SURREY â€” If you saw Santa exchanging his stipend of milk and cookies for a kale shake and a handful of almonds, dropping weight until heâ€™s a svelte 110 pounds, it might be cause for alarm. At least thatâ€™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.
â€œSanta Claus has gone green,â€ explained Lyn Verra-Lay, one of the showâ€™s producers.
â€œSo, heâ€™s using his iPhone and heâ€™s doing yoga and meditating. The man whoâ€™s playing him is about 5â€™10 and about 110 pounds, so heâ€™s not your traditional Santa. Mrs. Claus is very distraught about this.â€
According to the showâ€™s sneak preview, the play deals with Santaâ€™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.
â€œThereâ€™s a Christy Clark joke in there â€” it has to do with the naughty and nice list, and weâ€™ll let you guess what Christy Clark is,â€ Verra-Lay joked.
Political jokes aside, the producer said the plot relies on the magic of Santa and the hilarity of our modern lives.
â€œBasically throughout, itâ€™s this whole thing about Mrs. Claus trying to get him back to traditional Santa and Santa saying, â€˜No, we can still be green and healthy and still have Christmas,â€™â€ she said.
â€œHe wants to be hip and with the times, and Mrs. Claus is saying thatâ€™s not what people want.â€
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 groupâ€™s spring production, but the audience loved it so much that they couldnâ€™t stop there.
â€œWeâ€™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,â€ 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 â€œit 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 Tickets.surrey.ca or at the Surrey Arts Centre box office. FVGSS is accepting donations for the Surrey Christmas Bureau during the productions.