometimes relate but with the whole go through men like tissues, not even in the slightest.”
The production draws on students and graduates, who mentor local youth in the process.
The talented cast includes Vancouver native Matthew Johnson, who is back for his second year with the Follies.
“I spent a couple years going to performing arts’ college and I consider this kind of a return on my investment,” he said.
“It’s an opportunity to keep all the skills that I learned there fresh while working with a cast of very talented people who all share the passion for performing and that’s very rewarding.”
Directed by Iron Mountain Theatre’s RJ Peters, the one-hour show is Brian Turner’s fifth original script.
The 2002 Rossland Secondary School graduate went onto study film and television writing at Vancouver Film School.
While he continues to master his craft, he is pulled back to the area he rooted his passion for the arts.
“Follies to me is kind of like an hour-long sitcom, I just try to find moments where people will laugh and scenarios that people haven’t seen before,” said Turner.
But coming up with humour the whole family can appreciate is only one aspect, he said, noting the time spent glued to newspaper records at the Vancouver Public Library.
From a one-man project, his work was picked up and brought to life.
“You visualize the script a certain way and you give it to the director and you kind of hope that they keep to the tone that you’ve created,” he said. “It’s like I had a child and then the child grew up and went into other people’s hands and this is how it turned out.”
The original founder of the Gold Fever Follies, producer Ray Furlotte, first conceived the idea to bringing summer students to Rossland in 1986.
He is still the one who laughs the hardest during opening night, with equal gusto for the performances that follow throughout the summer.
The Trail resident’s passion for theatre is evident in his commitment to the show that is based on Rossland’s rich gold mining history, sprinkled with historical figures.
Marking 25 years of high cancan kicks, organizers are celebrating a quarter-century with a reunion and cabaret next month.
The cast takes to the stage at 3 and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday until the end of August. Tickets to “The Race, the Voice and the Gentlewomen” are available at the Miner’s Hall.