By Jim Sullivan
---- — Sixteen enthusiastic candidates running for local office will grace the stage at the Firehouse Center on Friday night. But these candidates, including Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday and one of her challengers, Greg Earls, will not be delivering a speech, but will instead show the world their other talents during the third annual Portbury Follies.
“There’s a lot going on in a couple of hours,” said Follies executive producer Susanne Cameron. “It’s a busy election; therefore, we have a very busy show.”
The Follies, a variety show to benefit the Roof Over Head Collaborative, Inc., will feature two hours of music, dance, spoken word and even some magic, all performed by the people who want your vote in the mayoral and City Council races this November. Roof Over Head is a nonprofit organization that provides housing to local families in transition in Newburyport, Amesbury and Salisbury.
“We’re trying to keep it apolitical,” Cameron said. “It’s really just a chance for people to come out and have fun, and the fact that they are here means that they are running. We got this idea from a group in Hyde Park in Boston. They did a fundraiser for theater there and they invited their candidates to perform, including (Boston) Mayor Menino and other candidates in the Boston area. And it was a huge success.”
So, Cameron figured, why not do it in Newburyport?
“The first year we ran it, it was also a (local) election year,” Cameron said. “The candidates are not allowed to stump. They are not allowed to bring campaign signs. They are not allowed to do anything political. They are just allowed to get out there and have fun.”
But still, it worked. Holaday performed a spoken word performance and City Councilor Ed Cameron sang the Beatles tune, “Revolution.” Others who performed were former City Councilor Kathleen O’Connor Ives, who sang a tune, and City Councilor Ari Herzog, who also gave a spoken word performance.
With the national election taking center stage, last year’s Follies featured local luminaries such as Ann Ormond of the Newburyport Chamber of Commerce, president of the Provident Bank Charlie Cullen, the Rev. Harold Babcock of the First Religious Society of Newburyport and local singer Maggie Budzyna. Inn Street Barber Shop owner Esther Sayer was the co-emcee last year and will be returning to the role this year.
“That was really an amazing show,” Cameron said. “Because people really practiced and had a really good time with it. We had a fabulous, fabulous show. And now, in our third year, we were almost to the point where we had to turn candidates away.”
Although the specifics of their acts this year are confidential, Holaday will be taking the stage as will mayoral challenger Earls. City Council candidates Herzog, Ed Cameron, Sheila Mullins, Bruce Menin, Barry Connell, Laurel Allgrove, Meghan Kinsey, Bruce Vogel, Jared Eigerman, Charlie Tontar, Bob Cronin, Chris Welch, Sean Reardon and Leslie Eckholdt will also be entertaining the crowd.
“We have a lot of singing,” said Cameron. “We have quite a bit of comedy. We have some spoken word stories and a magic trick. Regardless of whether the performance is really good or really bad, I think the audience really appreciates the fact that they are there. It’s a heartwarming feeling that people sort of get from these folks that they are having fun and they are not professional entertainers. They are really putting themselves out there, especially in this world of social media.”
A house band will accompany the performers and the Lighthouse Trio and Friends will perform as well.