Having a blast with the past

Suzie (front and centre) and  The Versatiles are coming to Langley on May 7. - Jennifer LANG/Black Press
Suzie (front and centre) and The Versatiles are coming to Langley on May 7.
— image credit: Jennifer LANG/Black Press

In 2003, a vaudeville troupe from Cloverdale stepped up to help an Aldergrove father who’d been involved in a hit-and-run accident that nearly claimed his life.

He survived — barely (a highways maintenance worker found him in a ditch next to the Fraser Highway) — but he lost his left leg.

Incredibly, just a few months later, he appeared onstage at the May 10 show, demonstrating a few steps on a new prosthetic leg.

The fundraiser, which featured renowned actor Fran Dowie — plus his daughter, Susie Francis, and her troupe The Vaudevillians — was a sell-out.

Proceeds went to help David Slack, a married father of three who spent months recovering from the ordeal.

It was, however, Dowie’s last performance.

But it wasn’t the end of a proud family tradition. Dowie, who’d spent a lifetime spreading laughter and the art of vaudeville throughout Europe and North America, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, asked Susie to carry on the “family business.”

After the Vaudevillians, Francis went on to found another group, The Versatiles, again raising money for community groups and charities, including the Heart and Stroke Foundation, B.C. Children’s Hospital, and more.

In January, her artistic reach spread to Sechelt, where she founded The Funtastics, another group of performers in their golden years.

Francis is a versatile performer in her own right. Perhaps that’s why she’s at the helm of The Versatiles, a Cloverdale-based vaudeville troupe of seniors. They rehearse Mondays at Branch 6 of the Royal Canadian Legion.

The group’s oldest performer is 89; the youngest is 61. But The Versatiles’ reach extends to a newer generation of performers, Susie’s grandsons, Kyle and Taylor Sherlock, aged 15 and 16, who are also taking the stage at the group’s next appearance.

On May 7, Susie and

The Versatiles will perform two shows (2 p.m. and 7 p.m.) at Brookswood Senior Centre at 19899 36 Avenue in Langley.

Proceeds from the performance will be used to help revitalize the centre and create a welcoming environment for seniors to gather, along with their family and friends.

The variety show features comic songs, skits and comedy bits, offering a little something for everyone.

Tickets are $10 adults, $5 for children, babes in arms free. Call 604-530-4232 for more info.

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