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Local favorite spoofs county fair activities

  • Beth Spaulding (left) and Melissa Cook duke it out verbally in a pie-judging contest skit as part of the First Congregational Church in Hopkinton's variety show. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  • Beth Spaulding (left) and Melissa Cook duke it out verbally in a pie-judging contest skit as part Hopkinton’s variety show. Caitlin Andrews / Monitor staff

  • Beth Spaulding (left) and Melissa Cook duke it out verbally in a pie-judging contest skit as part of the First Congregational Church in Hopkinton's variety show. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  • Lisa Beale (left), Lissa Jones and Heather Oberheim take some horses through their paces as part of Hopkinton’s variety show. Caitlin Andrews / Monitor staff

  • A woman is declared the winner in a pie-eating contest skit as part of the First Congregational Church in Hopkinton's variety show. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Wednesday, April 19, 2017

It’s that time of every-other-year again, when locals pack the Hopkinton High School auditorium to watch members of a local church sing, dance and elicit laughs from the audience as part of a charity fundraising effort.

The 34th First Congregational Church of Hopkinton’s biennial variety show is set to take place this weekend, putting faces old and new to the community in a state fair setting in A FAIRly Good Show. While the show isn’t meant to take place during the town’s own agricultural attraction, director Paula Mitchell said the skits and characters will feel familiar to anyone who loves the midway and watching pie-eating contests.

“There’s something for everyone,” she said.

Mitchell said fans can expect to see some of their favorite characters return, such as Ernestine the phone operator (a character Lily Tomlin portrayed on the ’60s and ’70s TV show Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In) and Mr. and Miss Motion, who have a hard time with anything mobile and are faced with the daunting task of taking on a Tilt-A-Whirl this time around. But there will also be dog show enthusiasts, farmers and side-show attractions, such as a snake charmer and dancing twins.

The show is a Hopkinton staple, dating back more than 30 years and features church members of all ages. Some, like Mitchell, have been involved in the show since they were children and this sense of tradition is part of what makes the show so great.

“It shows the strength of the church community – it says we’re a comfortable, happy place,” she said. “It allows people to be part of a group, and and that’s so important.”

Mitchell said people have been anticipating the show since, well, last year, when it wasn’t running. “We always get people asking when the show is going to be during the off-years, and we have to tell them to wait,” she said. “It’s always hardest right after; it’s like people get depressed.”

Preparation for the show kicks into high gear during the last month before opening night with rehearsals during every weekend, said show promoter, Brenda Lewis. But skit-writing and planning begin just after the winter holidays, with costume design and choreography not too far behind. Most songs will be familiar to audience members, but the plot and dances are written entirely by locals.

By opening week, actors were mostly on-beat and in character, can-canning and clip-clopping along in their costumes. But there’s still a little room for laughter before the curtain rises.

In one run-through, Melissa Cook squares off against Beth Spaulding as two ladies bent on winning the local pie-judging contests. Cook is the reigning champ, but Spaulding’s determined to take her down a peg in a rendition of “Anything You Can Do.” The two almost make it through without breaking character – until Cook’s exaggerated angry face cracks.

“I don’t know where we are,” she says through her giggles, as Spaulding laughs.

Anyone who hasn’t gotten a ticket should act fast – Lewis said the Saturday night show usually sells out, and Sunday’s show is fast approaching capacity. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $10 and are available by calling 746-3685.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)