Keeping Gilbert & Sullivan Alive

Incompetence. Snobbery. Witless bureaucracy. Some things never go out of style.

While the obvious hilarity of fairies rubbing elbows with ineffective politicians doesn’t necessarily resonate with contemporary audiences the way it did in Victorian times, Gilbert & Sullivan (G&S) shows carry themes that still resonate today. G&S comedic operas have great fun with the idea of people who rise to power who are untrained and incompetent, and control everyone else. That’s a joke that never dies.

President Barbie Warwick of FVGSS – A Musical Theatre Company (Formerly the Fraser Valley Gilbert and Sullivan Society) believes in preserving the cultural history G&S brought to the world of theatre, despite the challenges: “One of the greatest struggles in mounting a Gilbert and Sullivan show in 2018 is the fact that the popularity has waned over the past few generations.” Warwick explains, “People who recognize the name G&S are either over 70 years old or ‘music geeks’. The majority of the population isn’t familiar with them.  This is a shame because Gilbert and Sullivan were so ahead of their time and their shows are very relevant to today’s society. They push against cultural mores and they use their wit to take the establishment and politicians to task.”

FVGSS is a Surrey-based non-profit organization, committed to producing amateur shows to a professional standard, and keeping the Gilbert & Sullivan shows alive and relevant to today’s audiences. They produce Pantomimes each Holiday Season, and bring the topsy turvy world of G&S to the stage in the spring. Since 1982 many members of FVGSS return year-after-year to bring the works of G&S to life. Lyn Verra-Lay was a fairy in the society’s 1996 mount of Iolanthe, and will return behind the scenes as co-producer for the 2018 production.

Verra-Lay started as a musician with FVGSS in 1988, but moved to the stage by the end of that year. “The family atmosphere led to me to recruit my husband and children; they’ve been involved in many of the productions on and off-stage. I’m thrilled to still be involved 29 years later.” Verra-Lay’s daughter Elisabeth co-choreographed her first FVGSS pantomime in 2017, with Verra-Lay as a chorus member.

This season, FVGSS is producing Iolanthe, the fantasy tale that, bizarrely, brings together fairies and the House of Lords. Directed by Jacqollyne Keath, with music direction by John Arsenault and choreography by Tamara Jaune, love, treachery and death lie at the heart of the tale of Iolanthe. It tells the story of a fairy who fell in love with a mortal. Their son has fallen in love with a ward of the Lord Chancellor. Unfortunately, the path of true love rarely runs smoothly and fairy intervention in the House of Lords causes chaos, as it would.


FVGSS’s Iolanthe ran May 16 to 20 2018 at the Anvil Centre (777 Columbia Street) in New Westminster.

and the CTC Lifetime Achievement Award goes to….

The 2017 recipient of the CTC Lifetime Achievement Award is our very own Carol Seitz!

One of the best things that has happened to the FVGSS is a vibrant, talented woman by the name of Carol Seitz.  Carol has brought a level of excellence to our shows and has been nominated and received numerous awards for her choreography over the years.

She has influenced not only our society but many other community theatre groups, her Alma Mater Earl Marriot Secondary, her own dance company, Classic Steps, and hundreds of dancers, from toddlers to seniors.

We are so pleased that the Community Theatre Coalition honoured her this year with this award. The award was presented to her by Dann Wilhelm, James Walker and Keri Minty.  Past President, Mike Balser, was unable to attend so Dann read a poem that Mike wrote for Carol.  Here it is, for your enjoyment:


The Chorus and The Choreographer

(or Them and Her)

Giggles from the chorus, the choreographer grows dark

This distracting silliness is sure to make her bark .

But with amazing self control from both them and her

Calm is once again restored; the growl turns to a purr.

That last attempt was awful. Still, ‘twas just their third.

With 27 further tries, they’ll fly through it like birds.

She’s spent a month creating this, using all her expertise

To make a bunch of stumblebums look like the touring cast of ‘Grease’.

Amateur theatrics go best with grains of salt

When twinkletoes’ with two left feet turn a polka to a waltz.

She struggles to coordinate the movement with the scene.

The stress has made it difficult to break from nicotine.

For 3 long months she drives them, till most can get it right.

Yet she yearns for one more week before the opening night.

At last the dances have been learned, the words are off the page.

Then the whole thing goes to pieces when they move on to the stage.

But now the show has opened, glowing faces all about,

Some exuding confidence, many racked with doubt.

She walks into the green room, they surround her, pleading, piteous.

She gives her highest accolade, “You know, it wasn’t hideous.”

Cheers erupt throughout the room, it makes a joyful noise.

She flits about ecstatically, hugging all the girls and boys.

Her skill and her encouragement get them through the run.

They forget the sweat and tedium, remember just the fun.

It’s good that humans have a way to block remembered pain,

So next year she and all of them can do it once again.

Remembering Bob Sibson

bob-sibson.jpgIt is with great sadness that we have to report the passing of Robert (Bob) Eric Sibson on November 20, 2016. Bob was 83.

He passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family.

Bob was no stranger to the world of entertainment, and he brought smiles to many faces over the course of his lifetime. He and his widow, Judy (Burton-McGill) were long-time supporters of the Fraser Valley Gilbert and Sullivan Society.

A celebration of Bob’s life was held December 9, 2016 at Highlands United Church, Edgemont Village in North Vancouver.

In lieu of flowers, donations to PAL (Performing Arts Lodge) Vancouver in Bob’s memory would be appreciated. Click here to donate.

Here is a link to his obituary in the Vancouver Sun.