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Lumberjacks in leotards 

The Montana Logging and Ballet Company returns to Spokane with its distinct brand of comedy

by Lisa Leinberger & & stuff & & & &

It's a group with one of the craziest names in the business, but the members of the Montana Logging and Ballet Company promise that they have been one of the most innovative and socially conscious acts for the last 25 years.

"We use comedy to build a theme of hope," says Bob FitzGerald, the troupe's manager, as well as a performer. "It's a family show, so it doesn't deteriorate to the lowest common denominator."

Although they are neither loggers, nor ballerinas, the group fills its shows with comedy, skits, physical humor and a cappella songs, as well as plenty of social satire at the national, regional and citywide levels. FitzGerald and the other three members, Rusty Harper, and brothers Steve Garnaas-Holmes and Tim Holmes, usually don't know what material their show will contain for them until they read the morning papers. This way, the troupe has the hope that they will promise something new for each individual audience.

"We sign for the politically impaired."

When asked what's new for this Friday's show at The Met, FitzGerald deadpans: "I've got more gray hair. We've got a couple of new wrinkles."

Seriously, though, FitzGerald is hoping to touch base with the presidential election and the Olympics, and will perform some new material from their National Public Radio performances. The company is featured in the Weekend Edition with Liane Hansen on the first Sunday of every month, and from Oct. 16-20 will be heard on Morning Edition as a fundraiser.

They are also planning on performing a song that has gained some notoriety with educators from high schools and colleges across the country -- many have called to request tapes and backup notes.

"It's not all comedy, but it's pretty funny and goes so fast you have to really be listening."

The piece is five to six minutes long and contains more than 200 historical references from the last millennium and eight different musical styles.

"We craft our show like a novel, with a beginning, a middle and an end," says FitzGerald.

The group, which at one time logged more than 100,000 miles a year but now limits itself to 20 shows a year, only performing at fundraisers for worthy causes, such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his human rights organization. This Friday's performance -- their 18th this year -- will benefit the Davenport Arts District. They also encourage audiences to bring a bag of food to the local food bank.

"We strongly support that," says FitzGerald. "Even with the economy rising, numerous families are still going hungry."

After hopping around Montana recently and to their show here in the Inland Northwest this weekend, they will head up to Anchorage, Ala., next and will perform in Washington, D.C., in November.

FitzGerald says the group's longevity is attributed to their closeness. "The four of us are perfectly matched plow horses," he says. "We're together because we love each other's theology. We sense that we might be doing some good.

"We are the voice of reason," he adds. "We offer idiotic solutions for real problems."

The Montana Ballet and Logging Company performs

at The Met to benefit the Davenport Arts District on

Friday, Sept. 15, at 8 pm. Tickets: $18. Call: 325-SEAT.

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