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vancouverplays review


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— Production photo

by Charles Demers
The Cultch & Theatre Replacement
York Theatre, 639 Commercial Dr.
Dec. 2-28
From $19 or 604-251-1363

Tired of football games, shopping malls and Facebook? How about some live theatre you can share with the whole family. Here are a couple of entertaining all-ages shows that’ll make you laugh or break your heart, let you boo and sing along and bounce a giant peach and learn something about evil step-relatives, assertive kids and ecology.

Cinderella: An East Van Panto is a goofy mash-up of fairy tale, local reference, traditional panto crossdressing and audience participation (boo the villains, cheer the heroes, yell “look behind you!” etc.). Theatre Replacement and The Cultch return to the York Theatre with the same formula that made last year’s Jack & the Beanstalk panto such a hit.

Charles Demers (writer), Amiel Gladstone (director) and ingenious Veda Hille (musical director and performer) are all back, with panto-hammy actors Dawn Petten and the inimitable Allan Zinyk leading a delightful cast in front of Laura Zerebeski’s extraordinary painted East Van backdrops.

Ella (Donna Soares) shares her Fraser Street home with her wicked step-mom (Zinyk, doing drag-for-kids better than any actor in town) and her bearded, tattooed “step-hipsters” (Josh Drebit & James Long). Ella stands up to their bullying, and with the help of animal friends Crow, Feral Cat, Rat and a bunch of cute kiddy mice she makes her way to the ball thrown by Donald Trump—oops, Ronald Grump (Zinyk, appropriately bewigged)—where she meets and, of course, wins handsome Prince Grumpy (Petten, smooth and hilarious), who fits Ella’s foot into the glass slipper.

Earlier, a drag Beyonce and her back-ups sing, “If you liked it, then you shoulda put a slipper on it.”

For the grown-ups, Vancouver is comically mapped with references to yoga and food trucks, Bob Rennie, bike lanes, craft beer, the Waldorf and more. Ella rides home from the ball on a skytrain that turns into a pumpkin (lots of jokes there) and Long appears in a clever turn as her BC Ferry Godmother. David Suzuki makes an appearance (Zinyk again), there’s a pipeline protest and an oil spill. The oilman’s argument: “If Canada is going to become an energy superpower, we’re going to have to put some pipelines through some plays.”

The eight-year-old girls in front of me are singing along to Katy Perry and Taylor Swift (a booty-free version of “Shake It Off” is a highlight). Among the few in the audience old enough to catch the reference to the Luv Affair, I’m grooving to Doug and the Slugs and a delicious parody of Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U.” Everyone is enjoying hissing and cheering and Zinyk’s ability to make a vacuum cleaner play a harmonica. A wonderful East Van time is had by all.

At the Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island a different kind of Cinderella story plays itself out in Carousel’s James & the Giant Peach, a musical adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic directed by Carole Higgins. … (See review.)

Take your kids to live theatre this Christmas season. They’ll think you’re peachy.

Jerry Wasserman


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