East Van Panto: The Little Mermaid – underwater heaven


Publicity photo for East Van Panto: The Little Mermaid

Amanda Sum and Ghazal Azarbad get smoochy — with Adam Weaver in the background.(Photo by Emily Cooper)

It’s spectacular, a stupidly good time — and I mean that in the most enthusiastic way possible.

For this year’s East Van Panto, playwright Sonja Bennett has turned the 1989 Disney animation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid inside out, so it really doesn’t matter if you’ve seen the movie, although you’ll catch a few more references if you have.

In Bennett’s telling, Ariel is a human girl who falls in love with a mermaid named Eeer-k and makes a questionable deal with Ursula the octopus/sea witch so that she can pursue her would-be girlfriend into the ocean: if Ariel can’t get Eeer-k to kiss her before sundown, she’ll be turned to stone.

The performances are all casually, hilariously flawless. Amanda Sum brings deadpan innocence — and a tendency to break into interpretive dance — to Ariel. This commitment to (weird) simplicity is pure clowning. Dawn Petten frickin’ killed me as Ursula. Callous, dismissive, sexy, absurd: who else could have come up with that combo? And Petten is so confident; she’s having so much fun! Andrew Wheeler is touchingly basset-like as Ariel’s dad, Triton. And Mark Chavez is flying wild as Ariel’s crab friend Sebastian, hurling himself at the material, and apparently making stuff up on the fly, cracking up his fellow performers — and himself. Ghazal Azarbad as Eeer-k: well, basically, I want to be Ghazal Azarbad when I grow up. This time out, she’s brightly sexy with her blue lips, blue hair, and wide eyes. And the woman can sing! Like she’s torchy. Who knew?

[Read more…]

East Van Panto: The Wizard of Oz – Yes! Just yes!

Theatre Replacement is presenting East Van Panto: The Wizard of Oz at the York Theatre.

Go see this show if only to see Barbara Clayden’s chicken costumes. (Photo by Emily Cooper)

I want to live there. East Van Panto: The Wizard of Oz is my new happy place. I’m going to see if I can just rent out one of the seats in the York Theatre for the duration of the run.

This is the sixth year of Theatre Replacement’s East Van Panto, and this edition is one of the best.

You’ve got to hand it to the folks at Theatre Replacement: they mix things up. For the first time this year, Marcus Youssef wrote the show.

In Youssef’s version of the story, Dorothy, who lives in Port Coquitlam, isn’t knocked out by a tornado; it’s an exploding oil pipeline that does the job. The Wicked Witch of Western Canada, the driving force behind the Raise the Seas Pipeline, is none other than Rachel Notley—described here as being “fake NDP”. And the Good Wiccan of North Vancouver is the CBC’s own Gloria Macarenko—which gives everybody the perfect opportunity to sing “Macarena” with altered lyrics. [Read more…]

The set and costumes star in East Van Panto: Snow White & the Seven Dwarves

Theatre Replacement is presenting East Van Panto: Snow White & the Seven Dwarves

Laura Zerebeski’s painting, Marina Szijarto’s costumes, and Ming Hudson as Snow White. (Photo by Emily Cooper)

Every year, when I go to the East Van Panto, simply walking into the York Theatre is one of my favourite parts. Because of all of the kids in the audience, life suddenly becomes like bubble tea: sweet and devil-may-care. This year’s panto, Snow White & the Seven Dwarves isn’t as good a last year’s Little Red Riding Hood—Hey! It’s not my job to act like Santa Claus—but there’s plenty to like.

In the tradition of British pantomime, playwright Mark Chavez takes a familiar children’s story and twists it. In his telling, Snow White is being held captive in West Vancouver by her wicked stepmother, the Exercise Queen, who won’t let Snow White leave her room, just because her look is a little bit Goth. But Snow White catches glimpses of East Van from her window and dreams of living in a community where using crosswalks is optional. [Read more…]

Little Red Riding Hood is the best East Van Panto so far

Mark Chavez wrote Little Red Riding Hood, this year's East Van Panto.

Rachel Aberle’s Red can sing—and she’s just a little bit sly.

The East Van Panto is now officially the best holiday tradition in Vancouver—in my Vancouver, anyway.

I started loving this year’s panto, Little Red Riding Hood, the minute I entered the theatre. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy being in an audience that has a whole whack of kids in it. Being swept along by their enthusiasm is like, I don’t know, surfing on bubbles. [Read more…]

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