BEST holiday shows—for grown-ups and for families

Cinderella: An East Van Panto, Avenue Q

Cinderella: An East Van Panto is in the running for this year’s Christmas Pudding Award for best family entertainment

Okay. Time for the First Annual Christmas Pudding Awards.

There are two categories: Best Holiday Show for Families, and Outstanding Holiday Entertainment for Crusty Old Adults.

Let’s do the Family category first; kids have short attention spans.

The Family nominees are: the Arts Club’s Mary Poppins, Crazy for You at the Gateway, and Cinderella: An East Van Panto at the York. (I tried to see Carousel Theatre’s James and the Giant Peach, but they wouldn’t give me a comp. I’m telling Santa.)

Artistically, all of these shows are worth seeing.

But, let’s face it: the movie version of Mary Poppins is better than the stage adaptation, which cuts some of the best songs. The stage musical’s storytelling also flirts with incoherence.

But this production is a looker, thanks largely to the approximately 1,000 costumes provided by Sheila White. And there’s talent to burn in the cast: Sara-Jeanne Hosie (Mary Poppins), Warren Kimmel (Mr. Banks), and Catriona Murphy (Mrs. Banks) are among the best in the business, and the kids who play Jane and Michael Banks (Kassian Danielle Malmquist and Graham Verchere) are beyond charming.

Going to see Mary Poppins could leave you without tuppence to give to the little old bird woman, though. Tickets are over a hundred bucks each on the weekends—for adults and kids. Yikes.

The Gateway’s Crazy for You is also big and glitzy. It’s a semi-professional production, but you’d never know that from the quality of the work, which is as polished as the top of my head. And tickets are a more reasonable forty-eight bucks.

Again, the book is a bit weird: librettist Ken Ludwig made it up as a showcase for a bunch of existing Gershwin tunes, and the songs don’t always fit. But this production is handsome handsome: the inventive set is by Marshall McMahen, and the gorgeous costumes by Carmen Alatorre. In the leading roles, Gaelan Beatty dances like Gene Kelly, and I’m running out of metaphors to describe Kate Blackburn’s singing voice—suedelike, dipped in butterscotch. Let’s just say it’s warm.

Still, in my books, the best show to take your kids to is Cinderella: An East Van Panto. The weekend ticket price is fifty dollars for adults, but top-end kids’ tickets are only eighteen dollars. This is a BIG DEAL and a very smart move on the producers’ part.

And—hey!—this Cinderella is local and it’s tons of fun. Just wait till you see the BC Ferry Godmother. Dawn Petten is hilarious in a number of roles. Who wouldn’t enjoy Veda Hille’s original music? And you and the kids get to boo the capitalist villain, Ronald Grump, and cheer on the gender-savvy heroine. It’s the show to see with kids.

So Cinderella gets this year’s Family Pudding.

But what if you’re heading out for a child-free evening on the town?

Here’s the short list in the Crusty Old Adult category: A Twisted Christmas Carol and Avenue Q.

And here are the short assessments.

The cast of A Twisted Christmas Carol is made up of skilled improvisers: Diana Frances, Jeff Gladstone, Gary Jones, Bill Pozzobon, and Kirk Smith. But the improv formats are so stale that the evening ends up tasting like last year’s Christmas dinner.

Avenue Q is the one to see. Great book, great music, great cast—and puppet sex. Who could ask for anything more?

The Crusty Old Adult Pudding goes to Avenue Q.

Happy Holidays, everybody!


About Colin Thomas

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.

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