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Mixed-up Mother Goose
The White Rock Players Club’s annual pantomime is back this holiday season with a twisted take on achildhood favourite, Mother Goose.
Playwrights The Brothers Dimm – a.k.a. Tom Saunders, Fred Partridge, Mike Roberds and Jason Dedrick – are reprising their 1997 script, Goose: The Mother Of All Pantos, for a third outing starting this month at Coast Capital Playhouse.
The show – produced by Partridge and Lou Tardif – will be similar to the one from 14 years ago, but there have been updates made to ensure the jokes are topical and the references are relevant, Roberds said in an uproarious interview joined by his fellow scribblers in the Peace Arch News boardroom.
Panto fans returning to see the updated show – directed by Dave Baron – will be able to see a familiar scene with the traumatic hostage-taking of Mother Goose (played this time out by Nigel Watkinson).
“(She) gets kidnapped by a publishing giant and is held hostage in Vegas,” Roberds said.
It is up to nursery-rhyme favourites, Jack and Jill, to embark on a journey to bring her back.
The music, which Saunders and Dedrick wrote, has also received an update. The pair worked to pen lyrics that would ensure a smooth journey for the audience throughout the story.
“The lyrics push the story along, explain a little bit and place the setting for whatever is going on,” Saunders said.
“Plus, they’re fun. Well, at least we try to make them fun for the people watching the pantos.”
For those who are new to the genre – not to mention White Rock’s unique spin on it – pantomime is a popular form of theatre with roots that date back as far as ancient Greece.
The story is usually based on nursery rhymes and fairy tales, but with a twist. Audience members are encouraged to “boo” the bad guys and cheer for the hero, in Goose’s case, Jack (played by Michelle Gatez).
The leading male, also referred to as ‘principal boy’, is traditionally played by a young woman, while the older female character, known as a ‘dame’, is played by the show’s main comedian, usually a man, in drag.
White Rock’s first dame was legendary Players Club guru Franklin Johnson, who began the organization’s panto tradition in 1954, and later passed on the wig, rouge and over-the-top wardrobe of the dame to such famous local exponents as Scott Wheeler and Marc Bourrel.
Comedy is always a big factor in panto, and devotees know that, while children in the audience will certainly enjoy the elaborate costumes and audience participation, adults will also get a guffaw from double entendres cleverly woven in to the script.
Another traditional facet of the pantomime is an animal, usually played by two actors in costume.
In keeping with the Brothers Dimm’s penchant for parody, Goose’s panto animal is a giraffe named Shenanigans.
The long-necked beast – which even has its own introductory song – quickly established itself as an audience favourite with the original production of Goose, and has since become a staple of other White Rock pantos.
Traditionalists may note the usual panto animal is a horse or a cow, but the Brothers Dimm are loyal to their somewhat impractical (for whoever wears the costume, at least) choice.
“A giraffe is better anyways,” Saunders said, trying to sound convincing.
It’s another case in which the White Rock show, while it generally sticks to the traditions enshrined in panto, occasionally strays from the path, which can miff some diehard fans.
“We do get some mixed reaction with our take,” Roberds admitted. “Traditionalists have their views and other people enjoy our sort of ironic take.”
But for the four “brothers” the decision to do panto isn’t to win awards and accolades. In fact, their reasoning behind the whole production is quite simple.
“We really only do it because it’s fun and a lot of people get enjoyment out of it each year,” Saunders said. “It brings the whole community together, and that’s the best part.”
Mother Goose runs from Nov. 26 to Dec. 26 (select dates) at Coast Capital Playhouse, 1532 Johnston Rd.
For more information go to www.whiterockplayers.ca or call 604-536-7535.