Fred Partridge photo Samantha Silver (left) plays the principal boy, young poet Pierre Bonhomme, in White Rock Players Club’s The Hunchback of Notre Panto.

Ensemble cast took roles ‘and ran with it’

White Rock pantomime mixes eras, blends comedy and pathos

First time panto director Alex Lowe says he “couldn’t be happier” with the way White Rock Players Club’s The Hunchback of Notre Panto – continuing at Coast Capital Theatre until Dec. 30 – worked out.

“The cast is really enjoying it and audiences are loving it,” the busy Vancouver stage and film actor said – adding that working on the show made a big time commitment and a lengthy commute worthwhile.

He also credits the help of choreographer Rachael Carlson, musical director Marquis Byrd and particularly co-director Anne-Marie Zak in bringing the musical – from a script by White Rock panto veteran Dave Baron – to life.

“I’ve performed in a few musicals, but Anne-Marie has a lot more experience in musical theatre – she’s the one who’s seen to making the musical numbers blend really well with the show,” he said.

He said he has enjoyed the challenge of breaking theatre’s usual fourth wall by having the actors interact with the audience.

“It’s a great opportunity to get the audience involved in the show, to call out, or have a character sit in their laps – and that’s been one of the most popular elements with people.”

Lowe said the most unusual pantomime includes all the larger-than-life fun of the Dame (Bryce Paul Mills) and Shenanigans the giraffe, but still retains a significant number of the touching, socially-conscious elements of Victor Hugo’s original novel.

That plays into one of his favourite directorial ideas, he said.

“I like to open people up to being vulnerable by making them laugh first,” he said. “Why shouldn’t there be an opportunity for people to learn something from a show like this?”

The old tale of the hunchbacked bell ringer of Notre Dame, manipulated for evil ends by his ‘protector’ in the cathedral, Cardinal Frollo, and suffering the pangs of unrequited love for the gypsy Esmeralda – whose people are subject to racial persecution – still holds a lot of relevance and pathos for modern audiences, he said.

One big change Lowe made to the original concept (and Baron’s script) was to update the action from the 1480s to the 1920s, he said.

“One of my favourite historical periods is Paris in the 1920s – there were so many interesting things happening in music and art – and it lends itself to providing more colour and more upbeat music,” he said.

“Dave gave me the creative license to do with it what I liked.”

One of the more memorable visual elements is a backdrop specially created for the show by artist Elizabeth Hollick, Lowe said.

“I wanted something that was an homage to Notre Dame cathedral itself – and she blew me away.”

Lowe said he is also very happy with a “phenomenal cast” headed by Ben Pilger as the title character (“I wanted a more sympathetic version – and what Ben brings to the table is a wonderful sense of fun,” Lowe said), with Kelly Thompson as a female Cardinal Frollo, Samantha Silver as principal boy Pierre and Juliana Peralta as Esmeralda all impressing him with their creative commitment and willingness to experiment.

Lowe said that while this one of the smallest casts ever for a White Rock panto – 16 people – he wanted a strong ensemble that was more involved in the action and playing multiple characters, rather than just going off stage and waiting to do their part.

“They just took that and ran with it,” he said.

Shows are at 7:30 p.m., with a 2:30 p.m. matinee on Boxing Day (Dec. 26).

For tickets ($22, $15 children 12 and under), call 604-536-7535, or visit whiterockplayers.ca

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Not everybody lined up to vote on Saturday. In Surrey, 68,396 mail-in ballots still need to be counted for the final election tally. (Black Press Media)
North Surrey voters steer left, South Surrey voters steer right

Once again, it’s NDP orange in the city’s north end, Liberal red in the south

Peace Portal Alliance Church, at the corner of King George Boulevard and 152 Street, is the extreme-weather shelter for South Surrey for the upcoming season. It is to have 14 mats available nightly for those experiencing homelessness, regardless of weather conditions. (Tracy Holmes photo)
14 beds planned for South Surrey extreme-weather shelter

Webinar tonight to field questions, share info on Peace Portal Alliance Church refuge

Fraser Health declared an outbreak of COVID-19 at Delta Hospital on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. (Grace Kennedy photo)
Outbreak over at Delta Hospital

In all, 45 cases of COVID-19 were identified and seven patients died during the outbreak

The Sunshine Band Club video posted to Youtube.
VIDEO: Surrey youth band shines light on ‘COVID blues,’ raises money for hospital

Virtual concert from Sunshine Band Club, established last March

A reminder to students at Surrey’s Strawberry Hill Elementary to physically distance during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Five Surrey schools reporting COVID-19 exposures, including another at Panorama Ridge

INTERACTIVE TABLE: Search for schools, organize by exposure dates

FILE – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province during a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

Three people have died over the past three reporting periods

Graphic on promo material for Best Buy Canada’s Tech Wonderland event.
Drive-through ‘Tech Wonderland’ coming to PNE site a few weeks before Christmas

Best Buy Canada-backed ‘holiday’ event to raise money for charity

Aaliyah Rosa. File photo
Crown says murder of seven-year-old in Langley was planned, deliberate

The trial of KerryAnn Lewis began Monday in New Westminster

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. (B.C. government photo)
Unnamed school in Fraser Health region closed due to COVID-19

Closure announced by Dr. Bonnie Henry during daily briefing

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

RCMP have released more details regarding what led up to an arrest caught on video in Williams Lake Sunday, Oct. 26. (Facebook video screenshot)
Review launched after ‘high-risk, multi-jurisdictional’ chase, arrest in Williams Lake

RCMP launching a full review and code of conduct investigation

(Pxfuel)
B.C. limits events in private homes to household, plus ‘safe six’ amid COVID-19 surge

Henry issued a public health order limiting private gatherings to one household, plus a group of ‘safe six’ only

Chilliwack-Kent MLA Laurie Throness watches the results on election night. The ex-Liberal’s tumultuous campaign and the narrow margin for victory ahead of the mail-in ballot count leaves the future of the riding’s seat in limbo for at least the next week. (Facebook/Laurie Throness)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Future for Throness uncertain as Chilliwack-Kent awaits results

Chilliwack-Kent candidate hopeful, resigned waiting on final count

Most Read