If you walk on the Common Road on a regular basis, sooner or later you’re going to run into Freddie Mahlmann. She worked for many years as a school counselor at Harwood Union High School and seems to know everyone in town. She’s also artsy and extremely active. You probably already know she has a terrific singing voice and has been in various shows and choirs.
I was out walking, as we often do, and two days in a row we ran into each other. As this column is still at a point that I have to recruit subjects (some might say victims) to write their stories, I begged for her contact information, telling her to just pick one memory that stands out and we could build an article from there.
“Oh, that’s easy,” she said, “Wendy Cohen in Cabin Fever Follies.”
As Freddie gathered her thoughts about Wendy and worked on writing them down, I called my friend Sharon Kellermann who has been part of Valley Players as long as I have been around.
She said, “This spring was our 33rd Cabin Fever Follies (CFF) show. It should have been our 34th but we had to cancel last year's show. We were supposed to have it Friday March 13, and Saturday March 14, 2020. We were actually all set up on Friday when all of a sudden everyone was canceling as the world went into lock down because of the pandemic.” Talk about traumatic times.
CFF started in 1987. Look at Sharon to the right in that very first show playing in a kazoo band. “We played three versions of “Pop Goes the Weasel.” Classical, jazz and something else.
“The show was the idea of Bob Law, a very active Valley Players member. It had been a long winter, and he suggested that we put on a variety show that anyone could be in, no auditions, just for the locals who had been cooped up all winter, and we should call it Cabin Fever Follies.
“Doug (Bergstein. Fayston School teacher and Valley Player member) has been sorting out our old files and has found a lot of photos. I'll ask him about Wendy and Freddie.”
Shortly after that Freddie came through and emailed, “Wendy Cohen, a trained classical singer, entered the stage dressed in her "diva" outfit complete with Viking headgear and Madonna-style breast helmets. She was accompanied by her dog Hazel attired with the same ornaments. Wendy started to sing, very professionally, a beautiful aria. When she hit a certain note, Hazel the dog would then pitch in with a matching set of howls. The Cabin Fever audience exploded in laughter, wiping tears from their eyes. All the while, Wendy and Hazel maintained a professional demeanor and never cracked a smile. The performance lasted several minutes, and every time Wendy and Hazel would team up, the audience laughed harder than before. Fletcher Joslin told me he had never laughed so hard in his life.
“I think this performance was in the late 1980s sometime -- hope this is useful.”
If you look at the draft for a poster that would have been made for the proposed 34th Cabin Fever Follies, you can see Wendy is still depicted in the form of a cartoon character in the bottom left-hand corner. She was hilarious. I saw her do the act twice. I had forgotten all about it until Freddie brought it up. Thanks, friends, for taking me back.