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Downtown Chicks take a cheeky look at Great Falls’ Red Light District on Saturday

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Red Light Review 1In Great Falls between the 1910s and 1930s, a person working a full-time job could expect to get paid $300 per year.

While that might seem surprisingly low compared to today’s wages, what’s even more of a surprise is that at that same time, the brothels in the Electric City were paying the local government $300 a month. Money which was used to help construct a plethora of buildings and projects, many which are still standing today.

The Downtown Great Falls Chicks this weekend talk about the role prostitution played in the history of Great Falls, and the dangers the ladies faced as they portray the madams and the ladies of the night in a special dinner-theater production at the Celtic Cowboy’s new Darkhorse Hall.

The “Red Light Review” is Saturday, with social hour at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner and curtain at 6:30 p.m.

The show includes the Downtown Chicks entertaining the audience with storytelling, skits, history and song with the red spotlight on the brothel babes of the Electric City, which spanned 100 years.

The research for the production was done by Downtown Chicks Ellen Sievert and Alisa Herodes. Dr. Patrick Galvas, who portrays Dr. Aloysius Dolan, also did extensive research into the role Dolan played in helping keep rampant STDs from spreading in the heyday of the Red Light District.

The Downtown Great Falls Chicks pose with Montana Gov. Steve Bullock.
The Downtown Great Falls Chicks pose with Montana Gov. Steve Bullock.

The idea for the Red Light Review sprung from the popularity of the trolley tours which the Downtown Chicks have been conducting the last few years. After several suggestions that they should open it up to a bigger venue that also was handicap accessible, the Chicks found that the Darkhorse Hall seemed to be the perfect fit.

Tracy Houck, executive director of Paris Gibson Square and spokeswoman for the Chicks, said they found that in addition to being accessible to everyone, there was several more positives to holding the event at the Celtic Cowboy, as well.

“This is the best of both worlds because it’s handicapped accessible and there is a full caterer there so they’ll take care of the linens, as well,” she said. “So on the same token, we’ll be able to just focus on the show, have fun and we’re supporting a downtown business which has got it’s own stories to tell.”

Houck serves as the host during the evening, as well, where she will introduce each act.

Houck added that while the trolley performances were mostly monologues, for Saturday’s show they’ll be taking people’s feedback they received from the trolley tours and incorporating several of the suggestions into it, as well.

“People gave us some good critiques in the past, they said our presentations were factual and interesting, but said it also got kind of dry,” she said. “So, we put in a bunch of comedy skits and jokes. There’s some silly ones too, like this one that got cut from the program but is still my favorite. What do you call kids at a brothel? … Brothel Sprouts.”

The Chicks have made the evening fun in other ways as well, including giving people who purchase tickets a “code word” on their ticket that they have to tell the door man before entering the hall, having “cigarette girls” dressed up in costumes of the period, and a photo booth available for people to capture the moment themselves.

Houck stressed that the point of the evening is to have fun while diving into one of the more colorful aspects of Great Falls’ history.

“It’s risque, but we’re just amateurs,” she said. “And, nobody is taking off their clothes in the show. We joke it’s all based on wordplay and a lot of fun with that.”

Houck said at one point they had discussed opening up the show to places beyond Great Falls such as the red light districts in Butte and Helena, but decided against that because they wanted to showcase the Electric City exclusively.

“We will not expand out of Great Falls,” she said. “We talked about whether or not we should talk about Helena, Butte and Virginia City, but we realized, no, this is about our downtown and celebrating our past here.”

All of the money raised from the event goes to help promote Downtown Great Falls as well, she said.

“If we sell at least 100 tickets, we’ll profit over $3,000 and all that money goes to advertise our trolley and do things like that, which in turn will enhance downtown businesses,” she said.

Advanced tickets to Saturday’s show are $65 each, and tables of eight are available for $520. Only 150 tickets will be sold. To purchase a ticket call the Paris Gibson Square at 727-8255. For more information, check out the event page on Facebook.

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