Surrey’s Fraser Valley Musical Theater is cruising once again with a summer musical that hit some choppy waters during the pandemic.
The company has attempted to stage Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes” for three years, and it’s finally happening at Surrey Arts Center’s Main Stage this week, for a run starting Thursday, June 30.
The ocean liner-set show features a cast of 30, live orchestra, a 38-foot ship for a set and many of Porter’s most famous songs.
“We’ve been working for three years to try to get ‘Anything Goes’ to go, which has been in lockstep with trying to change our image and name,” said company president Jim Nelson.
“So we’re re-branding and got all that rolling, then of course a little bug showed up and shut everything down,” he said, referring to COVID-19.
Fraser Valley Musical Theater is formerly known as Fraser Valley Gilbert & Sullivan Society, founded in 1983 as a Surrey-based presenter of high-quality amateur theater, including pantomime productions at Christmas.
The re-brand was officially launched late last year.
“We’ve gone through a lot of change internally, to have buy-in from long-term members and then of course COVID came up and we didn’t have to re-brand right away,” Nelson explained.
“So earlier this year COVID was starting to wane and we crossed our fingers and bit the bullet to get this show going here at the start of summer,” he added. “The rules at that time were that we were going to have to be on stage with masks the whole time and socially distanced, at that point, so we just hoped we were going to get there and do the show normally.
“It’s a very significant gamble,” Nelson continued, “in the range of tens of thousands of dollars to pull this off – for theater rental and rights (to perform the script), all that, and we’re an all-volunteer group . It makes life very interesting to try to pull this off during a pandemic.”
To keep busy over the past couple of years, members of the company produced a podcast called “The Fairy-Tale Mysteries Radio Show,” starring heroine Betsy Hardup. During the run, more than 40 actors voiced characters.
Local actor Dann Wilhelm is steering the ship for “Anything Goes,” as the show’s director, and also plays Lord Evelyn Oakleigh.
“Watch for a master-class on how to change from a stuffy old guy to oceanic passion,” Nelson raved. “He is a fantastic talent and we are truly lucky to have him.”
Show rehearsals have been held in Newton at Valley View Funeral Home & Cemetery, where the theater company has rehearsed for many years.
“We’re very grateful for what we have there, and they give us the space for free,” Nelson noted. “We advertise them and we promote them as much as we can.”
This Tony Award-winning “Anything Goes” features many of Porter’s iconic songs, including “You’re the Top,” “It’s De lovely” and of course the title number.
For cast bios and more, check out facebook.com/FVMTS.
The show’s run at Surrey Arts Center goes from June 30 to July 10, on select dates. For more details and tickets, visit fvgss.org or call the arts center box office, 604-501-5566. Ticket prices range from $29 to $34.
Members of Fraser Valley Musical Theater sound optimism at this stage of the pandemic.
“I’d say the vibe reflects society in general right now, because everything’s a bit tougher,” Nelson said. “We’ve lost cast members, we’ve had to replace cast members, and had other issues along the way. We’re rowing twice as hard to get half as far.
“The pandemic has plagued the costumes, it has plagued the orchestra, set construction, and certainly ticket sales,” Nelson added. “Everything has been impacted, but there is a strong sense in the company to just get the job done, to get the show on stage. We’re certainly not going to make any money, we just don’t want to lose too badly. People are looking for things to do, and we hope they’ll come to see this show.”
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