The seasonal spirit of fun and merrymaking is alive and well for audiences on the Semiahmoo Peninsula – as three groups renowned for presenting annual Christmas pantomimes return with big, bright, colourful, family-oriented shows offering original and highly individual interpretations of panto traditions.
First out of the gate is Fraser Valley Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s Russian-themed The Frog Princess, by Mike Balser, Norma Rushton and Cathy Wilmot (Surrey Arts Centre, Nov. 27 to Dec. 8, tickets 604-501-5566).
Following closely on its heels is White Rock Players’ Club’s latest, Dave Baron’s James Bond-style version of Rumpelstiltskin (Coast Capital Playhouse, Nov. 29 to Dec.28, tickets 604-536-7535).
Last, but by no means least, comes Ellie King and her Royal Canadian Theatre Company’s popular rework of Cinderella (running Dec. 20-29 at Surrey Arts Centre, tickets 604-501-5566, followed by performances Jan. 2-5 at the Arts Centre Theatre, Maple Ridge, tickets 604-476-2787).
The Frog Princess – devised by three noted panto and musical theatre veterans, and also directed by Balser (with choreography by Carol Seitz and musical direction by Timothy Tucker) – relates the tale of Princess Anastasia (Sheena Johnston) who has been turned into a frog by her wicked stepmother-to-be, Ivana Castacurski (Chelsea Tucker), helped by her son, Boris (James Walker).
Fortunately she has some musical and funny friends to help her (including principal boy Misha, played by Michelle Gaetz, and best friend Petra, Joni H-S), but will she be able to break the spell in time to warn her father, the Tsar, before the marriage?
Rumpelstiltskin, directed by Susanne de Pencier from Baron’s original script (the same team behind last year’s successful Pinocchio), marks White Rock’s 59th year of producing pantomimes that hew to British traditions while incorporating a Canadian and distinctly White Rock touch.
This time, Baron turns a satirical eye to a franchise just as old, as principal Bond, Jimmy Bond (Kirstin Stewart) is pitted against the master criminal Squire Goldringer (panto favourite Ray Van Ieperen) and Rumpelstiltskin himself (played by Hunter Golden) – with the help of Dame ‘M’ (Bryce Mills) and ‘Q’ (Nigel Watkinson).
Also featured in this bright `60s-ish’ spoof (featuring design by Andrea Olund and costumes by Heather Maximea) are Mackenzie Claus as Bond’s imperiled love interest Penny Money, Krystle Hadlow as femme fatale Belladonna and the humourous villainy of Jennifer Tiles (Rocky Raccoon) and Elyse Raible (Jack Russell).
King’s version of Cinderella (presented with customary flair and production values) includes all the familiar elements of panto versions of the favourite fairy tale, including downtrodden heroine (Melissa Paras) and page boy Buttons (Steven Elcheshen), plus Cinders’ evil stepmother Grimelda (Kerri Elcheshen) and her hideous daughters Atrocia (Alan Cedargreen) and Deplorabelle (Mark Manning).
Also adding to the fun will be the most junior member of King’s stock company, Aeron Elcheshen, as Cinders’ faithful cat companion Pushkin.
Each of the productions features matinee as well as evening performances – for all details and performance times check the ticket and information numbers or visit www.fvgss.org, www.whiterockplayers.ca or www.rctheatreco.com