It’s time for a very ‘Special’ Park City Follies |

It’s time for a very ‘Special’ Park City Follies

Shelle Jennings, right, directs Steven Phillips and the cast of the Park City Follies in their version of Queen's hit song, "Fat Bottom Girls" during a rehearsal Monday at the Egyptian Theatre. The Park City Follies returns to the theatre for its 13th year. (Christopher Reeves/Park Record)

When the Park City Follies first started 13 years ago, the idea for the one-night show was to poke fun at Park City.

The seed was planted by the Park City Chamber/Bureau that wanted to put together a celebration and party at the end of ski season, said Tom Clyde, a member of the Follies creative team.

"There was a similar production in Durango and Steamboat, Colorado," said Clyde, who has been involved with the Park City show since its inception. "Meeche White, Bill Malone and I put the first one together, with the help of a guy named Chad Brown, who was a lift operator at Park City Mountain Resort."

There was only one show the inaugural year.

"That was it, but as the years progressed, we added more," Clyde said. "The second year, we did two and stayed there for quite a while before we got brave and did three."

A few years back, increasing demand dictated that the production stretch to six performances — three shows over two weekends.

That’s where it stands today.

On Friday, April 5, the Park City Follies continues the tradition and opens a six-night run at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., with a new performance called "Nothing Special."

The theme emerged after the creative team, which includes videographer Rick Klein, lyricist Terry Moffatt and music director Shelle Jennings, to name a few, combined through different stories in The Park Record for ideas.

"The Park Record is basically the foundation of the script, because it’s a great starting point where we tear out articles and keep track of things," Clyde said. "From there, we just start working through the ideas.

"Park City is a quirky place and there is always plenty of material to draw from, but the toughest part of creating is script is that we begin writing in September," he said. "We basically try to guess and anticipate what will be a hot topic or what will become a big story in the months leading up to the performance. It’s difficult because we don’t want to write a show around something that eventually fizzles out or just doesn’t happen."

That’s what happened earlier in the process when the team devised a big Donner Party scenario written about Service Area No. 6, an issue that addressed Summit County’s inability to plow the snow in that area.

"What eventually happened was the snow melted and the county found some money and that whole issue went away," Clyde said. "So, we began a major rewrite in December that did away with the Service Area No. 6 plot."

Although the team never knows what’s going to happen during the year, it has gotten pretty good at forecasting what should be written about.

"I mean, there is always plenty going on in town and a lot to deal with," Clyde said. "Usually there is one event that will clearly define the time. For example, the year the hospital opened was one of those events because it was such a big deal. And last year was the end of the world and Mayan calendar."

This year, served as an exception in that there wasn’t quite a defining moment, he said.

"So after moving around a lot of things, we ended up focusing on special events," Clyde said. "So ‘Nothing Special’ became theme."

One of the challenges of writing a script for the Follies is to keep a local focus to it, and still be entertaining to nonlocals.

"Our goal is to write in a way that if someone doesn’t live here and hasn’t paid attention to the stories, they can still sit through the show and think it’s OK," Clyde said. "Sometimes the jokes become too ‘inside,’ but we also are aware that we need to put enough inside stuff for those who live here to really understand it."

Another challenge is getting everyone together for rehearsals.

"All of the cast and crew are volunteers," Clyde said. "The depth of talent is amazing. Paul Tan is our director. Terry Moffatt does the lyrics of the songs, and every year she likes to challenge herself with more complicated music.

"Shelle Jennings is our music leader and musical coach and she works with the people on their singing for countless hours," he said. "In fact, the other night I was watching them do a song to Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ and they pulled it off."

When the curtains opened on the Park City Follies debut, Clyde didn’t think he’d still be writing scripts 13 years later.

"In the first couple of years, it was a cast of anybody we could scrape up and some of us had basic acting and music backgrounds," he said. "There were times when we thought the show wasn’t going to happen, but then we found the right people and the right fit and made it work.

"Little by little we picked up a few more people here and there and, now, we’ve got some experienced actors and performers who are part of the show," Clyde said. "I was watching rehearsals the other night was just kind of marveled at all the people who rearranged their lives to make sure the show goes on. It’s that important to them and has an energy to it that it will sustain itself. As I was watching rehearsals last night, I couldn’t help but notice the caliber of the performances."

Clyde is proud to be a part of the show and knows that it will still be an important tradition in Park City for years to come.

"I’m confident that if I get hit by a truck, someone else will step in and the show will go on business as usual," he said. "I don’t know if that will be the defining moment, but I’m sure they’ll probably mention me in passing."

The Park City Follies’ annual theatrical community spoof will open Friday, April 5, at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., at 7 p.m. Additional performances will be Saturday, April 6, at 8 p.m., Sunday, April 7, at 6 p.m., and Thursday, April 11, through Saturday, April 13, at 8 p.m. This year’s endeavor is called "Nothing Special." Tickets range from $29 to $50 and are available by visiting .

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