The first Ritz Follies event was presented on July 30th, 2005 to an enthusiastic audience of more than 275 by a lineup of more than a dozen of the Wabash Valley’s singers, musicians, dancers and puppeteers. Subsequent Ritz Follies drew near capacity crowds as the popular variety shows became an established annual event. By popular demand, the Winter Follies show was added to the Parke Players season in February of 2009.
Proceeds from the Follies productions go toward the continuing operation and maintenance of the Ritz Theater as well as aid in the completion of planned improvements and upgrades to the Ritz stage production facility.
The original concept for the Ritz Follies was to present selections from our past Broadway musicals and other theatrical skits in a Vaudeville format performed by members of Parke Players as well as performers from other theater and performance organizations. After several production planning sessions, it was decided that the public should be invited to participate in an open stage format. The response was more favorable than we had anticipated and the entire show was created around the fore mentioned singers, musicians, dancers and puppeteers. A principal guideline for the Ritz Follies was that we not audition prospective performers as much as screen their proposed act to assess a suitable placement in the lineup. Everyone that signs up takes part in the show! A positive step toward achieving one of Parke Players established goals: Providing the opportunity for area citizens to experience performing in front of live audiences in a state of the art production facility.
The outstanding enthusiasm and appreciation displayed by the growing crowds has been an encouraging benefit for the new performers as well as for the more experienced. Cheering crowds in a theatrical setting are a rare experience for most amateur performers and always appreciated by the veterans.
Follies Co-founder Don Collins
was the popular host of the shows until his retirement in Match of 2014. Don played many roles in Parke Players shows over the years as well and was the resident emcee for many of our non theatrical concert events.
Follies Co-founder and producer
Andrew Snowden is the technical director for Parke Players. Andy is the perennial pit piano player for the annual Covered Bridge Festival Melodrama and has played 318 melodrama performances.
Roger Wycoff has pleased audiences at the Ritz Follies
since the first show in 2005.
Debbie Hamke has also been
a crowd pleaser since the first Follies show.
Cheyenne Chaplain has taken
part in theatrical productions as well as the Ritz Follies.
Chris and Lee Ann Smith have clogged
their way into the hearts of Follies fans. Chris also sings with his guitar.
Chris Smith's mother Dorothy steals the show with her tap dancing routine at age 82!
John Frank and Jack Shannon
team up for a Country Western
Ray Wolverton has also been a favorite at the Follies since the first show in 2005.
Rick Morris has brought Gospel favorites to the show every year.
Sammy Tidwell sings country classics at the Ritz Follies.
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