Review: CINDERELLA, A Merry Magical Pantomime

by Lynn on December 22, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 1/42, 243 Coxwell Ave., Toronto, Ont.

Written and directed by Rob Torr

Choreographed by Stephanie Graham

Step Dance Choreography by Brittany Banks

Set by Rob Torr

Lighting by Joe Pagnan

Musical direction by Giustin MacLean

Percussion by Chris Sutherland.

Cast: Brittany Banks

Gaelan Beatty

Greg Campbell

Stuart Dowling

JJ Gerber

Erin Keaney

Ryan A Roberson

Shawn Wright

Something weird and wonderful is happening at Coxwell and Gerrard St. E;  it’s a Pantomime of Cinderella and it’s glorious.

 A Note of Explanation. Director-writer-producer Rob Torr and his equally talented choreographer-producer wife, Stephanie Graham, comprise Torrent Productions. They produce an annual holiday pantomime for their neighbourhood and community in the east end of Toronto. Mr. Torr also tears the tickets when you go into the theatre and the lovely Stephanie Graham works the box office as well. I don’t know if they also bake cookies for intermission but I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

Their aim is to bring the community together, to reach across generations and to do it by producing new musicals mainly in the form of these wacky pantomimes. It must be working. The place was packed with families, children, adults etc.

This is the third year they have produced a panto. My discerning friends have raved about these shows since the beginning. This is my first visit. I am so embarrassed it’s taken me so long to venture that far east to see something as wonderfully silly, beautifully done and joyous as Cinderella –A Merry Magical Pantomime. I promise this lapse will never happen again.

This is a bare-bones-cardboard-set-no-glitz-and-glittery-dazzling-stuff like “other” pantomimes you might have seen. But there is nothing chintzy about this production.  This is true to the form of panto, and for our purposes involves: a winning heroine, a dashing suitor, charming helpers, a sweet but clumsy Fairy, silly sisters who are make-up challenged and a villain to boo, loudly and often.

Rob Torr tells us the rules: turn off all those things that distract, blink, light up, ring, buzz, and take pictures; boo the villain as loudly as possible or he will complain we are wimping out on our responsibilities, stop booing on cue, answer back when instructed, and I guess, even when we aren’t.

The Story. The prince is missing. His valet, Dandini (JJ Gerber), doesn’t seem to have noticed. Dandini is going about the kingdom to announce that the prince will throw a ball in two days to pick his bride. The Villain (Villiain?) (Shawn Wright) seems to know about the disappearance and you know he’s up to no good. A charming, always smiling young man seems to have lost his memory or any idea of who he is and since he’s wearing a uniform with a lot of buttons we call him Buttons (Gaelan Beatty). The lovely and always cheerful Cinderella (Brittany Banks) is the daughter of Baron Hardup (Greg Campbell). She is relegated to drudge work as she cleans and takes care of her two step-sisters called Ivannta and Ineeda (Ineeta?) listed collectively in the program as ‘The Silly Sisters, (Stuart Dowling and Ryan A. Rogerson). There is also a direction-challenged, and language compromised Fairy (Erin Keaney) whose wand always needs charging, but she comes through when it counts.

The Production. It’s hugely entertaining, silly, joyous, clever and irreverent and engages every single person—I know I’m being bold here assuming everyone is engaged, but that’s how I see it. There are jokes, puns and double entendres so deeply inside an adult’s understanding I doubt a kid would get the risqué meaning.

Brittany Banks is so engaging and endearing as Cinderella your heart melts, and she step-dances like a demon!!! Gaelan Beatty as Buttons has a smile so bright and is so charming and accommodating that anyone would love him, even puppies. Giving them all competition in the white-teeth-smile is the agile JJ Gerber as Dandini, always at the ready to do ones bidding. (I want to know what kind of toothpaste they use!!) Greg Campbell as Baron Hardup is so non-plussed, so unflappable you feel safe that no one puts one over on him. Erin Keaney thinks fast on her sneakers as the Fairy and nothing phases her even the malaprops in her dialogue. Stuart Dowling and Ryan A. Rogerson as the Silly Sisters are so outrageous, so funny, so impish I took notes on their make-up and sartorial choices for future use. And Shawn Wright plays the Villian??? Villain?? with such gusto, such malevolent relish and mustard and ketchup you just want to boo him forever.

Rob Torr’s script is just loaded with laughs and even instructive information. Even the subtle plugs for the neighbourhood businesses are clever.  There is a skit about borrowing and lending money, in this case, 50 cents, that would impress even Bernie Madoff.

Why are some characters so deaf? You want to help them by yelling “He’s behind you!!!” and what do we get? We get a deaf character who says, “What? I can’t hear you!” People in Hamilton can hear us yell, “HE’S BEHIND YOU!!!!” and yet characters on that stage, not 10 feet away from us, can’t hear. And by the time they turn around, the person, ghost, villain, villian is gone. So frustrating.

The whole mad-cap evening ends with a rousing song involving among other things rolls of toilet paper and rubber chickens. Life is full. Be good to yourselves, see this.

Torrent Productions Presents:

Opened: Dec. 21, 2018.

Closes: Dec. 30, 2018.

Running Time: 2 hours and a bit.

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