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The final show of Winnipeg’s BS Comedy Players signals the end of an era.
The musical political sketch-comedy troupe emerged out of an old tradition called Beer & Skits, a raunchy, boozy, smoke-filled affair first hosted by the Winnipeg Press Club in 1934, at which male journalists and politicians would gather to skewer and satirize current affairs and each other (often dressed in drag).
Over the years, however, members of the media and public figures became more leery of letting loose in front of an audience. In 2008, the concept was revamped and renamed by a group of amateur actors, who took up the mantle of no-holds-barred humour.
But now the 85-year-old tradition is taking its final bow with C*A*S*H*: The Last Big Show, which, as usual, will tackle absurdities at all three levels of government with musical skits and video clips.
Corey Quintaine, 43, is the company’s marketing director; he’s also been acting in and directing shows for many years.
Quintaine says a number of factors contributed to the decision to call it a day, including escalating costs for the volunteer-run, non-profit organization and the loss of some key positions that couldn’t be replaced without a particular "skill and passion combination."
"It’s very collaborative and it’s a huge time commitment — they meet three times a week from January until March," Quintaine says of the company members who write the sketches and songs.
He also acknowledges that the comedy landscape has transformed. "The nature of parody and satire has changed," he says.
"We want to be respectful to the people we’re parodying. The show has elevated and evolved over the years to a full-blown theatre production, so it can’t be that absolutely politically incorrect show that it had been in the past."
As the title indicates, C*A*S*H* includes a twist on classic ‘70s TV show M*A*S*H*. "We thought, when we’re thinking about a great sendoff, one of the best sendoffs in TV history was M*A*S*H*, so why not take that as some source material?" Quintaine says.
There’s also a satirical spy thriller and Bowman’s Eight, a takeoff on heist film Ocean’s Eight. Quintaine will be playing Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman — a role he’s taken on in the past — and has the honour of performing the final song of the last number. "No pressure!" he says.
The BS Comedy Players’ final shows take place June 6 and 7 at Prairie Theatre Exchange, third floor of Portage Place. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., show is at 7:30 p.m. (PTE’s bar will be open); tickets are $35 at wfp.to/bsplayers or at the door.
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Jill Wilson writes about culture and the culinary arts for the Arts & Life section.