The show MUST go on!
When her family asked what she wanted for her 80th birthday, June Caisey said, “A show.”
It’s what they’ve done every year.
As it turned out, the family gathered for afternoon tea in her honour on June 24 — however Ms Caisey will get her wish.
Caisey Family Productions returns with its annual summer show on Sunday. This year it’s called Back Down Memory Lane.
Ms Caisey was a fixture in the once popular Holiday Island Revue that started in 1959.
“They changed a couple of faces, but I’ve always been a part of the show,” she said of the production that disbanded in 1971.
She sang her way through the Central School and the Berkeley Institute and while furthering her education in Ontario, Canada. Her performances then continued in hotels and in church, on cruise ships and at Paget Island.
“Showbusiness has always been me,” she said. “With Back Down Memory Lane, people may think I’m having old folks in my show. No, it’s not that. I remember when the opera house used to have shows and ladies and gentlemen would dress. When we worked at the hotels they would have dinner and a show and we would dress. I just want to see our people come out again and dress.”
The Sunday afternoon show in the Hamilton Princess Hotel & Beach Club Harbourview Ballroom will include a buffet.
While her daughter Phiemma put the show together, Ms Caisey insisted on picking her own song — Skylark.
“A skylark is a bird, and it’s a very mischievous bird,’ she smiled.
“It sings in flight and I’m dedicating this song to all the people who have paved the way from the beginning of my entertaining until today; everyone that has come into my life and has touched me with entertaining.”
Ms Caisey started performing when she was four at St Paul AME Church.
“I sang duets with my older sister. I always loved to sing, whether I had a good voice or otherwise,” she said.
“I never had any training, I just used the gift that God had given me.”
She went away to school although academics were not her forte.
“My grandmother was not very pleased with the flies that were after me,” she recalled.
“She didn’t want the boys hanging around her granddaughter, so I was sent back [to Canada] to do bookkeeping and typing.”
She returned shortly after graduating from Elton College.
“I had already been bitten,” she laughed. “I had already met my first husband, the father of my children, so I just wanted to get back home to him.”
She and Albert Caisey performed together often. The tradition led to the start of Caisey Family Productions in 2001.
“[Phiemma] took the bull by the horns and she threw it out to all of her uncles and aunts and cousins. When it came down to the nitty gritty, she decided she would use her brothers and her children,” said the mother of “four lovely children, 13 lovely grandchildren and four delicious great-grandchildren”.
Proceeds of the shows have always gone to charity. Chewstick is this year’s recipient. Last year’s planned show was cancelled after a fire burnt the charity’s Front Street headquarters to the ground.
“We had a rehearsal the night before. The very next day my daughter said, ‘I don’t think so, Chewstick is burnt down to the ground’,” she said. “Every penny that we make goes to them. I just love to give and my children are the same way. Chewstick is what I am — entertaining. You can speak, you can sing, you can express yourself.
“Bermuda needs Chewstick. We need it for the youth. For people that have art — any sort of art — the Chewstick Foundation is the place.”
Ms Caisey said the people are what keeps her singing.
“Where did the years go?” she laughed. “I cannot say I don’t feel 80, because I don’t know how an 80-year-old is supposed to feel. People always say, ‘Why don’t you act your age?’
“Am I supposed to sit at home in a rocking chair and fade away? I cannot do that.
“If we have life and movement and breath in us, use it.”
Back Down Memory Lane, August 20 at 4pm. Tickets, $80, include a buffet lunch and are available at Kit ‘n’ Caboodle and Caesar’s Pharmacy