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 Cultch reveals its 45th Anniversary Season

The Cultch has recently announced its 45th anniversary season, with Executive Director Heather Redfern programming a 2018-19 season full of local premieres, international hits, and returning favourites.

“The Cultch is a place that people come to for community: to have their minds stimulated, to be challenged, to laugh, to discover,” says Redfern. “The Cultch is for everyone.” The season will also include several 45th anniversary initiatives including a series of work to mark the 100 year anniversary of the armistice of WWI called the Ceasefire Series, and an expanded Femme Series.

 This 45th season, which is Redfern’s 10th year of programming, continues The Cultch’s commitment to highlight local companies and artists, while presenting cutting-edge national and international work. The 2018-19 season includes ten BC productions —including four world premieres. It also features innovative works by Canadian companies, as well as international works, from New Zealand, The United Kingdom and Iran.

 The Cultch also continues it’s partnership with local festivals like Diwali in BC, in October, and PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, in January 2019.  

Fan favourites also make a return to the Cultch’s three stages; Children of God, Corey Payette’s hit musical about residential schools, returns after it successful national tour, and Australian patriarch-smashing hit Hot Brown Honey will once again decolonize and moisturize the York Theatre. Ronnie Burkett returns with his exclusive adults-only holiday hit Little Dickens.  Also joining the festive season is the holiday tradition, Theatre Replacement’s East Van Panto, is back for a sixth year with Wizard of Oz.

If all this isn’t enough The Cultch’s will also see the renewal of the Femme Series for 2018-19 with shows that celebrate the feminine experience.  During November 2018 The Cultch will present the Ceasefire Series, three shows to mark the 100 year anniversary of the armistice of WWI.

For full lineup details, tickets and subscriptions for The Cultch’s 2018-19 45th anniversary season at its three venues; Historic Theatre, York Theatre, and Vancity Culture Lab, visit thecultch.com

Pss Pss Grabs Attention at The Cultch

For theatre without dialogue, Compagnia Baccalà’s Pss Pss certainly creates a lot of buzz, on stage at The Cultch York Theatre.

Him and Her
photo: Geri Born

The award winning show stars Camilla Pessi and Simone Fassari, her and him, as they take the audience on an adventure in physical-comedy.  The two performers formed Compagnia Baccalà combining careers in circus and cabaret, which both shine through in Pss Pss.  Their mostly silent performance echos comedy greats like Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and even Lucille Ball, their clown-like faces able to express so much with just a raised eyebrow, or curl of the lips.  Where their facial expressions bring laughter, their physical acrobatics and gymnastics skills bring awe.

Like a circus show, Pss Pss is a series of set pieces combining all of their skills into a hilarious and breathtaking hour long performance.  While their acrobatics are awe-inspiring the moments that are perhaps the most risky are incorporating the audience.

photo: Pipo Gialluisi

As with any audience interaction the performer hopes their instincts are sharp and they choose an able and game player. On opening night the audience members really got into the spirit of the show and the man they singled out to bring onstage perfectly fit the bill, incorporating into their balancing act with ease.  Even though not part of the direct interaction, hearing the large number of children in the audience vocalize their wonder and amazement add an extra bit of joy to the experience.

Compagnia Baccalà’s Pss Pss is an hour of theatre that is sure to put a smile on your face, and a thrill in your heart.

The York Theatre plays host to Pss Pss until March 4, 2018. Visit thecultch.com for tickets and showtimes.

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.

BigMouth at The Cultch York Theatre

Until February 21st, The Cultch presents BigMouth a one-of-a-kind spoken word show at The York Theatre.

A hit at the famed Edinburgh Fringe Festival, BigMouth is directed and performed by Belgian writer/actor Valentijn Dhaenens the show appears to be a one man show but it has over two dozen voices.  BigMouth is a curated collection of 2500 years of memorable speeches. From the Grand Inquisitor to Ann Coulter, with Socrates, JFK, Ronald Reagan, Osama Bin Laden and more in between. When taken out of context and assembled together, it’s remarkable how similar some of the content of the oration becomes even though they were perhaps told years or great distances apart.

Between the clusters of speeches, songs and sounds, produced only by Valentijn’s own mouth, break the themes and periods with more unique pieces of verbal performances art.

BigMouth runs at The Cultch – The York Theatre, 639 Commercial Drive until February 21, 2016.  The performance runs 85 minutes, no intermission.