All good times must end. This the Schlitt-Libkin family knows, and like “Seinfeld,” they realize it’s best to go out on top. After nine years of performances during Piccolo Spoleto, Good Time Variety Hour will be putting its original format on hold indefinitely. At the Footlight Players Theatre on Saturday, the typically upbeat 60-minute act had a slightly solemn air, although the performance was on par with what we’ve come to expect from the entertainers.
Bill Schlitt, the producing director, welcomed guests before informing them of the bittersweet news. Schlitt then asked audience members — who were handsomely awarded with the family’s trademarked salsa — who had seen the show the most times. Nearly half the audience had seen the show at least once before, attesting to its popularity with the Piccolo Spoleto crowd. Two special guests reported having seen the show five times out of its nine seasons and received Schlitt’s Super Salsa as reward.
In addition to tasty prizes, the final show had several more special additions, namely local celebrities who previously have appeared on the stage with the Schlitts. After opening with “Carolina in the Morning,” Schlitt began welcoming his guest stars.
Joy Vandervort-Cobb filled the room with her enormously powerful voice, singing “To Make You Feel My Love.” Robert Ivey then made his grand appearance. The first guest star to have performed in “Good Time Variety Hour,” Ivey was introduced as having done more for theater in this community than anyone else, and as all could tell from the audience, his love for the art shone through as he performed “Who Will Buy” from Oliver.
Yet, nothing compared to seeing Ivey and Vandervot-Cobb in maids outfits, begging to be part of “Three Little Maids.” Robbie Thomas, star of “La Cage Aux Foilles,” also appeared in a maid’s outfit in one of his repeated attempts to convince Schlitt to move him out of the tenor section at the back of the choir and to center stage for a solo. Thomas finally gets his chance for a duet with Schlitt, an impromptu addition to the show that exemplifies one of the reasons Good Time Variety Hour has garnered so many fans.
The loss of this perennial favorite feels deeper than simply the retirement of a successful show. Good Time is a quaint throwback to a period when incredible voices, dancing, and comedy were enough to fill a stage for an hour and keep guests engaged.
There are no special effects, props, or gimmicks; simply talented performers on center stage doing what they do best for a perfectly timed hour. From the familial nature of the show (Bill Schlitt’s wife Maida Libkin is the musical director and pianist and daughter Johanna Schlitt performed several numbers) to Schlitt’s dress — a suit and bowtie accompanied by matching boutonniere — The Good Time Variety Hour is a reincarnation of the golden age of television, in a live format. The show’s presence will certainly be missed in festivals to come, but we will look forward to seeing the cast’s future theatrical endeavors.