Pantomimes – or ‘pantos’ in hip lingo – are musical comedy’s intended for family entertainment, and no one rocks the Toronto panto scene better than Ross Petty and company.
Returning for its 19th year, Ross Petty Productions presents a wicked take on the classic fairy tale Cinderella, blending in modern music, comedy, in-your-face satire and many goofy improvisations. The production features a powerhouse cast, with Danielle Wade of CBC-TV’s Over The Rainbow fame stepping into Cinderella’s glass slippers. All the wonderful characters of the classic fairy tale can be spotted within the production, one way or another, from the evil step-mother (Ross Petty) to Cinderella’s prince charming (Jeff Lillico).
The beauty of panto’s are that they only create one major expectation for the audience: they should be fun. Without the fun, they are simply a bunch of actors doing random things. Lucky for us, Ross Petty & company are geniuses when it comes to making people laugh. However, the magic truly becomes epic when you get kids involved with the production. Pantos are designed for the whole family, often providing cues for the audience to provide their reaction or sing-a-long to a song. When you start hearing four year olds saying “don’t do it, she’s evil”, followed by “told you so” when the inevitable happens, you can’t help but just chuckle away. The theatre experience is usually constrained, not providing very many opportunities to express oneself. Pantos by Ross Petty Productions provide that crazy opportunity to just let loose.
Cinderella is a truly magical production. The set is vibrant and colourful, the costumes are just stunning, and the music selection jives with the storyline. What makes the show even more fun is the way the story is weaved together. Using effective transitions, random elements of comedy and audience interaction, the show is in a class of its own. In addition, the panto makes sure to honour the original story by keeping its major elements in check, even if they are rocked out, 20th century interpretations of them. It makes it easy for younger audiences to make the connection to the classic story, while still being positively shocked about all the randomness on stage.
The cast. What can I possibly say about the cast? Entertainment guru’s graced the stage for what were ridiculously brilliant performances. Danielle Wade brings her beautiful voice to the iconic title role, presenting us with a sincere and lovable character. Ross Petty returns to the stage with his ridiculous (in a good way!) wardrobe and epic interpretation of “evil”. Eddie Glen creates a character that you want to be best friends with, taking over scenes with his wit, snappy one-liners and awesome comebacks. Also, if you don’t love Dan Chameroy’s performance as Plumbum, you need to get yourself checked out by a doctor. Just saying. Every performer brings something totally different. I must also give a hats off to the other performers who tackle multiple different roles throughout the production. Not only are their performances solid, but they are an integral part of carrying the show forward, without whom the excitement would fall flat.
This article is more a reflection than a review. In fact, its not a review. It’s me telling you to go watch Cinderella. Pantomimes are an annual British tradition during the holidays, performed in every single city, town and county across the country. Canada doesn’t have a whole lot of pantomime productions, and Ross Petty’s shows are a rare chance for the whole family to enjoy a well crafted panto.
So, do yourself a favour: go watch it!
Happy Holidays folks!
Cinderella is playing at the Elgin Theatre until January 4th. For tickets, visit rosspetty.com/tickets