(Posted Dec. 18, 2007)
‘Sleeping Beauty’ panto pure
By Fred Sherwin
East End Theatre company’s latest pantomime production
“Sleeping Beauty” wrapped up a three day stint at the
Orléans Theatre on Sunday before an audience of
60 souls who bravely managed to weather the worst snowstorm
in 30 years to be there.
people who did manage to make it to the theatre were treated
to a traditional English panto with all the standard elements
audience participation, puns, double entendre and, of
course, a dastardly villain.
as a popular art form dates back to Victorian England
where it was a served as a diversion from the drudgery
of daily life, especially around Christmas when pantos
are traditionally performed.
of the more famous pantos are “Cinderella”, “Aladdin”
and “Jack and the Beanstalk”.
Beauty” is East End Theatre’s sixth pantomime following
on the heels of last year’s highly popular production
of “Dick Whittington and His Cat”. Director Diane Barnett
chose the Norman Robbins version of the famous fairy tale.
is one of the most popular panto playwrights in England
as well as one of the most prolific.
play itself centres around the princess Aurora who has
a curse placed on her during her christening party by
a wicked fairy named Carabosse. Carabosse wasn’t on the
guest list so she cast a spell that on Aurora’s 16th birthday
she would prick her finger on a spinning wheel spindle
the good fairy Azuriel, played by East End Theatre veteran
Sally Osbourne, is able to cast a counter spell so that
Aurora will only fall into a deep sleep and stay that
way for 100 years until she’s kissed by a handsome prince.
pantomime version of the fairy tale differs from the other
versions out there in that the audience is introduced
to Prince Valiant in Act 1 rather than Act 2.
to any pantomime are the dame, who is usually played by
a man in drag, and the audience prompter who acts as a
sort of go between with the audience.
the East End Theatre version of “Sleeping Beauty”, Kevin
Rockel filled out the role of Dame Amonia Goodbody in
more ways than one. The exceptionally tall actor towered
over the rest of the cast and had an extremely high pitched
voice which reminded me of the female characters in Monty
Python’s Flying Circus.
opposite Rockel’s Dame was Nick St. Francois, who played
Tickles the Jester, Dame Goodbody’s reluctant “love” interest.
St. Francois kept the crowd involved and his high energy
performance kept everything on pace.
villain Carabosse was aptly played by Debra Boileau who
was just plain nasty, not to mention a touch psychotic
especially when she started threatening to kill everyone
in Entertania along with the princess, who was played
by Orleans Young Players alumnus Sarah Benfield who is
arguably the hardest working actress in Orléans.
This is her third production in the last two months and
fourth since she played Cindy in the East End Theatre
production of “The Roof Top Guy” and “The Three Hole Punch”
an effort to thwart Carabosse, Aurora’s parents King Cedric
and Queen Semolina, played by Ron Kok and Lili Miller
order all the spinning wheels in the kingdom destroyed.
But their efforts go for not when Carabosse shows up with
her own spinning wheel and tricks Aurora into pricking
her finger and falling asleep.
order to break the spell Tickles and Dame Goodbody volunteer
to go into the future and find Prince Valiant who Aurora
had briefly met and fallen in love with before she pricked
her finger. While they’re gone, Azuriel casts a spell
so that the rest of the kingdom will fall asleep until
Tickles and Dame Goodbody return.
the end Carabosse is killed by Prince Valiant, played
by Elizabeth Fiander, who kisses Aurora to break the spell
and everyone lives happily ever after.
should be noted that the principle boy in pantos is traditionally
played by a girl, usually wearing high heels and fish
all traditional pantos, “Sleeping Beauty” is riddled with
racy humour and local references to things like the Senate,
Ottawa City Council and Larry O’Brien. At one point Dame
Goodbody asks Tickles if he’s ever hunted bear, to which
Tickles replies “No, but I’ve hunted in my underwear”.
was also songs galore, dancing, and plenty of chances
to boo, hiss, cheer and shout. Audience participation
is not only encouraged in panto, it’s an integral part
of the whole experience.
of the more memorable numbers were Dame Goodbody’s rendition
of “Seven Day Fool” by Julie Black; “For Once in my Life”
and “I’m a Believer” sung by Prince Valiant and Valiant
and Aurora’s duet “It Had to be You”.
out the cast of principle players was Marc Barette as
the Lord Chamberlain Fuspot; and Jeannette Smith and Cheryl
Tofflemire as the royal heralds Dim and Wit.
East End Theatre panto would be complete without the contribution
of the childrens’ chorus which this year was made up of
Camille, Colton and Calissa Daly, Kristen and Graham Mainwood,
Miranda and Danica Tofflemire, Sarah and Marlie Fitzpatrick,
Sarah Conway, Sarah Izzard, Emily Naismith and Tara Miller.
are also unique in that the musical accompaniment is usually
live and once again Pat Messier and Troy Tofflemire did
year, the theatre company plans to tackle another Norman
Robbins’ panto when they present the fairy tale “Humpty
story was made possible thanks to their generous support
of our local business partners.)
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