The Royal Canadian Theatre Company’s seasonal offering, Robinson Crusoe and the Pirates (at Surrey Arts Centre mainstage until Jan. 6), has just about everything a panto needs.
While it’s not up to the level of last year’s Sword In The Stone – a special show on all counts – it’s big, bright, colourful and entertaining for the little ones. The players, many of them veterans of the RCTC ‘stock company’ are likeable and energetic, the solo and chorus numbers – while going way back beyond the memory of most of the audience members – are fun, and the tiniest chorus members steal scenes left, right and centre.
Erin Coon cuts the right dash as principal boy Robinson, Claurien Zanoria is suitably appealing as principal girl Princess Friday, and Glynis Knowlden makes a fine representative of goodness, as Queen Aquabella, in this South Seas Island-bound panto.
But, oddly, the humour seems lacking in the current edition of Ellie King’s annual treat. It’s not the oldness of the gags – one expects that, even though some of the references are clearly past their sell-by date. But in the performance I saw, there was a sense of rushed, obligatory comedy, and of opportunities missed, rather than properly-timed, well-crafted setups and punchlines.
Maybe this had something to do with the fact the original preview performance had been cancelled by weather-related problems, which meant that opening night became, de facto, a preview night.
Even so, the script seems light on genuinely laugh- provoking material. Never mind double-entendres – a single-entendre or two would help.
Which is not to say that the show’s plethora of comedians – Alan Cedargreen (as Dame Kitty Crusoe), James ‘Demon’ King (as Davy Jones), Tony De Matteis (as evil Captain Blight), Bob Wilson and Tim Zhang (as bumbling Aussie pirates, First Mate Bruce and Second Mate Bruce), Jeremy Glass (as King Neptune), James Knowlden (as Witchdoctor Hugh), Kerri Norris (as off-course tour guide Polly Perkins), Stephen Elchesen (as Billy Crusoe), Kevin Sloan (as the Court Chamberlain), Rodrigo Boldrin (as Griselda, a man-hungry gorilla) and Jackie Bruce (as a Mae West-ish Queen Ticky) – don’t have their moments, and may be hitting more of a stride as the run progresses.
Also somewhat marooned by the material are Carol Davison (as reporter Sally Scuttlebutt) and Judy Higginbotham (returning, once again, as Little Red Riding Hood).
Claire Carolan’s sets and scenic art and Nigel Brooke’s lighting design help the look of the show, as do the majority of Norris’ costumes, while musical director/keyboardist Geoff King and percussionist Sheila Rebelato do their usual excellent job of impersonating a much larger ensemble.