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

East Van Panto : Little Red Riding Hood delivers laughs

eastvanpanto-redNow playing at the York Theatre, East Van Panto : Little Red Riding Hood, brings laughs to your holiday entertainment.  Presented by The Cultch and Theatre Replacement, East Van Panto is now in its 4th season and from the growing audiences, there’s sure to be many more years to follow.
In the long tradition of the British pantomime, the family friendly musical brings the Grimm fairy tale to the stage with East Van flavour.  Hosted by the hipster East Side Holiday Claus, played with abandon by Andrew McNee (who also plays the Big Bad Wolf).  The yellow-garbed, bearded jolly not-so-old elf led the way by educating the audience unfamiliar with ‘the rules’, when to cheer, boo, shout and interact with the players. The fun of a Panto is the interaction between cast and fans the more participation the better.

Photo : Emily Cooper.
Photo : Emily Cooper.

Writer Mark Chavez interweaves the tale of Little Red Riding Hood with our local Vancouver landmarks and personalities bringing familiarity to the tale and providing for plenty of the laughs.  Veda Hille has twisted contemporary pop songs with lyrics that elevates the Panto’s comedic storytelling. Until December 4 Veda Hille performs with the Panto herself, before passing the musical duties to Benjamin Elliott.
Andrew McNee is not the only player to do double duty, most of the cast change hats, pants and dresses throughout the show to hysterical success. Rachel Aberle’s portrays Little Red with power, passion, innocence, and impeccable comic timing in nearly every scene.
Find the laughter while it lasts, East Van Panto: Little Red Riding Hood runs at the York Theatre until December 31st.