Follies gets ‘Stimulated’
April 24, 2009
In Park City, the land of endless horizons and even larger restaurant tabs, bigger has always been better. Even in a recession, nonprofits spar with each other for big-ticket donors, five-star restaurants try to quash mom-and-pop diners and the only thing more feared than cougars are the divorce attorneys that trail behind them.
If this description of Park City sounds like a bit of a caricature, then Park City’s Follies, the annual revue that in past years has spoofed water rights, the Air Force, Talisker Corp., real-estate agents and the LDS Church, has succeeded.
This year, Park City Follies takes on the economy in "Stimulated!" The show offers familiar scores, such as the opening number, "Brother Can You Spare a Dime," with original lyrics. The show runs April 30 through May 2 at the Egyptian Theatre run from 8 to 10 p.m. Thursday’s show costs $12. Friday and Saturday tickets are $22.
Unlike most plays, Follies is staged almost entirely with local business and community leaders moonlighting on the stage. They spoof, and in some cases lampoon, the most visible aspects of public life in the city. In addition to eight musical numbers, one for nearly every scene, the performance includes a number of filmed skits. "It’s not really a roast, it’s a locals inside joke" explained Annette Velarde, who has been one of the writers for Follies since 2003.
Set against the backdrop of the recession, the play is about an immigrant named Pedro, played by John Spung, who decides to open a casual diner. His efforts raise the hackles of the restaurant cartel in town and set into motion a confrontation with plenty of ribbing. Rachael Young plays Pedro’s love interest, an "Amazonian Estonian" named Andi Simonian. The show is being directed by Paul Tan.
This year’s cast has 22 members and features, for the first time, a choir.
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Professionals and public officials are often eager for their turn to be in Follies and refer to it fondly as their chance for "15 minutes of fame," Velarde said.
The unexpected cast is a big part of the fun, said writer Terry Moffit. Jokes although racy, remain lighthearted and in good taste, she assured. Rabbi Josh Aaronson from Temple Har Shalom, Sandra Morrison of The Park City Historical Society and Museum, Carol Potter of Mountain Trails Foundation and Leslie Thatcher of KPCW, the local radio station, represent some of the nonprofits in town.
From the business realm are Flint Decker and Mike Kirklen, who are real-estate agents and John Burdick, owner of Maxwell’s East Coast Eatery, among others.
"There are people you’d never expect that love to do this," said writer Terry Moffit. "People here are really good at being able to laugh."
Not that jokes always go off without a hitch. Imperfections are part of the show, which is staged with relatively few rehearsals. Putting an ironic twist on a depressing subject, the sour economy, provided ample fodder for jokes. "Come see it," said Rick Cline, a writer. "You will laugh, cry and stand up and cheer." If there is a lesson to be gleaned from Follies, it’s about triumph over adversity.
The Egyptian Theatre, the longtime host of the event, is a kind of monument of perseverance against the tough economy. Despite a major overhaul that led the theater’s board of directors to slash staff and cancel its existing slate of shows, the Egyptian maintains an important role in the community. "Especially this year, with everything that’s happened, the show has been interesting," said Kat Christensen. A fulltime employee of the Egyptian, Christensen is in her second years as the stage manager for Follies. "Everyone thought we would close our doors, but this is our home. The Follies is the Egyptian. It’s been a staple," she continued.
The Park Record is one of the sponsors of the event. "We all take ourselves pretty seriously in this community, especially in this environment," said publisher Andy Bernhard. "It’s fun to be associated with an event like this that’s lighthearted and pokes a little fun at ourselves."
"Stimulated" is a spot-on David and Goliath story, said performer Steve Phillips. "A lot of people are having difficulty financially," he said. "It helps us take a hard look at ourselves."
But hopefully not without a smile.