Fred Partridge photo Samantha Silver (left) plays the principal boy, young poet Pierre Bonhomme, in White Rock Players Club’s The Hunchback of Notre Panto.

Ensemble cast took roles ‘and ran with it’

White Rock pantomime mixes eras, blends comedy and pathos

First time panto director Alex Lowe says he “couldn’t be happier” with the way White Rock Players Club’s The Hunchback of Notre Panto – continuing at Coast Capital Theatre until Dec. 30 – worked out.

“The cast is really enjoying it and audiences are loving it,” the busy Vancouver stage and film actor said – adding that working on the show made a big time commitment and a lengthy commute worthwhile.

He also credits the help of choreographer Rachael Carlson, musical director Marquis Byrd and particularly co-director Anne-Marie Zak in bringing the musical – from a script by White Rock panto veteran Dave Baron – to life.

“I’ve performed in a few musicals, but Anne-Marie has a lot more experience in musical theatre – she’s the one who’s seen to making the musical numbers blend really well with the show,” he said.

He said he has enjoyed the challenge of breaking theatre’s usual fourth wall by having the actors interact with the audience.

“It’s a great opportunity to get the audience involved in the show, to call out, or have a character sit in their laps – and that’s been one of the most popular elements with people.”

Lowe said the most unusual pantomime includes all the larger-than-life fun of the Dame (Bryce Paul Mills) and Shenanigans the giraffe, but still retains a significant number of the touching, socially-conscious elements of Victor Hugo’s original novel.

That plays into one of his favourite directorial ideas, he said.

“I like to open people up to being vulnerable by making them laugh first,” he said. “Why shouldn’t there be an opportunity for people to learn something from a show like this?”

The old tale of the hunchbacked bell ringer of Notre Dame, manipulated for evil ends by his ‘protector’ in the cathedral, Cardinal Frollo, and suffering the pangs of unrequited love for the gypsy Esmeralda – whose people are subject to racial persecution – still holds a lot of relevance and pathos for modern audiences, he said.

One big change Lowe made to the original concept (and Baron’s script) was to update the action from the 1480s to the 1920s, he said.

“One of my favourite historical periods is Paris in the 1920s – there were so many interesting things happening in music and art – and it lends itself to providing more colour and more upbeat music,” he said.

“Dave gave me the creative license to do with it what I liked.”

One of the more memorable visual elements is a backdrop specially created for the show by artist Elizabeth Hollick, Lowe said.

“I wanted something that was an homage to Notre Dame cathedral itself – and she blew me away.”

Lowe said he is also very happy with a “phenomenal cast” headed by Ben Pilger as the title character (“I wanted a more sympathetic version – and what Ben brings to the table is a wonderful sense of fun,” Lowe said), with Kelly Thompson as a female Cardinal Frollo, Samantha Silver as principal boy Pierre and Juliana Peralta as Esmeralda all impressing him with their creative commitment and willingness to experiment.

Lowe said that while this one of the smallest casts ever for a White Rock panto – 16 people – he wanted a strong ensemble that was more involved in the action and playing multiple characters, rather than just going off stage and waiting to do their part.

“They just took that and ran with it,” he said.

Shows are at 7:30 p.m., with a 2:30 p.m. matinee on Boxing Day (Dec. 26).

For tickets ($22, $15 children 12 and under), call 604-536-7535, or visit whiterockplayers.ca

Just Posted

Four years for manslaughter in Surrey drive-by shooting

Mahdi Halane was rendered a quadriplegic until his death in hospital six years later at age 24.

Author at Surrey event glad to have book published ‘before reality totally overtakes fiction’

Ari Goelman, a business and criminology instructor, speaks at KPU Reads gathering Jan. 22

South Surrey overpass repairs to get underway in February

Schedule for Bailey bridge work also announced

White Rock cannabis and adult entertainment bylaws to move to public hearings

Council will seek input on potential of allowing contentious businesses in city limits

Cloverdale banker shares his love of swing dancing

Cloverdale’s Phillip Kunz shows dancing newcomers how to get into the swing of things

Simulated whale rescue on White Rock beach

Training endeavour aimed to ready crews for future strandings

Body discovered in burnt out car near Trail

Police report a body was found in the burnt out trunk of a 1999 Honda Civic

UPDATE: Friends mourn boy, 15, killed in Vancouver shooting

John Horgan: ‘No stone is to be left unturned until we find the perpetrator of this heinous crime’

VIDEO: B.C. Lions sign defensive back T.J. Lee to contract for upcoming season

The four-year veteran had a team-high four interceptions and 49 tackles last season with B.C.

How an immigrant to Canada helped Donald Trump prove his mental health

Test that cleared Trump was developed by doctor associated with McGill and Sherbrooke universities

Premier touches on multiple topics ahead of Asia trade trip

Housing and childcare are expected to be the focus of the BC NDP’s first budget in February.

VIDEO: Explorers uncover Canada’s deepest cave in Fernie

The cave, named Bisaro Anima, was confirmed to have broken the record on New Year’s Day

Vernon to host largest Special Olympics B.C. Winter Games in 2019

Games to be held Feb. 21-23, with more than 800 athletes expected to take part

Ex-BC Liberal staffer focused on ‘favourable’ ethnic communities in scandal: lawyer

Former communications director Brian Bonney’s sentencing hearing for breach of trust is underway

Most Read