YEAR IN REVIEW: Top entertainers and stories on the Surrey scene in 2016

Memories include a girl's dance with Justin Bieber, a fancy new film studio and Surrey setting for The Tragically Hip's final concert

Jacqueline Stone runs karaoke-event company Almost Famous Entertainment.

SURREY — In no particular order, here are some of the more memorable people and stories on Surrey’s entertainment beat in 2016.

A Surrey girl’s onstage dance with Justin Bieber (pictured)

Surrey teen Rhys Gutierrez had the time of her life on a Friday night in March when she won a dance with pop star Justin Bieber during his concert at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. “When I was up there, everything kind of blanked out and it all felt so surreal,” Rhys, 13, said later. “It was just so amazing.” As part of a video contest, she was among four local kids chosen to hit the stage for a performance of Bieber’s “Children” song. Before the concert, Rhys got to meet the singer – someone she’s adored for several years. “I’m already back in the studio training and working hard with Apprentice, my dance group (at Studio 604 in Burnaby),” she said a few days later. “It’s been really inspiring that way, for sure.”

‘FVDED’ for a second year

The largest ticketed music festival in Surrey returned to Holland Park for two days in July. Beat-heavy artists including Jack Ü, Zedd, Travis Scott and Bryson Tiller were featured at FVDED in the Park, a “block party” planned by Alvaro Prol, a co-founder of Vancouver-based Blueprint entertainment company. Some people who live in the area weren’t impressed by all that booming music, but close to 40,000 ticket-buying fans ate it up for a second summer at the outdoor venue. “We are already looking ahead to next year, for sure,” Prol told the Now in June. “I would love for this thing to become a boutique-size festival, because you can’t grow there anymore – the size of the venue is what it is. So we try to make it the must-go in the city. It’s very accessible, that site, from a transportation standpoint. And not everyone has the money to go to Coachella, Pemberton, those big out-of-town festivals. This is in town.”

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Skydance movie studio (pictured)

The former print hall operated by Pacific Newspaper Group was abuzz in September as Hollywood types, local film-industry folks and a gaggle of politicians gathered to celebrate the arrival of a bigtime film company in Surrey. Skydance Media’s 75,000-square-foot new studio on 88th Avenue is now filming “Altered Carbon,” a sci-fi TV series set to air on Netflix. “We look forward to a very long history here,” promised company CEO David Ellison, whose aviator glasses made sense that day, given the afternoon sun and his history of flying aerobatics since age 13. He and his family called it “skydancing” – hence the name for the company’s latest investment, estimated to inject $100 million a year into the Surrey-area economy, including 400 jobs. “We began looking for a space a little over a year ago, maybe 18 months, and we were very fortunate to find this one,” Ellison added.

Surrey Little Theatre’s ‘The Last Lifeboat’

A play about the doomed “Titanic” cruise-ship builder did anything but sink Surrey Little Theatre in 2016. In fact, the Clayton-area company’s production of Luke Yankee’s “The Last Lifeboat” was a big winner at the Community Theatre Coalition’s awards event, held in September at White Rock’s Coast Capital Playhouse. Fresh from a win at Theatre BC “Mainstage” event, the show won for Best Production, earned Dale Kelly the Best Director award and also earned awards for lead actor (Ben Odberg) and lighting design (Miles Lavkulich). At Surrey Little Theatre last spring, all hands were on deck, so to speak; 15 cast members played multiple roles in the drama, which opened a month-long run on April 14 – exactly 104 years after the “Titanic” was sliced open by an iceberg (the ship sank hours later, on April 15, 1912).

Jacqueline Stone

This local queen of karaoke has built a loyal following with Almost Famous Entertainment, which has become a magnet for amateur singers at several Surrey pubs over the past several years. More than a dozen local establishments hire her company to stage karaoke and trivia nights, and the number always seems to be growing. “I’m working seven nights a week right now,” the well-tattooed Stone said in February at Guildford’s large Taphouse bar. Her company name, first used in 2008, is perfect, Stone told the Now, “because some customers think they’re almost famous, right, with how they perform a song. They are really into it” – some of them seen behind a microphone seven days a week, she added.

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Jazzy B (pictured)

Raised in Surrey and based in Britain, Jazzy B boasts nearly two million Facebook followers and another 584,000 on Twitter – strong evidence that he’s a legit star in the bhangra world. His global fame was finally recognized here in B.C. in September, when a pair of events celebrated Jaswinder Bains’ induction into the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame, first with a “Starwalk” plaque unveiling on Granville Street and later during a party at a Newton banquet hall. The so-called “Crown Prince of Bhangra” still answers to Jas in his native Surrey. “I grew up here, went to school here, so most of my memories are here, where it all started for me,” he told the Now in June. “It actually feels great to come home and see everybody and just be a normal person,” he continued. “It’s funny, because every time someone calls me Jas, I know that person knows me from back in the day, it’s a friend, because nobody calls me Jas now, know what I mean? I can tell right away.”

