Cinderella: An East Van Panto is a refreshingly local experience

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      By Charles Demers. Music by Veda Hille. Directed by Amiel Gladstone. A Theatre Replacement production presented by the Cultch at the York Theatre on Sunday, December 7. Continues until December 28

      You’ve got to love a version of Cinderella that ends with the moral: “Girls, you are more than your shoe size.”

      And it’s not just gender politics that makes Cinderella: An East Van Panto a refreshingly local experience. This Cinderella’s animal companions are an old crow, a feral cat, a rat, and various other vermin. And her ugly stepsisters are so hip that they make Cinderella arrange their vinyl collections from least ironic to most ironic, and burn their band T-shirts if the bands have become commercially successful.

      Although pantos thrive on mild sexual innuendo and political references, Jack and the Beanstalk, Theatre Replacement’s offering last year, was cautious on both counts. Not so Cinderella. Charles Demers wrote the script again this year and, in my favourite bit, a Christy Clark–like businesswoman builds a pipeline right through the middle of the play, chiming brightly, “An oil spill? That only happens in movies and on the news!” There are also repeated references to Ronald Grump’s one big ball. (The oily villain looks a lot like Donald Trump—“Boo all you want. My hair protects me”—and he throws a lavish party/beauty pageant to find a bride for his son.)

      The no-nonsense charm of Donna Soares’s Cinderella reminded me of The Paper Bag Princess. Allan Zinyk busily cooks up comic business as Grump, the Stepmother, and—wait for this one—David Suzuki. Dawn Petten is also hilarious in a number of roles, especially Prince Grumpy, who’s so androgynously sexy he might be Ellen DeGeneres’s cousin.

      Veda Hille wrote and performs the charming music: the fun starts right away with her playful listing of sponsors in the opening number. Laura Zerebeski’s gorgeous backdrops show us East Van as filtered through the eyes of Van Gogh—or Zerebeski. And the crowning moment of Marina Szijarto’s witty costume design arrives when Cinderella’s day dress transforms, as if by magic, into a ball gown.

      Go. Take somebody you love. Start a holiday tradition.



      Le Big Mac

      Dec 8, 2014 at 12:56pm

      Pantos are, let's face it, dreadful imports from the bottom rung of British culture. Boorish, cloying, stillborn hackery. Why anyone would revive this moronic twaddle in the 21st Century is truly a mindboggle. Pantos should be thrown into the composter of history along with those other scraps from Britian like the Royals and their cuisine. Somebody had to say it. You can do better Vancouver. I'm sure all involved in this are doing their best but I'm also sure their talents are wasted on this cultural vomit of a theatrical form. What's next, Morris dancers and Mince pies? God, please stop saving the Queen!

      Royale with Cheese

      Dec 8, 2014 at 2:13pm

      Hey, what's wrong with mince pie? Fruit, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. If you are even a little bit British (or in anyway an Anglophile) then mince pie is a wonderful holiday tradition--along with going to see a panto, and downing a few pints of winter ale. Sure it is fun and frivolous. So what. There are many things in contemporary culture--like reality television--that ought to go into the cultural composter first. ... And before I forget, have yourself a very Merry Christmas.

      Grab a sense of humour

      Dec 8, 2014 at 5:00pm

      Big Mac has obviously never deigned to visit the Drive and catch the East Van Panto. If he or she did, they'd realize it is actually kind of taking the piss out of the panto . Yes there are crude jokes, but there are also smart political jabs too. And the very strong cast is not only having a great time but raising the level of the show's antics. But I guess there will always be Scrooges out there.


      Dec 8, 2014 at 10:28pm

      Panto takes the piss out of itself.

      Le Big Mac

      Dec 9, 2014 at 11:27am

      The T word. TRADITION. Used to justify everything from genital mutilation to child brides to... well, mince pies. Now we can add Pantos to that impressive list. Give your ticket money to the Vancouver Food Bank and save your mental landscape from this colonial drivel. Don't be arm twisted by every time-waster that associates itself with the holiday season. Joyeux Noël, tête carré.


      Dec 10, 2014 at 9:33pm

      My friends and I just went and had a FANTASTIC time. Come on people, this is just supposed to be fun. I laughed so hard AND there was a vacuum that played the harmonica. What more can you want?

      Loose canon

      Dec 10, 2014 at 10:20pm

      Well one thing that we definitely don't want to inherit from the British is the elitism founded on classist entitlement and moralistic superiority that Mr Big here so ably displays in his misguided missives. Panto in this context happens to be where the common meets the sophisticated. Where else would you find a play that entertains the young and the less educated while also engaging the intellectuals in need of deep political critique couched in acerbic wit, all the while both audiences are reminded are reminded at the end that unveiling the obvious and peaking under surfaces and lies will always win in the end. No wonder you don't like it, Big, your understanding of your own culture is shallow. Having not even seen it before commenting makes you doubly shallow - you are the subject of this play.

      Martin Dunphy

      Dec 10, 2014 at 11:12pm

      Making sport of panto is also a time-honoured tradition, even with the Brits. Monty Python took it on occasionally, most memorably with an absurdly tall panto Princess Margaret being taught to fend for herself by hunting her own food—which consisted of her shooting a speargun at a sterling-silver breakfast tray as it whizzed by on a garden path.
      "Good shot: right in the toast!"


      Dec 19, 2014 at 7:10am

      Refreshing and local? Oxymoron. In Vancouver "local" is a synonym for narrow-minded navel gazing populism posing as quality.