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.