White Rock Players Club’s Christmas pantomime The Magic Flute: The Panto (which runs to Dec. 23 at the Oceana PARC Playhouse) aims to bring back the family-friendly traditions of the ‘pantos’ of years past.
But with a difference – instead of such often-borrowed tales as Cinderella or Aladdin, the show is based, albeit loosely, on Mozart and librettist Shikaneder’s 1791 opera The Magic Flute.
Directed and written by seasoned panto performer and musical theatre aficionado Dianna Harvey, the show substitutes pop songs old and new – and some familiar musical theatre tunes – for most Mozart’s operatic score, but also includes some of Mozart’s original music, with a few new twists.
“I also kept some of the original jokes from Mozart and Schikaneder’s libretto as a bit of an homage because panto jokes are timeless,” Harvey told Peace Arch News.
Gala opening of the show, produced by Bridget Browning and Fred Partridge, is this Friday (Dec. 2) at 7:30 p.m. at the theatre, at 1532 Johnston Rd.
For the run of the show, performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., with Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m.
In Harvey’s version, clumsy and nervous principal boy Tam (played by Harriet Dykstra) is thrown into a surprising adventure with his lovelorn pal Poppi (Michael Kirk) after a mysterious encounter with a serpent.
Aided by the dame, his ‘Mama Dayus’ – say it three times, fast – (Mike Parker) and cat Buttons (Adrian Shaffer), Tam and Poppi cross paths with numerous unusual characters, including an enigmatic Queen (Rebecca Paulding), and mysterious – but lovable – King (Benjamin Wong)
Also on hand are a spooky giraffe (what else in a White Rock pantomime?), a feathered friend, Pippi (Emily Bosak), and a helpful fairy (Abrielle Dumansky).
Harvey’s version also differs from the original on another point: Tam’s counterpart Pam (principal girl Maia Dueck) is confident and courageous – and really doesn’t need rescuing.
“We did drop some of the darker themes from the original opera, and instead, gave our female characters strength, confidence, and agency over their own destiny,” Harvey commented.
Rounding out the cast are chorus members Daniele Methner, Vanessa Quarinto, Scott Kristjanson, and Gregory Jerome.
Toe-tapping songs are played live by musical director Kerry O’Donovan with spectacular dance numbers – choreographed by Ann Matterson – adding to the fun.
“It has really been a labour of love, and is coming along so well,” Harvey said, crediting set designer Robin Maggs and lead painter Elizabeth Hollick with helping the design achieve a whimsical feel, while incorporating some of the important symbols and imagery of the original.
She also cited “delightful props by Naomi Mitchell, beautiful lights designed by Richard Smith, and lovely sound effects by Demetrios Georgeadis” – plus a “diverse array” of onstage talent who have brought all the characters to life.
“I had no idea what a Panto was when I auditioned for Puss in Boots back in 2008,” Harvey recalled.
“We had just moved to South Surrey, and I thought getting involved in the local theatre would be a good way to meet people. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Panto incorporated some of my favourite things: singing and lowbrow humour.
“I had a great time, and have since been in five other pantos, and have been involved in many other productions, both on-stage and behind the scenes.”
She said she has received the help of her daughters in this, her first try at writing a panto.
“We had listened to a children’s CD version of The Magic Flute when my kids were little, so we already knew and loved the story,” she added.
“The script came together pretty quickly, as The Magic Flute already has many elements of a great fairy tale, and it was written as a “singspiel” which incorporates dialogue and singing, just like modern musicals and pantos.
“One of my favourite songs in the show is a parody of ‘Bei Mannern’, the most beloved aria from the original opera – we gave it a Panto spin, and it really is a lovely part of the show,” she said.
“And fans of WRPC pantos will be excited to know that the fan favourite ‘The Wonderful Year We Fell In Love’ will also be making an appearance, with lyrics specially written by Tom Saunders.”
A preview ($20 per ticket) is scheduled for Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets prices are $28 for adults, or $24 for seniors (60 and over) and youth (18 and under). For tickets and information, visit www.whiterockplayers.ca/buytickets, or call 604-536-7535 to purchase by phone.