‘Anything Goes’ shows begin for Surrey’s renowned Fraser Valley Musical Theater – Surrey Now-Leader

The Fraser Valley Musical Theater in Surrey is sailing again with a summertime musical that has hit choppy waters during the pandemic.

The company has been trying to stage Cole Porter’s ‘Anything Goes’ for three years, and it’s finally hitting the Surrey Arts Center Main Stage this week, for broadcast from Thursday June 30.

The liner show features a 30-person cast, a live orchestra, a 38-foot ship for a set, and many of Porter’s most famous songs.

“We worked for three years trying to get ‘Anything Goes’ in place, which went hand-in-hand with trying to change our image and name,” company president Jim Nelson said.

“So we rebranded and kicked it all off and then of course a little bug popped up and shut it all down,” he said, referring to COVID-19.

The Fraser Valley Musical Theater is formerly known as the Fraser Valley Gilbert & Sullivan Society, founded in 1983 as a Surrey-based high quality amateur theater presenter, including pantomime productions at Christmas.

The new brand was officially launched at the end of last year.

“We went through a lot of changes internally, to have long-term membership, and then of course COVID came along and we didn’t have to rebrand right away,” Nelson explained.

“So earlier this year COVID was starting to decline and we crossed our fingers and bit the bullet to get this show here in early summer,” he added. “The rules at the time were that we had to be on stage with masks on all the time and socially distanced, at that time, so we just hoped that we would get there and do the show normally.

“It’s a very big gamble,” Nelson continued, “on the order of tens of thousands of dollars to pull this off – for the theater rental and the rights (to perform the script), all of that, and we’re an all-volunteer group. It makes life very interesting to try and pull this off during a pandemic.

To keep busy over the past two years, members of the society have produced a podcast called “The Fairy-Tale Mysteries Radio Show”, featuring heroine Betsy Hardup. During the run, over 40 actors voiced characters.

Local actor Dann Wilhelm steers the ship for “Anything Goes”, as the show’s director, and also plays Lord Evelyn Oakleigh.

“Watch a masterclass on how to go from a stuffy old man to an ocean passion,” Nelson said. “He’s a fantastic talent and we’re really lucky to have him.”

Rehearsals for the show were held in Newton at the Valley View Funeral Home & Cemetery, where the theater company rehearsed for many years.

“We are very grateful for what we have there, and they give us the space for free,” Nelson noted. “We announce 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 Surrey Arts Center show runs 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 the Fraser Valley Musical Theater seem optimistic at this stage of the pandemic.

“I would say the vibe reflects society in general right now, because everything is a little more difficult,” Nelson said. “We lost cast members, had to replace cast members, and had other issues along the way. We row twice as hard to reach half the distance.

“The pandemic has plagued costumes, it has plagued the orchestra, set construction and certainly ticket sales,” Nelson added. “Everything has been impacted, but there’s a strong sense in the business of just getting the job done, putting on the show on stage. We’re definitely not going to make any money, we just don’t want to lose too much. People are looking for things to do and we hope they come to see this show.

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