Kansas City is fortunate to have as many venerable performance spaces as it does. The oldest of these is the Folly Theater at 300 West 12th Street opening 114 years ago. The Folly has entertained Kansas City audiences since the turn of the 20th Century. Its stage has packed in a wide variety of entertainment filled with appearances by Marx Bros., Humphrey Bogart, and Shirley Booth among others.
With the coming of “The Great War” also in 1914 came a change in programming at the Folly. Burlesque hit town and the great ones all trod the boards. And by Burlesque, we mean strip-tease with all the big names. The best known of these were Tempest Storm, Ann Corio, and the indomitable Gypsy Rose Lee.
Burlesque finally ended in 1969 and the great lady began showing Adult XXX films. This evidently offended some upstanding Kansas City residents, one of whom tried to blow up the building by placing dynamite in a drain pipe in 1974.
It looked like the end for the Folly, but a group of business leaders remained fond of the grand lady. A fund raiser was held and enough money was eventually collected to restore the building and renovate the performance stages by 1981. In her centennial year, 2000, another renovation was done further improving the experience for an audience that can total 1078 souls.
The Performing Arts Foundation of Kansas City is a non-profit corporation whose mission is "to preserve Kansas City's oldest historic theater as a premier performance venue by presenting, producing, and hosting a wide range of quality events for the community". The Folly produces a Jazz Series, a Kids Series, and "Cyprus Avenue Live!" performances by artists ranging from blues to rock and country. It hosts the Harriman-Jewell Series of classical performers, the Friends of Chamber Music series, and the Heartland Men's Chorus.
Productions for the month of September are:
Saturday September 5: 8:00 p.m. The Kansas City Classic Comedy Show
Enjoy five of the most hilarious touring headliners in America, starring Faizon Love, star of the movie Friday, Elf, and the hit T.V. series “Real Husbands of Hollywood.” Also on stage making you laugh, will be Comedian Shang Forbes, whose TV appearances on HBO, The Jamie Foxx show, Jimmy Kimmel, and Late Night with Craig Ferguson, have made him one of the hottest comics in America. Kenny Howell, one of the best urban comedians of all time. Rounding off the talent will be two of Kansas City’s best comedic talents in the last ten years. B-Rich and Mike Smith, both from B.E.T’s Comic View will give this show a K.C. flare that will make this one of the best comedy shows to ever hit the metro area.
Sunday, September 6, 8:00 p.m. American Fusion Project: Into the Sun
An evening of live music, dance and drama is presented with artists from The Julliard School in New York. The innovative concert is centered around the inspired writing of American Poet, Frank O’Hara. Experience the creative vision of the American Fusion Project.
Thursday, September 18 8:00 p.m. Ethan Bortnick: Power of Music Tour
Thirteen year old Ethan Bortnick is on his way to stardom. The prodigy pianist, singer, composer, and captivating entertainer recently graced Esquire magazine’s cover, was featured in Gap’s celebrity ad campaign, and broke the Guinness world record for youngest musician to headline a solo concert.
Ethan’s THE POWER OF MUSIC concerts are filled with surprises and talent that dazzles audiences. People leave Ethan’s shows feeling elated, saying it was the best show they have ever been to, hands down.
Saturday, September 20 8:00 p.m. Sam Baker Band with Mary Gauthier
Sam Baker is welcomed back to the Folly in support of his latest album Say Grace, described by NPR as “beautiful and broken, like cracked crockery.” The Wall Street Journal called Sam “The Bard of the Workaday World” and, in a 4-star review, American Songwriter called him “the finest of the modern-day Texas troubadours.”
Mary is touring behind her new album Trouble & Love, a bold effort to de-romanticize romantic love, and revealing the growing wisdom that comes with age.
Tuesday, September 23 7:00 p.m. The Nick and Knight Tour
Backstreet Boy Nick Carter and New Kid on the Block Jordan Knight have joined forces for a new duo the pair are calling Nick & Knight. The two are releasing an eponymous album on Sept. 2 and going on tour 13 days later.
Carter and Knight first revealed their collaboration on Wednesday's Good Morning America, where Nick & Knight will also take the stage on Sept. 2. "We're almost pretty much done with the album," Carter said on GMA. "It's a bunch of our pop, rock, R&B and urban. It's all mixed together to create Nick & Knight."
Carter said both the Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block support their side project, explaining that they had been recording the album during breaks from their respective groups.
Tickets and membership information for all performances are available at the Folly Theater.