MINTY: Acronyms abound as the rebranded FVGSS prepares ‘Pinocchio’ for stage in Surrey

SAGA and URP also busy with special events this month

URP’s production of the rock musical “Rent” stars Darren Adams as Roger and Ali Watson as Mimi.

SURREY — Renew, rebrand and restart are the three R’s for the arts this week. And they are all linked by using acronyms for their name.

Texting talk makes most of us aware of the meanings of OMG and LOL, but now you will be in the know for the words behind the acronyms FVGSS, SAGA and URP. Just a small service I provide.

The Fraser Valley Gilbert & Sullivan Society is rebranding its iconic name to FVGSS: A Musical Theatre Society. They are starting their new season with this rebranded name, and are remounting one of the favorite pantos, “Pinocchio.” Previously produced by FVGSS more than 20 years ago, this revival is from an original script written by co-directors Mike Balser and Barbie Warwick. Last time, Balser played the role of Geppetto; this time, he’s the evil Fungus Fox.

“This is a chance where I actually get to be creepy and mean and villainous,” Balser said about his first time playing a villain. “Villains are way more interesting than heroes! I’m enjoying it.”

As in all panto productions, you cheer for the hero, boo the villain and join in sing-a-longs. This is fun musical theatre for the whole family. The panto, or traditional British pantomime, is not a silent mime performance, but an audience-interactive musical comedy production – a parody on classic stories and fairy tales. This Christmas tradition developed in the U.K., and the characteristic is humour based on current events, slapstick, some gender-reversed casting and audience participation. LOL encouraged.

“Pinocchio” hits the Surrey Arts Centre’s MainStage theatre, at 13750 88th Ave., from Nov. 24 to Dec. 4, with shows Wednesday to Friday at 7:30 p.m., plus Saturday/Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are available for purchase now at the SAC box office, by phone at 604-501-5566 or online at Tickets.surrey.ca. Prices are $27.95 (adult) and $22.95 (senior/student), plus a special rate of $11.95, for all ages, for Wednesday and Thursday showings.

CLICK HERE to see rehearsal photos posted to the FVGSS Facebook page.

And hey kids, where else can you cheer for a wooden puppet on a quest to become a real boy, and boo the villains, without your parents telling you to keep quiet? Instead, they cheer along with you. Get ready to bump up the boo meter; I say let’s get in there and give Balser, the first-time villain, more boos than a ghost gives on Halloween.

Warwick is launching her directorial debut for the society with “Pinocchio.” It is also the first time she has written a panto script, and she is the new president of FVGSS. She steps into these jobs following Balser, renewing the tradition.

But Warwick wears more than one hat, even outside FVGSS, as she is also the SAGA gift shop manager. Another acronym, for Surrey Art Gallery Association, a non-profit society that offers its members the opportunity to participate in and respond to contemporary art, and be part of a community that actively supports Surrey Art Gallery. One of the big jobs of SAGA is running the gallery gift shop, located adjacent to the arts centre’s Studio Theatre.

Every year, the SAGA artists have a weekend show and sale which expands the boundaries of the small gift shop. This time around, SAGA’s Heart to Home Holiday Market matches up with the opening of “Pinocchio,” also at the arts centre. That was no mistake, or lucky coincidence. Warwick wanted lots of traffic and buyers to visit the market, so what better timing could you have for a holiday market and holiday show?

On Saturday, Nov. 26 (from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and Sunday, Nov. 27 (from noon to 4 p.m.), the Studio Theatre at the Surrey Arts Centre will be transformed into a fun and festive market featuring fine art and handmade crafts by renowned local artists. There will also be some live demos so you can see the artists in action. Enjoy a cup of warm cider and the ambiance of live music while you browse and shop. Then go see “Pinocchio.” That should put you in the holiday mood.

Your final acronym for this week is URP. Formerly known as Uncle Randy Productions, this acclaimed, North Vancouver-based theatre company returns after a seven-year absence with a new production of the multiple Tony Award-winning musical, “Rent.” This landmark rock opera, based on Puccini’s opera “La Bohème,” follows the ups and downs of a year in the life of a group of impoverished, artistic friends living in Manhattan’s East Village. This is the 20th anniversary for “Rent” and, coincidentally enough, it was 20 years ago that FVGSS presented “Pinocchio,” the panto, the first time. Renew, restart, rebrand. OMG.

“Rent” runs from Nov. 15 to 20 at Centennial Theatre, 2300 Lonsdale Ave., North Van. Tickets range in price from $28 to $44, including all taxes and fees, at URP.ca or by calling the box office, 604-984-4484. Directed by Richard Berg, the cast features some Surrey talent in Emily Matchette and Kurtis D’Aoust.

TTFN. See you at the theatre.

melminty@telus.net

 

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