Photo submitted by Jonathan Tan

Vaudeville returns to the stage in Barrie

Mar 11, 2014 
Barrie Advance

Wesley J. Colford wrote the book, music and lyrics for The Wakowski Bros – A Canadian Vaudeville, on stage at the Mady Centre March 20 to 29.

It all started with a theatre and a dream.

Growing up in Cape Breton, Wesley J. Colford knew all about the Vogue Theatre, which started out as a vaudeville theatre before being transformed into a movie theatre.

“Then it closed when I was 10 or 11. I always had this dream that in 50 years, when I was rich and famous, I’d come back and convert it back,” he said.

But in 2010, despite petitions to keep it alive, the theatre was torn down.

“Someone made a film and they recorded the demolition of the theatre and put it to Charlie Chaplin’s Smile. It was brilliant and heartbreaking at the same time,” he said.

Colford was so inspired by the theatre and Canadian vaudeville that he penned The Wakowski Brothers A Canadian Vaudeville, which is being presented by Talk is Free Theatre at the Mady Centre starting March 20.

The musical follows brothers Jimmy and Conrad Wakowski who reunite for a one-night performance.

As the night goes on, original skits and songs bring old demons to the surface.

Colford, who created the book, music and lyrics for the show, wrote a first draft in summer 2011. After a workshop performance in Cape Breton, the show made its way to the Fringe Festival in Toronto.

“It sold out in Toronto,” Colford said. “That’s where Arkady (Spivak, TIFT’s artistic prodcer) saw it. We met and we get along well and we decided to do the show in Barrie.”

Colford said the musical has come a long way from its first incarnation.

“You get a new set of actors and directors, and it becomes almost a different show. It’s nice to have the chance to go back in and work on things. The best jokes keep getting better.”

The best part about the show is being able to shine a light on Canadian vaudeville, he said.

“Vaudevillians were the stars. Film was just starting out so these people were the big stars. There was a big vaudevillian scene in Cape Breton and a lot of Canada in the ’20s and ’30s and it doesn’t get talked about much.”

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