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Around Town: Arts groups launch a season of culture

You had us at “Willkommen,” Kyle Kushnir.

You had us at “Willkommen,” Kyle Kushnir. The Victoria actor best known for his praiseworthy performance as the lonely, musical theatre-loving Man in Chair in Langham Court Theatre’s stellar production of The Drowsy Chaperone, almost stole the show again at Artsmash.

He was one of dozens of representatives from more than 30 local arts groups given one minute apiece to pitch upcoming highlights during the amusingly frantic, anything-can-happen Sept. 13 launch party for Victoria’s new cultural season at Pacific Opera Victoria’s OperaShop on Discovery Street.

POV co-sponsored the event with ProArt Alliance of Greater Victoria and Victoria Arts Marketing.

Wearing sneakers and a leather longcoat over a white shirt, bow-tie and shorts, Kushnir coaxed cheers and wild applause after colourfully mimicking Joel Grey’s emcee from Cabaret, one of Langham Court’s six upcoming productions in its “very sexy 85th season.”

He credits production chair Odile Nelson with coming up with the idea for the amusing variation on the Cabaret classic, customized to describe the season’s shows, no matter how much of a stretch, as conforming to the “sex sells” philosophy.

“We begin with Harvey. It’s so sexy. They are literally doing it like rabbits,” he notes in his exagerrated German accent, eventually getting to the British farce Boeing, Boeing, which he musically describes as “girl on girl on girl on boy on a plane. See? I told you it was sexy!”

They weren’t the only innovators on hand as a growing throng of artsy types, media and community leaders assembled for fast-paced information on opera (Verdi’s Falstaff), dance (Fumbling Towards Ecstacy, featuring songs by Sarah McLachlan), theatre (True West), music (Jon Kimura Parker playing Brahms) and a whole lot more coming soon to regional stages.

Pianist Jane Edler-Davis and alto Jennifer Handley of the Linden Singers scurried through the crowd handing out artistically packaged homemade cookies to punctuate the quick musical sampler of concerts featuring three guest conductors.

“We always have great snacks at our rehearsals, which is why we have snacks for everybody after this,” said Handley.

Gotta Getta Gimmick’s Clayton Baraniuk sat nearby, ready to ring the bell when time was up, or honk overtimers offstage.

When Kushnir learned most arts reps would speak — fast! — rather than perform, he admits he switched gears somewhat.

“I dumbed down my costume,” he said, noting he left his heels and fishnet stockings in his bag, “I thought ‘less is more.’ ”

Not surprisingly, some presenters offered borderline variations of what an overexcited used-car pitchman might advertise.

Belfry Theatre’s Mark Dusseault, for example, said, “You will like Stephen Harper after seeing this show” after pitching Proud, Michael Healey’s controversial political satire featuring a certain manipulative, ridiculously right-wing prime minister.

Promises, promises. Yet such creative ingenuity was half the fun at the social event that included a behind-the-scenes peek at where POV’s sets, costumes and props — like a lute Maureen Mackintosh was touching up for Falstaff — are created.

“This was built for Bastion Theatre 30 years ago,” the veteran prop mistress recalled with a smile. “We recyle and reuse.”