Follies makes some changes to stay the same
Local musical celebrates 17 years
April 14, 2017
A group of local amateur actors and musicians have presented the Park City Follies, an original musical that makes fun of all thingks Park city for the past 17 years.
Always a fundraiser for the Egyptian Theatre, this year’s production will open on Thursday, April 20, and run for two weeks.
The ideas for the raucous, irreverent and hilarious productions all come from local news, said Rick Klein, who, along with fellow creative-team members Paul Tan and Tom Clyde, spoke with The Park Record earlier this week.
"It always goes back to this: how many of our ideas do we get from the silly stuff that we read about in [The Park Record]?" he said. "You can't make this stuff up."
The genesis of this year's show came from a letter to the editor, Clyde said.
"The letter, which was published last summer, was from a couple who had bought a condo at Newpark and was objecting to a new condo project that was being built down the block because it would 'absolutely destroy the character and ambiance of Newpark,'" Clyde said. "After I read the letter, I thought, 'My God, there is an ambiance to Newpark?'"
Clyde read the letter, and after laughing, set it aside.
"A few days later, I pulled the thing out of the recycling bin and cut it out," he said. "It's been on my desk ever since."
Klein read the same letter and initially wondered if it was written tongue-in-cheek.
"I don't think it was, but it shows how someone perceives Park City may very well be a function of how long someone has lived here," he said. "I mean, when you start thinking about the historic ambience of Newpark, there is a statement there."
The angle of this year's Follies is a little different than the past.
"So many of our shows have been from the focus of the old, old-timers, because that's who we are," Clyde said. "This time, the focus is from the absolute newcomer who is absolutely terrified about losing the 'ambiance and character of Newpark.'"
"Hey, if you're a Best Buy aficionado and travel the country to see them, you can check that one off the box," Tan quipped with a laugh.
"It is a nice Best Buy," Clyde added.
In addition to the small shift in focus, there have been some bigger changes regarding the musical.
One is the addition of assistant director Christian Labertew, so Tan, who usually directs the show, will get a chance to act on stage this year.
Labertew is a Park City High School senior, who has performed many roles, including the Artful Dodger in Pioneer Theatre's "Oliver."
"He's this high-school kid who was bossing everybody around at rehearsal last night," Clyde said with a laugh.
Selecting Labertew was a decision that wasn't done lightly or at the last minute.
"You have to give that formal authority to people who can do this because the stage is very particular about who can tell whom what they can do," Tan said. "The actors have to respond to it and respect the authority."
"It's true and people were buying into it," Clyde remarked.
"We spent many hours before the first rehearsal talking about how we could make this work," Tan said without missing a beat. "Christian is a great student, learner and actor."
Another major change involves the music director.
Shelle Jennings, who sat on the piano bench for the past eight years and led a band full of ace musicians, along with a singing cast, through rehearsals and shows, informed the creative team that she was stepping down.
"Shelle was one of those rock-solid participants where you know if she said she would get something done, she would," Clyde said. "She sat on a hard piano bench without a back rest for three hours each night. And I'm sure it was hard for her."
The torch will be passed on to Katy Lillquist.
"Shelle has also been great with the transition," Clyde said. "She spent a lot of time with Katy, preparing her for what is going to come next.
"While I haven't seen Katy in action, yet, I have a high level of confidence that if we have one of those calamitous scene changes, Katy will pick up where Shelle left off and the band will fill the gap."
To show their gratitude, and to help the audience through the transition, the Follies will show a video, Klein said.
"Without giving too much away, Shelle is the star of the video and what a trooper she is," he said. "There are scenes in this video that she did that no one else will expect."
"It surprises you with what she would say yes to doing," Tan said with a laugh.
Speaking of videos, the Park City Follies has beefed up its video production and is taking advantage of the Egyptian Theatre's technology.
"We introduced videos a few years ago to put things in that didn't fit in the play, but deserved to be looked at," Clyde said. "At first they were these silly little stand-up pieces that have since become major productions.
"There are people who needed to be a part of the show that couldn't commit to rehearsals. So, we put them in the videos."
Although the three men spoke of changes, Tan said the Park City Follies to him is really about what he doesn't want to change.
"Because the Follies is so local, you have to be very careful not to spoil that special sauce," he said. "If you want to venture off the kitsch and the specific tongue-in-cheek parody, you can end up going down different roads."
"A couple of years ago, one of the big hotels in town bought a whole block of tickets for some of their guests who were in town and not locals," he said. "They didn't get the show. I felt sorry for them because they invested an evening to see the show, but I was also so happy that we has written a play that was so local and belonged to this community."
"It's a very dynamic process and every year is a completely different experience," Tan said about the creative process that also includes lyricist Terry Moffitt.
"The current group has worked together for at least 10 years," Clyde said. "And we've developed a trust level where if somebody says, 'I will get it done,' that they won't only get something done, but it will be better than the others could do themselves."
“Park City Follies,” the annual musical that pokes fun at all things Park City, will open at 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 20, for a nine-day run at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St. The performances will continue at 8 p.m. on April 21-22 and 26-29. There will be two Sunday performances at 6 p.m. on April 23 and April 30. For ticket information, visit http://www.parkcityshows.com.