it’s our Anniversary
85 YEARS OF ENTERTAINMENT
NAPIER FRIVOLITY MINSTRELS
Spotlight beaming in on Frivs’ 85th anniversary
More than 250 former Frivs from throughout New Zealand – as well as three from overseas – are expected in Napier next weekend to celebrate the 85th anniversary of the Napier Frivolity Minstrels.
The celebrations get under way on Friday night with an anniversary dinner at the War Memorial Hall and on Saturday the visitors will be among those in the audience watching a gala performance of the Frivs’ 1981 minstrel show and pantomime in the Napier Municipal Theatre.
Of the three overseas guests, two are from Australia and one is from the United States. Friv patrons from earlier years will no doubt remember Ivena Pothan (now Mrs Ivena Spencer) who was a long-serving Friv with the company between 1940 and 1954. She is now living in California. Geoff Pell, from Brisbane, played drums for the Frivs from 1957 until 1964 and Jill Alsop (now Jill Hiser), also living in Brisbane, was on the stage between 1956 and 1963.
The Frivs opened their 1981 season at the Westshore school hall last month before a capacity audience. Already it has played at Pukeora Home for the Disabled at Waipukurau, Tikokino, Taradale, Gisborne and Twyford.
The show traditionally culminates at the Napier Municipal Theatre for a short “city” season in November but this year, because of the jubilee and the forthcoming general election, the company decided to play its Municipal Theatre shows mid-way through the season.
Back to the country
After shows at the theatre on October 10, 11 (twilight performance), 14 and 17, the cast will head back out of town to complete the country circuit. This will include performances at Patoka, Te Pohue, Eskdale, Puketapu, Clive as well as a show at the Hastings Municipal Theatre, one at Featherston and one at the Frivs’ own hall at Ahuriri. The season will end on December 5 with a final performance at the Napier Cosmopolitan Club.
The Napier Frivolity Minstrels’ style of entertainment may not be everybody’s cup of theatrical tea but their performance record is nothing short of remarkable.
With 85 years behind them, the Frivs are New Zealand’s oldest entertainment group and during the years have given away more than $300,000 to charity.
Their specialty has always been in taking the show to the audiences in country areas – and they were doing that in the days when there was no television, or even radio for that matter.
Their inimitable style has won them friends wherever they have performed. It is a style that even after all these years still manages to get patrons rocking in their seats with laughter.
Song and laughter
In the 85 years that have passed since the Frivs first took to the boards at the Eskdale Hall, they have played in just about every centre in Hawke’s Bay and in many places beyond. They have gone in to work camps and into small country halls to give people song and laughter.
And the money raised from each show is pumped straight back into the community from which it was given. Special emphasis is placed – fund-raising for schools and on committees that cater for the young.
The show is traditionally divided into two sections.
The first half is devoted to a fast-moving minstrel show full of quips, gags and music. Never far from the microphones in these routines are “Mr Interlocutor” and his four minstrel cornermen – Mr Sambo, Mr Bones, Mr Rastus and Mr Moses.
The second half of the programme is always pantomime time. Some years it has been the traditional version of a well-loved story, at other times it has been written just for the Frivs. But whichever pantomime is chosen, it is always delivered in typical Frivs’ style.
This year’s pantomime is Cinderella which the Frivs have performed on two earlier occasions, in 1942 and again in 1950.
Cinderella has this year been produced by Margaret Atkins while the minstrel show is in the hands of producer Joy Boston. Edith Ferguson is once again the musical director for the entire production and Alan Spivey the stage manager.
‘Radio Times’ show
After 85 years performing in traditional minstrel- style shows, the Frivs earlier this year moved into another style of entertainment.
In March they staged the “Frivs’ Radio Times Show”. Based on television’s show of the same name the show was used to launch the company’s new restaurant theatre – for many years the Frivs’ own rehearsal hall at Ahuriri.
So successful was the short season that plans are already well in hand to repeat the show early next year.
The society’s president, Mr John Ferguson, said he is confident Radio Times will become a regular feature of the Frivs’ activities, not only for its entertainment value but also to raise funds to help cover the ever-increasing cost of getting the annual minstrel show and pantomime on the road.
Photo caption –
““MR Interlocutor”, Alec Wishart, and his four minstrel cornermen (from left) Ken Smith, Roger Williams, Mike Coats and Glyn Lawrence.