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

Baskerville – A Sherlock Holmes Mystery at The Arts Club

The Arts Club Theatre Company’s 53rd season opened last week with the farce Baskerville – A Sherlock Holmes Mystery.

Based on the Arthur Conan Doyle classic The Hound Of The Baskervilles, Baskerville maintains the core of the mystery but delivers it as a fast-paced farcical comedy.  As with most Holmes Mysteries, the story is narrated by the character of Dr Watson. played by Mark Weatherley, with Holmes played by Alex Zahara. Along with Holmes and Watson the play has 40 other characters, played by just 3 actors; Lauren Bowler, Kirk Smith and Mike Wasko. Whether planned or not, the play earned laughs when it let the audience see the imperfections in the rush to change from character to character. Reminiscent of The Carol Burnett Show’s “Went With The Wind”, the play didn’t quite deliver on the brilliance of that famed cast, that’s a hard legacy to follow, but Baskerville did elicit plenty of laughs from the audience throughout the performance.

Baskerville – A Sherlock Holmes Mystery runs until October 9th at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, then goes on tour through the autumn.

PuSh Festival – L’immédiat

PushGuide_2015-11-09, 20 58 07The Push International Performing Arts Festival is always loaded with amazing performances and shows, L’immédiat is another one of these remarkable shows.

Presented as part of Push Festival’s Spotlight on France, the Camille Boitel’s Association Imme?diat show is an amazing piece of movement and performance.  Like the Marx Brothers meets a French circus, the slapstick mix of dance and pantomime cannot be described, you just need to see it.  Push Festival Artistic and Executive Director Norman Armour told the opening night audience that it has taken 3 years to get L’immédiat into the Push line-up and after playing at this year’s festival it returns to France for a couple of performances before being completely disbanded.

During last night’s opening performance, the audience was buzzing with energy after the laughter and excitement of the hour long show at Vancouver Playhouse. L’immédiat has two more performances, tonight and Saturday night at 8pm.  Buy a ticket now to see this one of a kind show.