Palace built on strong foundation

The community of Errington comes together to produce a wildly popular burlesque and vaudeville show that keeps selling out very quickly

submitted photo by beth ross

submitted photo by beth ross

Director Jamie Black says this year’s vaudeville and burlesque show, A Night at the Palace, is an organic creation, fuelled by the enthusiasm of plenty of Errington folks.

Black, in her first year as director of the show — which is in its eighth incarnation — said she has taken a different approach as director and is letting the performers and crew take on more ownership of the production. Reclining in her director’s ‘perch’ during an interview at a technical rehearsal Sunday, Black said she has found the people around her are stepping up to the responsibility of putting together another great show.

“There’s a lot of communication and forgiveness between all of the people,” she said. “It’s a confidence-builder.”

A mix of semi-professional and amateur performers, A Night at the Palace has been in the works for about a year — almost as soon as the curtain on last year’s show fell. Black said all participants are from Errington, and that — coupled with people’s enthusiasm and energy — helps to foster a sense of community in the War Memorial Hall.

There are dancers of all sorts — from fan dancing to exotic candle acts and belly dancing  — to comedy, music, short acts and longer ones, as well as a little tease of burlesque.

Black pointed out the strip tease is only a small part of the show. A Night at the Palace, she said, has always been about participation — by both performers and the audience — and the style of entertainment in the 1920 and ‘30s.

“There has always been something about the Friday night performance, recalled Black, who has been involved on stage and off for the last four years. “People that night always hoot and holler, but on other nights, the audience is quieter.”

The friendly noise and encouragement helps the performers  — some of whom are on stage for the first time. There’s nothing more disconcerting, Black said, than silence from the seats.

In other words, play along — and dress up in period costume. It’s encouraged.

A Night at the Palace is, Black continued, a culmination of a year-long process that starts with many, many people submitting acts they would like to perform. There are too many to actually put on stage in one show, but Black said over the weeks and months leading up to it, some people back out, others can’t make the nights of the show, and eventually, a complete set of performers takes shape. Behind the scenes, Black said a committee of seven people look over the acts and determine their suitability for a family-friendly audience and then get to work on planning sets, lights, sound and much more.

The work is immense, Black said, noting the help of vital people like Thea Stavroff (stage manager), the Vaudeville Band and Nayana Mongeau (Black’s right-hand woman) and the entire Mongeau family (not to mention many others — they know who they are) have made this year’s production go quite smoothly.

Expect schmoozing before the show, period costumes and decorations, and a lot of fun during A Night at the Palace, which hits the stage this Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

Just don’t expect to find any tickets — the shows have all sold out.

Doors open at 7 p.m. (but Black said for good seats, people should come even earlier) and the show begins around 8 p.m.

“With 18 or 19 acts of various lengths, people won’t be out of the hall until around 10:30 or 11 p.m.,” Black concluded.


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