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Whyte Yarcowie Vaudeville Troupe serve up a “show stopper”

Abbie Tiller

Mid North performers’ curtain call on four decades of fun

After 40 years of showbiz, the curtain will fall for one last time on popular South Aussie entertainers, the Whyte Yarcowie Vaudeville Troupe.

The clever bunch of bold entertainers, who perform an entertaining mix of music, slap-stick comedy sketches and dance, reminiscent of traditional town hall days, are “calling it a day” on an impressively long showbiz career.

The final show, suitably named Young at Heart, is a celebration of a lifetime of good old-fashion entertainment, and the close-knit group now entering their 80’s, is pulling out all stops!

Cast and crew from performances dating right back to 1984, will return to Jamestown on Saturday April 13 and 14 for a one-off show celebrating the talented troupe’s last hurrah.

Where it all began….

It all began back in 1984, with a one-off performance in celebration of History Week. But “Ye Olde Music Hall” brought down the house! Local publicans, Judy and Noel Lewis and their sons Matt and Ben, teamed up with local farming family, the Stakers, and their nostalgic show received rave reviews! So the show rolled on….cast members and performers came and went, and the Whyte Yarcowie Vaudeville Troupe continued to captivate South Aussie audiences.

Four decades on, and 21 different productions later, the Troupe has travelled far and wide, appeared on National TV and been the only amateur group with a regular gig at Keith Michell Theatre’s Morning Melodies program.

Some of the mainstay performers have included Glen and Shirley Cornish, Ian and Julie Sutcliffe, Ian and Val Seaman, Ron and Daph Wenham, Lesley Kulow, Inez Hancock, John Moore, Jack Napper, and Margie Symonds.

The Troupe’s popular performances went a long way to help local communities raise thousands of dollars for charities of their choice.

There’s no business like show business for Judy Lewis

Judy Lewis fell in love with show business at age seven, and 73 years later, she can still tap dance the first routine she ever learned at the Ross Riddle School of Dancing in Mount Gambier. Even after breaking her pelvis in a car accident last Mother’s Day, Judy still defies gravity, remarkably being able to perform the ‘splits’ at age 80.

Showbiz runs through Judy’s veins, like the colourful glittering costumes that have pride of place in not one but two rooms in her home, and the Order of Australia Medal she was awarded in 2015 for her contribution to Performing Arts and the Community.

She’s had an illustrious, vast and varied career, from backstage roles to comedy gigs in England, ShowGirl dancing in Italy, head Choreographer at Old Kings Music Hall, Director of Port Pirie Youth Theatre, Dance Teacher at Jamestown and Director and Choreographer of countless school productions in the Mid North.

So how did Judy go from stages in Europe and ushering Humphrey Bogart to his seat at a show, to becoming part of the Whyte Yarcowie Vaudeville Troupe? She returned home for her 21st birthday and fell in love with Mount Gambier Detective, Noel Lewis. The couple married and moved to Port Augusta to manage a hotel, and as far as Noel was concerned, Judy’s dancing days were over. That was until he took her for a drive to Whyte Yarcowie to check out a pub for sale.

“I took one look at the town and the pub and said there is no way we are staying here,” Judy said.
But 48 years later, the once busy railway town has had Judy dancing, singing and laughing every day.

“I love laughter, I like to make people laugh, I think there is too little laughter in the world.” And she’s loved spreading the joy of show business to the tiny town and its surrounding communities.

For Judy, the Troupe has become like an extended family – “in sickness and in health, we’ve been there for each other,” she said. “The Troupe has got us through a lot of hard times personally.” She paid special tribute to chief costumer maker, Pam Staker and her husband John, who have been with her as part of the Troupe “from woe to go”.

And even though the four-decade long show is almost over, Judy still has plenty of moves left in her dancing shoes – “maybe I’ll take on some solo acts or smaller performances in aged care homes and prisons. Who knows?”

Whyte Yarcowie Vaudeville Troup’s Last Hurrah
April 13 & 14
Where:- Jamestown Town Hall
Saturday night tickets at Shellie’s Shoes 67 Ayr St Jamestown
Sunday tickets available on the day


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