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Dolly Parton Christmas musical promised by Arts Club, but touring shows on hold

This fall at Surrey Arts Centre, audiences should expect to see some shows staged there
Dolly Parton talks about her “Smoky Mountain Christmas Carol” musical in a promo video posted to Youtube in 2018.

As the Arts Club launches a big new show for its largest stage in Vancouver, the theatre company has put the brakes on its popular touring shows to Surrey and other local cities.

The first production in the Arts Club’s 2021-2022 season will be Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain Christmas Carol, a new musical adapted from A Christmas Carol and featuring music and lyrics by Dolly Parton.

The heartwarming musical will make its Canadian debut at the company’s flagship venue, Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, from Nov. 18, 2021, to Jan. 2, 2022.

The rest of the lineup in the company’s “post-pandemic transitional season” will be revealed next month.

One thing is certain: Arts Club touring shows won’t happen this fall or winter.

“There are no plans to do any touring shows this coming season, but we’re hoping by next season to continue with those, in 2022-23,” said third-year artistic director Ashlie Corcoran, raised in the White Rock area.

“We really look forward to doing our touring shows, and they’re vital to our mandate,” she added. “It’s something we’ve really missed for the last year and a half. Our show Kim’s Convenience was on tour to Surrey and other cities at the very start of the pandemic, and it was the first show we had to cancel, actually.”

Since then, the Arts Club staged three shows in the fall and two currently, this summer.

“But they’ve all been one-person shows, pretty much, so this (Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain Christmas Carol) will be the first larger production we’ll be doing, with a cast of 13 and a band of six,” Corcoran said. “We’re very excited about that.”

(Story continues below a 2018 video of Dolly Parton talking about a U.S. run of the show)

Plans are to stage the show with no capacity limits, in line with current provincial health orders and timeline for the restart of such entertainment options.

“If things change, we will change our plans,” Corcoran said.

“We’ve done constantly planning and constant adjustments over the past 18 months or so,” she added. “We as theatre people are good at coming up with plans and budgets and things like that, but what we’re not good at is canceling anything – because the show must go on, right. So this has been a very challenging year for things like that. This season is really a rebuild year for us.”

She said 80 to 90 per cent of the company’s revenue comes from show ticket sales.

To help offset such losses during the pandemic, the Arts Club launched a summer fundraising campaign that was backed by Michael Bublé, among others.

The Burnaby-raised singer, who once performed at Surrey Arts Centre and other local stages with Arts Club Theatre Company, appealed for donations in a video.

This fall at Surrey Arts Centre, audiences should expect to see some shows staged in the theatre there, along with online streaming options, according to Kent Gallie, Surrey’s performing arts manager.

“We are now looking at possibilities for October, November, December, and are exploring a number of programming options that we will pursue, both our own Surrey Civic Theatres programming and also expect some community-presented events during that timeframe,” Gallie said on Monday (July 19).

“We have nothing confirmed yet, so I can’t give you anything just yet,” he added.

“Of course, we will be in complete compliance with any health regulations in place at that time.”

A complete Surrey Spectacular series for 2021-22 is still a possibility, he said, but not likely.

“That’s going to be something we talk about over the next month or so,” Gallie said. “That’s a series we would have announced back in June, so we’re a bit late on that, in terms of announcing a full season for the fall and winter months, and into next spring.

“Right now we’re really focused on the Summer POP series, quite an ambitious undertaking this summer,” Gallie added. “We started conceptualizing this last winter, at a time when we wanted to present something this year, and when outdoors looked to be a better option for shows than indoors.”

• RELATED STORY: Surrey ‘POP!’ series promises ‘Performances Outdoors in Parks’ this summer.

Fifteen in-person events are featured in a “Summer POP!” series planned by Surrey Civic Theatres in local parks, until Sept. 12, with outdoor concerts, theatre productions, kid-friendly gatherings and more.

“It’s gone really well so far, with several sold-out events,” Gallie noted.

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Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news stories for the Surrey Now-Leader, where I've worked for more than half of my 30-plus years in the newspaper business.
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