Sunday 3 December 2017

East Van Panto Snow White a local favourite
All the basic condition theatre requires is that fire last night & those costumes & the human voice & people gathered together.   
Sir Trevor Nunn, Director (Cats, 1981 \ Les Miserables, 1985)

From the footlights : Four names just about say it all for this year's East Van Panto : Laura Zerebeski. Amy Rutherford. Allan Zinyk. Chirag Zaik. For the 3rd straight year scenic illustrator Zerebeski has attacked her task of giving viewers a wizardry of colour in her ginormous, avant garde impressionistic landscapes of East Vancouver. 

Narrator Amy Rutherford kicks it all off with an hilarious monologue + later bribe scene with the front row kids. Followed by local favourite Allan Zinyk who reprises the lead character Dame's role after a year's hiatus. He's joined by 2016-returnee Chirag Naik to be her stooge Heimlich. 

Together these four are joined by some 57 other named people in a variety of roles plus countless other volunteers to create yet another Sunday afternoon's fun, sport & amusement that children of all ages -- from five to ninety-five -- can and do find something to cheer about, laugh over, and sing-along to.

You can't get a show started without a little hype from a long-form census taker Amy Rutherford who invites kiddies to chirp their presence and anyone over 40 to shout their guts out because she claims, not wrongly in the least,  "You deserve it, you've earned it!".
Photo credit : Emily Cooper
Primary destination is East Hastings' PNE Playland where a ragtag bunch of dwarves hang out : they work on a house-band whose riffs are hauntingly unpolished. In the end Heimlich pulls, um, a manoeuvre that brings Snow White back to life after choking back a poisoned apple. She celebrates with some trombone blatz to join in on the band's already dubious playlist.

Production values that hi-light the antics :  I am not sure I have seen more colourful a pantomime set ever, anywhere. Particularly in the 2nd act when the various familiar go-to's of the PNE are front-&-centre : a greasy mini-donut; the Tilt-A-Whirl nauseator; an Alice teacup; the lead scare-the-krap-out-of-you car on the Karl Phare / Walker LeRoy 1958 wooden roller coaster that is the anchor attraction of Vancouver's Playland / PNE site that has been featured in a slew of movies. 

Couple these visuals with Marina Szijarto's carny costumes -plus- the twofer orchestra of Ben Elliott keyboard and Todd Biffard finessing the drum-set and it's some Wowsa! to look at and listen to. Once again Veda Hille's reworked rock charts and lyrics are the baseline for the Mark Chavez script. All of their efforts crescendo'd nicely in the second act after a bit of a slow shuffle through all the exposition of plot that took up the first 75 minutes.

A one-horse open sleigh would provide a far-less-scary seasonal ride than Car #1 on the famed Vancouver Playland rickety-rackety roller coaster.
Photo credit : Emily Cooper

Acting pin-spots :  As noted from the get-go, Messrs. Zinyk and Zaik are note-perfect in this Replacement Theatre outing. As Canuck Crow -- the infamous semi-domesticated EastVan jackdaw -- Zinyk outdid even his Dame characterization. (The vomiting candies sequence ordered up by Director Anita Rochon was, however, a bit hard for me to stomach though the kids eagerly grabbed up the "goodies".) Ming Hudson's Snow White gave her role a steady turn, and her support crew of puffy-tummy dwarves were fun stuff too. The kids from the EastVan 'hood add zest to the roles they sketch out as baby-birds.

Who gonna like : As Trout Lake residents for nearly a decade, it is dead-easy for us to relate to all the EastVan references. Were I a White Rock resident who crosses the Serpentine Fen only once or twice a year, not sure other than the set visuals + acting prowess + music that I would relate much to jokes based on Snow White's muse "I wish I lived in a place where it's normal to be weird". Or where "Marked crosswalks are just a 'suggestion'!".  

Cast revs up its finale when all the baddies are done away with and Snow White's band can rock on.
Photo credit : Emily Cooper

That said, not only is East Side Panto an instant tradition in Vancouver, it's most fun when you go to a matinee on the week-end and catch all the kids shouting out "Look behind you!" to Snow White when there's evil-doing just beyond her reach or shouting back "No she isn't...!" each time ESM asserts Snow White is dead. 

This is fun holiday stuff that is a treat to eye-&-ear and a sure sign the cynicism creeping up in society these days isn't the only show in town. From Metro? Go. Have. Fun. You'll come away charmed.

Particulars :  Produced by Replacement Theatre [Artistic Directors James Long & Maiko Yamamoto; Managing Producer Corbin Murdoch] in collaboration with The Cultch.  At the York Theatre,  639 Commercial Drive, right next to Nick's old-time Italian pastapizzariaOn thru January 6, 2018. Run-time some 120 minutes including intermission. Box office 604.251.1363 -or- via the internet at the Cultch.

Production team :  Playwright Mark Chavez.  Director Anita Rochon.  Musical Director, Composer Veda Hille.  Choreographer Kimberley Stevenson.  Set & Poperties Designer Yvan Morissette.  Costume Designer Marina Szijarto.  Lighting Designer Adrian Muir.  Scenic Illustrator Laura Zerebeski.  Stage Manager Joanne P.B. Smith.  

Orchestra :  Ben Elliott.  Todd Biffard.

Performers : Ming Hudson.  Chirac Naik. Amy Rutherford. Allan Zinyk.  With Margaret Onedo.  Evan Rien.  Lili Robinson. 

Panto Kids :  (Three per show, rotating.)  Zoe Anthony. Era Bothe. Yuki Enns.  Maxine Kassis.  Anders Kellam. Felix MacDuff.  Nassau Macrae. Michael Pappas. Miele Pietropaulo. Hazel Pontin. Leo Pontoon. Nora Pontin. Kiyo Roth. Taste Roth. Matteo Salusti.

Addendum #1:  Scenic Illustrator Laura Zerebeski's jaw-dropping and brilliant visuals were described in a show program thus :

"Laura paints urban landscapes and personifies buildings to they look like the people who live in them. Her style combines surrealism and expressionism which is the result of a few decades of naive certainty followed by disillusionment and at least one fresh start after she left a corporate career to pursue art full time. She takes familiar urban scenes and re-imagines them with a bright mix of caricature and idealism. Laura believes that art should communicate a universal experience, which is somewhere between 'joyful' and 'resilient', and some days we all need a reminder of what that looks like."

Addendum #2 : Panto Potion : A Recipe by Theatre Replacement (from the show program);

Take a well-known children's story
Preferably an allegory

Mix in some landmarks we all know
And pop songs from the radio

A quarter cup of Chavez wit
A tablespoon of East Side grit

Whisk in some treasured local actors
And a horde of skilled contractors

Director, SM, Scenic Painter
Designer, TD, Child Wrangler

Add fifteen kids from East Vancouver
And some tricky dance maneuvers

Lustres, Vivids and Frenels
Hung by IATSE personnel

A drop of blood, some sweat, a tear
And bathtubs full of Bomber beer

But no Panto is complete
Without you people in the seats

And so it is we offer you
Heaps and heaps of gratitude.

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