The holiday tradition continues as Theatre Replacement and The Cultch bring the 11th Annual East Van Panto to the stage! Beauty & The Beast plays at The York Theatre until January 7, 2024.
Lead by playwrights Jivesh Parasram and Christine Quintara, and directed by Anita Rochon the East Van Panto creative team has created a wonderful world filled with East Van references and wacky characters. No spoilers – humour abounds as two very iconic locations are skewered, and the east / west personality of the City is roasted. Fewer are the political digs, though not gone completely, as the Panto aims to remind audiences to open their minds and that it’s ok to have opinions but also ok to change them, too.
In this small, provincial town we find our brilliant, bookish Belle (Steffanie Davis), a student aiming to find a place at UBC with a goal of bettering her shared community filled with artists, produce vendors and skunks. Conversely, The Beast (Jason Sakaki) is a spoiled, selfish visitor from West Van, loathed to any collective betterment of the world around him. As told in the tale as old as time, when the young man fails to help an Enchantress (Theatre Replacement’s Artistic Director, Maiko Yamamoto) in need, revealing his selfish nature, she transforms him…and, inadvertently, those around him. The curse can only be broken if he can open his mind to friendship before the last sakura – cherry blossom falls. Will it happen in time? Will Belle & The Beast find common ground? Will the community open the unflippable mind of our visitor from the West? East Van Panto keeps us on the edge of our seats in anticipation and in stitches of laughter. If laughter is the best medicine, East Van Panto is a perfect vaccine to the divisive world around us, uniting us in ridiculous hilarity.
Davis and Sakaki have great chemistry with a contagious aura of joy that filters throughout the theatre. The new and returning Panto cast also includes March Chavez, Munish Sharma, in multiple roles, along with Studio 58 students; Emma Abbott, L Danger, and Hikari Terasawa. The ever adorable and scene-stealing Panto Kids also return to entice many an “aw” from the audience. No East Van Panto would be complete without the brilliant work of Composer / Musical Director Veda Hille, who performs keys on stage, alternating nights with Michelle Cuttler, and June Mirochnick on percussion. This year, Hille once again brilliantly advances the story with twists on pop songs like Miley Cyrus’ Flowers, Kylie Minogue’s Padam Padam, Sam Smith’s Unhole and so many more wonderful surprises. Listen carefully for the hilarious new lyrics and to see how many tunes you can catch!
Before the last cherry blossom drops, run to catch East Van Panto-Beauty and the Beast at The York Theatre until January 7, 2024. Showtimes, details and tickets on sale at thecultch.com