About 500 people were on hand to watch “the boys whooping it up at the Malamute Saloon” here Friday night.
Actually, the Malamute Saloon was really the J.A. Mathieu Auditorium and those on hand were there to catch “tour de Fort's" season-opening performance, "The Shooting of Dan McGrew.”
Based on the poem by Dan McGrew, a cast of 10 strived to recreate the atmosphere and people of Dawson City at the height of the Klondike gold rush.
And the audience was eager to get in, with people starting to arrive at 6:30 p.m., one hour before the play started. By 7 p.m., the line wound its way outside the high school and around the corner of First Street East.
This was the first large-scale musical comedy “tour de Fort” has ever brought into town, with 23 numbers in its repertoire. But judging from the standing ovation at the end, there's a good chance it won't be the last.
< B> “Theatre Orangeville” brought the two-act musical to Fort Frances midway into their four-week, 20-some performance tour.
And the schedule can be gruelling at times. After striking the set here, the troupe had to be ready to perform the following night in Sioux Lookout.
“It's a lot of fun and a lot of work," noted Mike Hodge, one of the acting company's "techies.”
Hodge said the company's set was borrowed from another acting group that had done the play at a permanent venue. A few modifications had to be done to make it a travelling set.
“Things have to be compact, come apart easily, and be durable,” he noted.
“The work becomes sort of routine but there's always a challenge at each new venue," Hodge added. "Sometimes the stages are really small and sometimes far too big.”
“Being in a different space every night require us to adapt every night," echoed assistant stage manager Marla Friedmann. "Entrances, exits—it's just different every night.”
This was Friedmann's first travelling tour, an experience which she said has some interesting side effects.
“It's quite disorienting—we tend to forget where we are and we are going next," she laughed. ”Since we're travelling together, we do things as a group rather than individuals.
“It makes for a close knit group of people.”
Travelling through Northwestern Ontario also has taken some getting used to for most of the cast and crew. Hodge, who has travelled in the north before, said it's somewhat comical watching his comrades adapt to its idiosyncrasies
“It's a bit of a culture shock for those guys the first time," he said. "Being in places like Dryden and Fort Frances where they have pulp mills, people are totally offended by the smell.”
But so far, the trek across Ontario into more isolated areas has been a beneficial experience.
“It's nice to be in places where people don't get much theatre," Friedmann said. "They really appreciate it.”