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Surrey stage for ‘Made In Italy,’ a hit musical-comedy that shouldn’t be missed

Farren Timoteo’s award-winning play focuses on his family of Italian immigrants, starting Feb. 28 at Surrey Arts Centre

Farren Timoteo wasn’t always sure he had a hit with “Made In Italy,” but he sure knows now.

The Edmonton native has filled theatres across Canada since the 2016 debut of his one-man musical-comedy, which offers laughs about family, food, music and life of Italian immigrants in rural Jasper, Alberta.

Now it’s Surrey’s turn to see “Made In Italy,” at the arts centre’s Main Stage for a week-plus run starting Wednesday, Feb. 28, in another Arts Club Theatre Company touring production.

The show shouldn’t be missed, with all eyes on quick-change artist Timoteo, who plays more than two dozen roles in a coming-of-age story that will make people laugh, cry and cherish family.

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Farren Timoteo in his musical-comedy ‘Made in Italy,’ at Surrey Arts Centre’s Main Stage theatre from Feb. 28 to March 9. (Photo: Moonrider Productions/Arts Club Theatre Company)

There’s crusty, set-in-his-ways patriarch Salvatore Mantini (a character based on Timoteo’s grandfather) and his bullied teen son, Francesco, who struggles as a 1970s-era outsider in high school. Inspired by the “Rocky” movie character, the disco sounds of “Saturday Night Fever” and an encounter with an Italian lady of the night, he finds his voice as a club-going singer who attempts to hit the big time on television, as Frank Martin.

In a phone call, the playwright/actor recalled the debut in Kamloops eight years ago with Western Canada Theatre.

“Well, it was kind of a hit right away, but I didn’t see that coming, and I’m not really sure anybody else did either,” Timoteo admitted. “But it was something I had spent a couple of years creating, writing, and I’d never done a solo performance before, a full-length solo performance.

“It was the same that night as it’s been every night for more than 200 performances since,” he revealed. “It was joyful, emotional and involved, and I quickly understood that the relationship I was gonna have with audiences was going to be an intimate one. I walked off stage and, for the first time in my life, thought, ‘My God, that was wonderful, a wonderful experience.’ And it’s never shifted from there.”

I first enjoyed “Made In Italy” in March 2021 on the Granville Island stage in Vancouver, then again Thursday night (Feb. 22) at New Westminster’s Anvil Centre, where understudy Daniel Curalli performed Timoteo’s script.

For the production on Granville Island, Timoteo won the 2022 Jessie Award for Outstanding Performance in a Leading Comedic Role, deservedly so. He’s elastic on stage, with energy to burn in those tight polyester pants of his. He leaps on a giant dinner table, lifts weights, does one-hand push-ups, dances, sings and entertains for two hours, including intermission.

“With the shifts and mechanics of the show, I have a very good sense of how to communicate with the audience,” Timoteo said. “In that way, I do think the production is vastly improved since it debuted. That being said, the actual act of doing it, the physicality, making the shifts, the actual mental, physical workout of performing it, that’s as hard as ever.

“I don’t wanna put it out there too much but I am also a few years older, you know,” he added with a laugh. “It’s challenging but also something I continue to delight in. Enjoying doing the show is something that became a priority for me.”

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Farren Timoteo in his musical-comedy ‘Made in Italy,’ at Surrey Arts Centre’s Main Stage theatre from Feb. 28 to March 9. (Photo: Moonrider Productions/Arts Club Theatre Company)

Cory Sincennes’ wonderful set design has a floor of Italian-flag colours and massive wall of portraits, all of Timoteo’s family members who have his back, so to speak.

“One of the most meaningful parts of this show,” he said, “is that everywhere I turn are all these photos that I had inherited before my grandfather passed away, and he passed away quite shortly before I performed ‘Made In Italy’ for the first time, so unfortunately he was never able to see it.”

His father, however, has seen the show performed many times.

“I was very nervous to reveal the show to him, which I did in its script form long before I went into rehearsal, just in case something about it didn’t feel all right for him,” Timoteo explained.

“He was very gracious in allowing me to take inspiration from so many experiences from his life, many of which are painful, to make this piece out of it. It was important for me to share it with him and, and he loved it. I got on the phone with him one day and I just read the whole thing to him. He’s the biggest fan of the show, tours the country to see it, goes wherever I go, always in the front row. That’s really special, and I’m really lucky to have his support and enthusiasm. It could have gone the other way, you know.”

Posted on artsclub.com, the “Made In Italy” tour of B.C. includes dates in Surrey (Feb. 28 to March 9), Coquitlam, Chilliwack, Mission, Maple Ridge and other cities.

At the 400-seat Surrey Arts Centre, tickets range from $29 to $54 on tickets.surrey.ca, or call 604-501-5566. Check surrey.ca for dates and special performances, including Paint the Play (drop off kids for an art camp while you enjoy the show, March 2 matinee) and Vocal-Eye audio description for patrons who are blind or partially sighted (March 9 matinee).



Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news stories for the Surrey Now-Leader, where I've worked for more than half of my 30-plus years in the newspaper business.
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