Hero Robinson (Erin Coon

Hero Robinson (Erin Coon

Panto pro reveals new show

Ellie King's latest, Robinson Crusoe and the Pirates, is a new version of a story she first tackled 20 years ago.

Not even a broken ankle can keep the irrepressible Ellie King down.

The Langley-based ‘panto queen,’ founder and artistic director of the Royal Canadian Theatre Company  – whose Christmas entertainments are a fixture in the Surrey Arts Centre from mid-December to early January – has been hobbling through rehearsals but, we’re happy to report, is otherwise unimpeded as director of her latest, Robinson Crusoe and the Pirates.

The rollicking seafaring tale comes to Surrey Arts Centre Dec. 20 to Jan. 6.

Fortunately, members of her extended panto family were ready to wear some of King’s many hats this year. Jackie Bruce, for instance, was able to step in as choreographer for the show, while one of King’s regular professional players, Kerri Norris, has taken on the key role of production manager, as well as a plum supporting role as daffy tour guide Polly Perkins.

Panto-fanciers can expect King’s patented brand of colourful, traditional, kid-friendly, cheer-the-hero, boo-the villain adventure, with plenty of song and dance and a healthy helping of groan-worthy knockabout humour, spearheaded by obligatory panto animal Griselda the Gorilla and veteran RCTC player Alan Cedargreen as Dame Kitty Crusoe.

Well-known White Rock/South Surrey player Erin Coon takes the role of Robinson, with Tony DeMatteis as Cap’n Blight, Bob Wilson as First Mate Bruce, Tim Zhang as Second Mate Bruce, and Claurien Zanoria as beauteous Princess Friday, with keyboard wizard Geoff King and percussionist Sheila Rebelato once again providing a versatile ‘orchestra.’

King notes this show is an update of her first version of Robinson Crusoe as a pantomime, which debuted 20 years ago.

But there’s a longer tradition to it than that, insists the panto veteran, who has long made a study of the history of the form.

“The first panto version was in London at the end of the 18th century – I didn’t direct that one, although I was in the junior chorus,” she quipped.

This year’s update has given an opportunity for many topical references, she adds.

“Plus, in 20 years I’ve changed my approach a little – perhaps this is a little more Canadianized.”

But panto purists needn’t fear – King still has as strong a grasp as ever of the particular balance of ingredients that make the British-style seasonal treat tick.

One is a strong ‘dame’ – as personified by Cedargreen.

“What a trouper,” King said. “He’s doing well – and even with a stinking cold he still made all the rehearsals, while keeping a safe distance from the rest of the cast.”

Another key is an understanding that the cross-dressing in British-style panto tradition is a matter of having fun – not an exercise in method acting.

“Lovely Erin is an awesome Robinson,” King said. “She’s makes a great ‘boy’ because she’s very clearly a girl. She understands what it is to be a principal boy, with the hands-on-hips and the fishnets and heels, which in this case are a pair of rather fancy boots.”

Also striking the right balance, King said, is  DeMatteis (Mordred the Malignant in last year’s Sword In The Stone) as Blight, whose evil plan is to persuade Dame Kitty Crusoe that he’s a better skipper for her Crusoe’s Cruises business than her accident-prone son, Billy (RCTC regular Stephen Elchesen).

“Tony totally gets what it is to be a villain who is also really, really silly. It’s hard to find someone who can walk that line – there still has to be an element of risk and menace there, or there’s no point.”

It’s something King’s son, James, returning in his accustomed role as Demon King – this year in the guise of Davy Jones – also understands, she said.

“He knows how to be scary and still be silly at the same time.”

Claurien Zanoria, last year’s Guinevere, returns as principal girl in the role of Princess Friday of Lingalonga Island.

“She’s a bubbly, cute personality – a sweet girl who works really hard,” enthused King.

She notes that of the more than 40 in the cast, half are performers under the age of 20.

“That’s one of the things we pride ourselves on with RCTC,” she said. “We have young people mentoring with professionals.”

Regular admission is $23.95 plus box office charges, or $14.95 plus charges for children under 12.

For ticket information and bookings visit www.rctheatreco.com or www.arts.surrey.ca or call 604-501-5566.

 

 

Surrey North Delta Leader

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

Just Posted

B.C.’s parliament buildings in Victoria. (Photo: Tom Fletcher)
Surrey gets two cabinet ministers, a parliamentary secretary and government whip

Premier John Horgan’s NDP MLAs were sworn in on Tuesday and the cabinet was revealed Thursday afternoon

Steve ‘Elvis’ Elliott performs for residents of Amica White Rock. Exercise-to-music programs that led to a threat of city fines due to a noise complaint are to resume next week. (Contributed file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Amica White Rock

Peace Portal Seniors Village outbreak declared over

Wickson Pier in Crescent Beach is closed to the public, as work to replace and repair piles continues. (Susan Richards de Wit photo)
PHOTOS: Repairs to Crescent Beach pier complete

$180,000 Wickson Pier project included pile replacement, says City of Surrey parks manager

Surrey city Councillor Brenda Locke. (File photo)
Brenda Locke trying to breathe life into Surrey’s defunct Public Safety Committee

Surrey councillor’s motion will be up for debate at a future council meeting

The Festival of Lights; Jingle Bell White Rock; and the Lighted Boat Parade all helped light up the White Rock waterfront on Saturday, Dec. 7. (Aaron Hinks photo)
White Rock Festival of Lights postponed

While event founder remains optimistic, the future of this year’s display is uncertain

(Photo: Amy Reid)
VIDEO: 2020 Community Leader Awards recognize Surrey’s unsung heroes

They don’t often receive recognition and don’t necessarily have a high profile in the community

Arthur Topham has been sentenced to one month of house arrest and three years of probation after breaching the terms of his probation. Topham was convicted of promoting hate against Jewish people in 2015. (Photo submitted)
Quesnel man convicted for anti-Semitic website sentenced to house arrest for probation breach

Arthur Topham was convicted of breaching probation following his 2017 sentence for promoting hatred

Langley School District's board office. (Langley Advance Times files)
‘Sick Out’ aims to pressure B.C. schools over masks, class sizes

Parents from Langley and Surrey are worried about COVID safety in classrooms

The baby boy born to Gillian and Dave McIntosh of Abbotsford was released from hospital on Wednesday (Nov. 25) while Gillian continues to fight for her life after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
B.C. mom with COVID-19 still fighting for life while newborn baby now at home

Son was delivered Nov. 10 while Gillian McIntosh was in an induced coma

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. Premier John Horgan, a Star Trek fan, can’t resist a Vulcan salute as he takes the oath of office for a second term in Victoria, Nov. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
Horgan names 20-member cabinet with same pandemic team

New faces in education, finance, economic recovery

A new ‘soft reporting’ room is opening inside the Ann Davis Transition Society offices on Dec. 1, 2020 which is thought to be the first of its kind in B.C. (Ann Davis Transitional Society/ Facebook)
New ‘trauma-informed’ reporting room opening next week in Chilliwack

It’s a space for reporting domestic violence, sexual assault, or gender-based violence to police

The corporate headquarters of Pfizer Canada are seen in Montreal, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. The chief medical adviser at Health Canada says Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine could be approved in Canada next month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Health Canada expects first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved next month

Canada has a purchase deal to buy at least 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine,

The online poster for Joel Goddard, who left his Willoughby home Nov. 10, 2020, has been updated by his family and friends who received word that he’s been found.
Langley man missing since Nov. 10 found alive and safe in Abbotsford

Family of the Willoughby area man had been searching for days. Police find him at Abbotsford Airport

Most Read