Lois Warwick (left) plays the lead role in the FVGSS: A Musical Theatre Company production of Pinocchio the panto – co-written and co-directed by her mom Barbie.

Wooden puppet just wants to entertain

Renamed Fraser Valley Gilbert and Sullivan chipping away at Pinocchio panto.

Where else can you cheer for a wooden puppet on a quest to become a real boy and boo the villains without your parents telling you to keep quiet?

What if they actually cheer along with you?

FVGSS: A Musical Theatre Society launches its 35th season at the Surrey Arts Centre with Pinocchio, the 2016 installment of its annual Christmas pantomime.

This year’s panto brings back the audience-interactive hijinks, multi-era song-and-dance numbers and a few dashes of puppetry.

Previously produced by FVGSS over 20 years ago, this revival is from a homegrown script written by co-directors Mike Balser and Barbie Warwick.

Last time, Balser played the role of Geppetto. This time, he’s the evil Fungus Fox.

“This is a chance where I actually get to be creepy and mean and villainous,” said Balser on his first time playing a villain. “Villains are way more interesting than heroes! I’m enjoying it already… we’ve done a bunch (of musical] numbers) including a couple that feature Fungus Fox; namely one where I get to hypnotize children and lead them astray out of the village.”

Lois Warwick plays Pinocchio.

Along with established musical director Tim Tucker, resident choreographer Carol Seitz, and debuting production manager Clive “Hitman” Ramroop (who also has a cameo as Stromboli), Warwick and Balser have assembled a solid cast of “perpetually perky panto people” players, including Lois Warwick in the title role, Jake Hildebrand as Geppetto and Melissa Funnell as Jiminy Christmas.

Other cast members include Miriah Reitmeier as Bella Grazia, Roger Kettyls as Mamma Mia, Joni Hayden-Summerton as Fox’s sidekick Kit Kat, Tori Dolmans as the Blues Fairy, Michelle Gaetz as Lampwick, Emma-Rose Harvey as Filament, Tyler Supinsky as Alfonso, Saxony Eccleston as Tammy, Tanya Mills as Lucia, and Paige Thomsen and Samantha Gorin as Mary & Annette.

Pinocchio hits the Surrey Arts Centre  (13750 88 Ave) from Nov. 24 to Dec. 4, Wednesday to Friday at 7:30 p.m., with Saturday and Sunday matinées at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets are available in person at the Surrey Arts Centre, by phone at 604-501-5566, or online at tickets.surrey.ca

Prices are $27.95 (adult) and $22.95 (senior or student), plus a special rate of $11.95 for all ages on Wednesday and Thursday showings.

For more information, visit the FVGSS website at http://fvgssociety.wixsite.com/fvgss or like them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FVGSS

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