A taste of the Gold Rush days will be coming to Ashcroft on May 12, just in time for Mother’s Day, when Barkerville’s Theatre Royal rolls into town for one performance of Mrs. McGinley’s Gold Rush Variety Show as part of the Phoenix Tour.
Like the legendary Phoenix, Cariboo communities have been through an ordeal by fire and risen from the ashes to thrive again. So when Barkerville’s Theatre Royal decided to hit the road this spring for a series of rousing musical performances to celebrate the region’s resilience, there was really only one logical choice for a tour title.
The Phoenix Tour reaches back into the province’s past to give hope to present-day communities that have been hard-hit by back-to-back, record-setting fire seasons. The Theatre Royal travelling troupe will give audiences from Wells to Ashcroft high-energy song and dance performances, connecting them to the spirit of resilience of previous generations of residents who rebounded from misfortune, rebuilt, and prospered.
“Barkerville and many Interior communities have always shown their resilience by rising from the ashes like the legendary Phoenix bird to rebuild and thrive,” says producer Richard Wright of Theatre Royal and the Newman & Wright Theatre Company.
“We wanted to send that message, and it’s especially appropriate this year, since we’re celebrating the 150th anniversary of the rebuilding of the Theatre Royal in Barkerville.” The original theatre was destroyed in the September 1868 fire that destroyed much of the historic Gold Rush town.
Mrs. McGinley’s Gold Rush Variety Show is set in 1869, and has songs and dances suitable for the entire family. From farcical comedy to a poignant song from home to stirring dance numbers, the performance will bring a smile to the faces of audience members and get their toes tapping. There will be singalongs, and audience members are encouraged to take part at various points throughout the show.
“We have a talented, professional six-person troupe staging the show, and we greatly appreciate financial support from the Province of British Columbia and our sponsors,” says Wright.
Communications support for the tour is being provided by New Pathways to Gold Society (NPTGS), a non-profit organization committed to developing local economies in the Hope to Barkerville corridor through heritage tourism development, First Nations reconciliation, and multiculturalism.
In 2017, a very successful staging of the show in 100 Mile House raised funds for fire relief efforts. Don Hauka, communications/creative director of NPTGS, says that the impetus for this year’s Phoenix Tour was two-fold.
“Communities in the region still need help. They’re still recovering but they’re open for business, and that message needs to get out. And it’s the 150th anniversary of the rebuilding of Barkerville’s Theatre Royal, which rose from the ashes in a very real sense.”
The Ashcroft performance is being sponsored and hosted by the Winding Rivers Arts & Performance Society. Other sponsors include the Community Resilience Through Arts and Culture program (Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture); Barkerville Gold Mines; NPTGS; the Friends of Barkerville Cariboo Goldfields Historical Society; Barkerville Historic Town and Park; and Frog on the Bog/Mountain Thyme/St. George Hotel.
The Phoenix Tour starts on May 3 in Wells, and travels to Prince George, Burns Lake, Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake, Williams Lake, 100 Mile House, and Valemount before ending in Ashcroft on Sunday, May 12. The performance starts at 7 p.m. at the Ashcroft HUB.
Wright says that Mother’s Day is a wonderful day to be staging the show. “Mothers are strong, resilient, and courageous. It’s the same spirit that we’ll be celebrating throughout the entire tour.”
For a sneak preview, check out a video clip of the 2017 performance of Mrs. McGinley’s Gold Rush Variety Show staged at the Theatre Royal in Barkerville (go to https://vimeo.com/259197516). For updates and other information, please visit the Theatre Royal, Barkerville Facebook page. For more information about New Pathways to Gold Society, visit their website at http://newpathwaystogold.ca/.
Tickets for the Ashcroft performance of Mrs. McGinley’s Gold Rush Variety Show are available at the Ashcroft HUB or online at www.eventbrite.ca. The cost is $15 (adults), $10 (children and youth aged 18 and under), and $45 (family).