New twist on a classic fairy tale

Baron Stoneybroke (Vance McFaddyen) shares a moment of maritial bliss with his dear wife Grimelda (Jacqueline Becher). - Contributed photo
Baron Stoneybroke (Vance McFaddyen) shares a moment of maritial bliss with his dear wife Grimelda (Jacqueline Becher).
— image credit: Contributed photo

While most people are familiar with the rags-to-riches saga of Cinderella – whether it be from childhood bedtime stories or courtesy of Disney – Royal Canadian Theatre Company’s upcoming stage production of the fairy tale won’t likely be as you remember it.

This version is done in traditional British pantomime style, led by renowned “Queen of Panto,” Ellie King. So, true to the theatrical form, there will not only be plenty of corny jokes and slapstick comedy, but men will play women and and women will play men and certain liberties have been taken with the plot.

The role of Prince Charming, for example, is filled by a female (Mandy Tulloch) as is that of Cinderella (Leslie DeSchutter), adding an edge to their inevitable romance. And the ugly stepsisters, Atrocia and Deplorabelle, are played by red-wigged dames Allan Kipling and Michael Charrois.

This is the first show for the fledgling Langley-based theatre company. The group, which got rolling earlier this year, chose to play it safe, choosing a tried-and-true script for its premiere production.

“In the world of pantomime, there are some blockbusters that will always grab people’s attention,” said King, who staged Cinderella in Surrey a decade ago.

“Nothing’s sure in theatre, but for the first time out for a new company, you want to be as careful as you can. “Cinderella is everything you would ever want in a panto.”

King virtually grew up on stage, learning the 400-year-old artform as a child in England.

“It’s hugely, hugely popular in Britain. It’s really spread,” she said of pantomimes, which are almost always presented around Christmas time. “It’s actually got a very respectable pedigree.

“Everyone says ‘you have a man in a dress’ – well, so does Shakespeare.

“It’s not a drag act. It’s a man in a dress,” she said, noting one of her actors has a beard, which she would never ask him to shave.

The Cinderella shows, which come to the Bell Performing Arts Centre beginning Dec. 21, will also serve as fundraisers for charitable organizations, including the Surrey Food Bank, Surrey Christmas Bureau, Childcare Worldwide, and Senior Support Services.

The opening gala on Dec. 22 will benefit the Surrey Foundation and Santa will be on-hand not to give, but to receive food and gifts for the less-fortunate.

“One of our big roles as we grow is to partner with other organizations in Surrey,” said King. “If they’re a charitable organization and are interested in working with us, we’d love to hear from them.”

As is often the case with community pantomime productions, Cinderella’s adapted script pokes fun at local, provincial and federal issues and politics, as well as the American leader and contemporary topics such as online dating.

“We hit stuff that resonates with people. The humour has to appeal to the whole family. You don’t make off-colour jokes.”

Besides the rhyming Fairy Godmother (played by Kerrie North), King has also invented a cat character named Pushkin (Chantal Elizabeth Gagnon) as Cinderella’s friend – adding to the requisite elements of the fast-moving, gender-twisting tradition.

Another must in a pantomime? There’s always a happy ending.

“And if you do it right, it’s always a triumph of good over evil.”

Cinderella will be at the Bell Performing Arts Centre, 6250 144 St., from Dec. 21 to Jan 5, with 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. shows.

Tickets are $22 for adults, $18 for seniors and students and $14 for kids 10 and under. Phone 604-507-6355 to reserve.

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