East Van Panto: Wizard of Oz is a Wicked good time

Dorothy & friends are off to see the Wizard in
East Van Panto – Wizard of Oz
photo: Emily Cooper

Returning to the York Theatre for the sixth year, Theatre Replacement’s East Van Panto : Wizard of Oz, paves the holiday road with laughter.  Until January 6, 2019 follow the yellow brick road to East Van as Dorothy and friends try to make it home to Poco.

Directed by Stephen Drover, the family friendly (not recommended for under 5 years) over-the-top musical combines the talents of playwright Marcus Yousef, choreographer Amanda Testini, and musician Veda Hille, who masterfully creates new lyrics for familiar pop tunes, with hilarious results.

East Van Panto
Christine Quintana stars as Dorothy in East Van Panto – Wizard of Oz
photo: Emily Cooper

Dorothy, skillfully played and beautifully sung, by Christine Quintana, lives in a Poco tiny house with her Aunts when the pipeline bursts and she is swept away to East Van, the progressive,  urban landscape of her dreams.  In order to make her way back to her beloved Aunts she must take that familiar journey to visit the Wizard. Along the way she meets a cavalcade of colourful, and familiar, West Coast characters, including a surprising Wicked Witch of the West, played by Craig Erickson.  Erickson and the supporting cast; Dawn Petten, Raugi Yu,  and Kayvon Khoshkam bounce between characters with gusto. Studio 58 students Angela Chu, Dylan Floyde, and Mallory James fill the chorus roles with the help of a rotation of adorable child actors.

In the long tradition of the British pantomime, the audience interaction adds to the fun and entertainment. The show starts with ‘the rules’,  which after this many seasons the audience has come to know, when to boo, when to cheer, show sympathy, and when to heckle the villain.  The joy of the unrestrained younger audience members’ participation brings an extra smile every year.

Craig Erickson as The Wicked Witch of the West
East Van Panto – Wizard of Oz
photo: Emily Cooper

The writing keeps the show accessible for all ages, everyone will find laughter in the slapstick, jokes or situations.  This year’s show is a bit more political than most, resulting in some very topical humour but also meaning some jokes might not land well depending on your leanings.  The Vancouver insider jokes are often told with an East Van-centric point of view, mocking other neighbourhood stereotypes as well as some Commercial Drive self-deprecating humour.  It’s hard to walk away from East Van Panto without having laughed and smiled for the previous two hours.

East Van Panto : Wizard of Oz plays at The Cultch York Theatre, 639 Commercial Driver until January 6, 2019. Showtimes, information and tickets available online at thecultch.com

The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz is at Gateway Theatre

Wizard of Oz - Gateway TheatreUntil January 3, 2016, gather your whole family and head off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz is now onstage at The Gateway Theatre in Richmond.  Based on the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz brings all your favourite characters to the stage for a wicked interpretation of the family classic.

Lead by Bridget Esler as Dorothy, supported by they trio of Victoria Hunter as Hunk/Scarecrow, Lindsay Warnock as Hickory/Tinman and Tom Pickett as Zeke/Cowardly Lion as they follow the yellow brick road to find the Wizard.   Tara Travis chews the scenery as a deliciously camp Wicked Witch of the West (and Miss Gulch) lending urgency to the quartet’s journey.  Jill Raymond’s Aunt Em/Glinda, The Good Witch is an ethereal counterpoint to Travis’ characters.

The large ensemble, including a large number of children plus a real dog, Henry Emerson as Toto, fill the stage with song and dance as the adventure takes us from Kansas, to Munchkinland, to the Emerald City and the Witches Castle and back.  Along they way we encounter farmhands, Munchkins, Ozians, Crows, Jitterbugs and Flying Monkeys.

Watching the younger members of the audience helped the ‘grown ups’ in the audience experience the show through fresh eyes with every ooh, ah and squeal.  The non-stop action keeps the pace moving along to feel much shorter than the 150 minute run time (plus a 20 minute intermission). It’s a testament to the capability of the cast that they held the attention of the young viewers throughout the performance.

Director Barbara Tomasic read the original L Frank Baum story to find the nuances of the tale so her play didn’t just become a remake of the film.  She guides the actors to create characters that every audience member can relate to and find themselves on the stage. Ms Tomasic viewed The Wizard of Oz as a story to find ourselves, the find out that home really is where the heart is, there really is no place like home.

The Wizard of Oz is at home at Gateway Theatre, 6500 Gilbert Road, in Richmond, until January 3, 2016. Matinees and evening performances are available throughout the run but book tickets soon, this will be a popular Holiday show especially once school break begins.