Santa gets a makeover in Surrey’s panto

SURREY — If you saw Santa exchanging his stipend of milk and cookies for a kale shake and a handful of almonds, dropping weight until he’s a svelte 110 pounds, it might be cause for alarm. At least that’s what Mrs. Claus thinks in the Fraser Valley Gilbert and Sullivan Society production of Santa Claus: The Panto.

In the tradition of the pantomime, a musical, family-friendly comedy characterized by groan-worthy jokes, cross-dressing actors and very loosely-based on a well-known fairytale, FVGSS is taking the story of Santa and giving it a yuppie, modern twist.

The play, which starts Nov. 26 at the Surrey Arts Centre, stars Luke George Branson as Santa and Croy Jenkins as Mrs. Claus.

“Santa Claus has gone green,” explained Lyn Verra-Lay, one of the show’s producers.

“So, he’s using his iPhone and he’s doing yoga and meditating. The man who’s playing him is about 5’10 and about 110 pounds, so he’s not your traditional Santa. Mrs. Claus is very distraught about this.”

According to the show’s sneak preview, the play deals with Santa’s new low-fat diet, penchant for technology and getting approached by clever coal salesmen who persuade not-so-jolly St. Nick that most kids are more naughty than they are nice.

“There’s a Christy Clark joke in there — it has to do with the naughty and nice list, and we’ll let you guess what Christy Clark is,” Verra-Lay joked.

Political jokes aside, the producer said the plot relies on the magic of Santa and the hilarity of our modern lives.

“Basically throughout, it’s this whole thing about Mrs. Claus trying to get him back to traditional Santa and Santa saying, ‘No, we can still be green and healthy and still have Christmas,’” she said.

“He wants to be hip and with the times, and Mrs. Claus is saying that’s not what people want.”

Coincidentally, as part of FVGSS, Verra-Lay knows something about giving people what they want. The society, which began in Surrey in 1982, put on its first panto in 1986 as a fundraiser for the group’s spring production, but the audience loved it so much that they couldn’t stop there.

“We’ve been doing them ever since (1986) because they were a fundraiser, yes, but they just became a tradition with our audience so we never stopped,” the producer told the Now, noting that its audience has been mainly British ex-pats.

While Santa Claus: The Panto may be all about slapstick arguing between Mr. and Mrs. Claus, Verra-Lay assures “it all culminates in a happy ending."

Santa Claus: The Panto runs until Dec. 7 at the Surrey Arts Centre. The show is on nightly at 7:30 p.m., and at 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 30 and Dec. 6 and 7. Tickets are $27.85 and available online at or at the Surrey Arts Centre box office. FVGSS is accepting donations for the Surrey Christmas Bureau during the productions.


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