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SURREY — In the music world, an artist has usually “made it” when they release a best-of album – their greatest hits in a career of writing and recording songs.

For Koba Entertainment, that time is now, but it’s a compilation of kid-friendly shows being celebrated by the Winnipeg-based company.

This spring, Koba’s “Great Big Show” is touring Western Canada in a production that stars characters from some of their biggest stage-show hits, including “The Backyardigans,” “Max & Ruby,” “Franklin the Turtle” and “Mike the Knight.”

On Saturday, March 19, the company’s 40th musical hits the stage at Surrey’s beautiful Bell Performing Arts Centre, a frequent stop for many of Koba’s shows over the past 12 years.

Patti Caplette, the company’s Surrey-raised choreographer and artistic director, said she’s very proud of the current production, for a couple of reasons.

“It’s the first time we’ve ever made a compilation, and it includes four of our really hot shows – beloved properties that are so very different,” Caplette told the Now in a phone interview from the Manitoba capital.

“We know they’ve served us well and people have seen the full-length shows, but it was something new to put the four together in 15-minute segments,” she continued. “You kind of get the mini highlights of each of the full-length shows.… So with this, I had the opportunity to select the stellar songs, the perfect ones. We took all the diamonds and put them on stage.”

Caplette (pronounced CAP-let) left Surrey in 1972 to dance with Montreal’s Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and, later, Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet. She eventually settled in the Manitoba city with her husband, Gilles Panquin (who runs KOBA’s parent company, Paquin Entertainment) and entered the world of production for TV, theatre and sports events.

For Caplette, the business of producing shows for kids and families materialized almost by chance.

“The first one that toured was ‘The Big Comfy Couch,’ and my involvement with that was kind of by happenstance,” Caplette recalled. “There was a production being created, or set to be created, and our agency side of the business was booking its tour, and then I suppose the management of the show at the time was having some difficulty getting the show up and running. So I got a call saying, ‘Can you do the show? We’ve got three weeks until we open.’”

At the time, Caplette was immersed in the world of cabaret musicals, “delving into the rock and roll sounds of Elton John, Celine Dion and all kinds of cover, lookalikes, retro things, for casinos. And I thought, ‘Well, yeah, I can reach back into my roots,’ because I grew up at the dance school and we did everything that was under the sun, including every fairytale you could think of. That was the background in the young-people world. It all started from that.”

Caplette told the story about how her only granddaughter, who lives in Ontario and is now nine years old, first introduced her to “The Backyardigans,” who went on to star in two full-length Koba theatricals.

“She was riveted by the shows and I watched a few episodes with her, and I realized how incredible the music was,” Caplette said. “It’s such a great blend of pop songs – rock, reggae, new age, you name it, such a sophisticated range of music. It’s brilliant in how it exposes kids to so many types of music.”

Today, the Backyardigans, along with other characters familiar to those who watch the Treehouse TV channel, are again dancing and singing their way across the country’s western provinces with the 62-minute “Great Big Show.”

Caplette hopes to be at the Bell theatre on March 19.

“I’m sure aiming to get out there for the show, that’s kind of my plan,” said Caplette, whose mother, Betty, operated the influential Betty Cross School of Dance here until the early 1990s.

“The market there (in Surrey) is wonderful,” Caplette added. “I performed there back in my days there, and there’s a lot of history around that area for me. I’m really thrilled when I see people (in the theatre) that maybe I knew from way back when, and now they’re bringing their grandchildren along to one of our shows. It’s fun for me to meet, and re-meet, those people in the audience. That’s why I always want to attend a show in Surrey as well.”

Show time at the Bell is 1 p.m., and ticket prices range from $15 to $30. For details, visit GreatBigShowOnTour.com or call 604-507-6355.

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