Music Makers studio

Though he no longer plays bass in bands for entertainment, Bob Douglas sure hosts a lot of entertainers at his Music Makers rehearsal studio, located in a Newton warehouse. Douglas opened the place five years ago, and local bands have slowly made it a go-to place to play and practice their music. Probably 75 per cent of the bands that book time there are regulars, Douglas told the Now in September. “We still have what I call ‘buddy bands,’ which is a bunch of guys who get together once a week just for fun, right, but most of the bands here are working bands that do the casinos, corporate stuff.”

John Mann (pictured)

The evening of Feb. 13 was an emotional one at Surrey Arts Centre, where John Mann played one of his final solo concerts for an adoring crowd. The Spirit of the West bandleader, whose health was rocked first by cancer and then Alzheimer’s, was surrounded by musical friends and fans as he bravely found his way through sing-along songs with the help of lyrics displayed on an iPad. This was a couple months before Spirit of the West played their final three shows ever, from April 14 to 16 at Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom. “We’ve all been through a lot, health-wise, and it just seems like the time to stop is now,” Mann told the Now in a mid-January interview.

The Tragically Hip’s final concert

Speaking of emotional, tears flowed in the backyard of a Port Kells-area home as a couple hundred local fans gathered to watch The Tragically Hip play its final concert from Kingston, Ont. The nationally-televised performance served as a salute to singer Gord Downie, too sick with terminal brain cancer to continue touring. In Surrey, on a beautiful August evening in a tree-lined yard, hardcore Hip fans danced, hugged and hollered in a most Canadian way, surrounded by lawn chairs, coolers and friends, both old and new. Pals Jeremy Deane, Paula Turrie and party host Dawn Reynolds-Pigeon spent weeks clearing the yard, planning the potluck food and building a covered stage for The Hip Show, a local Tragically Hip tribute band that played two sets of music following the televised concert. It was a very special night.

Stephano Barberis

A Cloverdale-area resident, Barberis’ work brings to light a who’s-who of Canadian country music. In September, Barberis again earned Video Director of the Year honours from the Canadian Country Music Association. Incredibly, it was the seventh year in a row Barberis won the CCMA award, and ninth time dating back to 2007. In total, he’s won 32 directorial awards, both national and provincial, in his 19-year career behind the camera, making him the most highly awarded music-video director in Canadian history. “The director’s exalted reputation for star-making and reinvention is evidenced by millions of YouTube views, over 60 official top-20 video hits, 32 directorial and video awards out of 72 nominations, and over 150 music videos trusted to his vision,” noted Cherie Sinclair, his Toronto-based agent. “Stephano has quietly achieved this iconic success by frequent, surprise, sea-change reinvention, an unwavering obsession with quality, and a cult-like dedicated following in industry and fan circles who religiously support the director at every stage of his career.”

Bergmann Piano Duo (pictured)

Husband-wife piano duo Elizabeth and Marcel Bergmann are among the busiest Surrey-area musicians as they aim to build the local audience for classical music. The Bergmann Piano Duo, as they’re known professionally, have taken over the Thursday-morning “Classical Coffee Concerts” at Surrey Arts Centre’s Studio Theatre, and they are doing similar shows in Nanaimo, Chilliwack, Maple Ridge and other B.C. burgs this winter. In Surrey, the duo will also do a Jan. 28 concert at Centre Stage featuring the music of Pink Floyd, and a “Broadway Love Stories” show on March 12 at Surrey Arts Centre’s Main Stage, in addition to their new duties as artistic directors of the long-running White Rock Concerts series. The Bergmanns, who met while studying music in Hanover, Germany, have been performing as a duo for more than two decades, riffing mostly on classical sounds but also adding jazz, pop, rock and show tunes. They moved here from Calgary early this decade, and found a place for their grand pianos at a house in the Ocean Park area.

Gone Country

Mid-July’s Gone Country concert at Cloverdale’s Bill Reid Millennium Amphitheatre raised an impressive $344,000 to help fight cancer, thanks to the efforts of twins Chris and Jamie Ruscheinski, hosts of the annual benefit concert, and performers including Aaron Pritchett, High Valley, Karen Lee Batten and Bucko Toad. In conversation with the Now, Pritchett was still on a high after his two recent “dream of a lifetime” gigs opening for country icon Garth Brooks in Saskatchewan.


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