White Rock Players’ Club’s 2013 Christmas pantomime, Rumpelstiltskin, offers talented actors, singers and dancers, cute kids and snazzy ’60s-style sets (by Andrea Olund) and costumes (by Heather Maximea).
Undemanding audiences seeking family-friendly fun over the holiday season will be treated to the requisite chuckles and smiles the venerable club has been dishing up, panto-style, for close to 60 years – and director Susanne de Pencier has kept it all within a considerate two-hour span (not counting intermission).
Dave Baron’s script, sadly, is not up to the high standard he achieved with last year’s Pinocchio. Where that gave us characters to care about, a moral dilemma, genuine pathos and plot motivation that allowed the goofy comedy and silliness to flower, his Rumpelstiltskin makes only tentative stabs in these directions.
Although de Pencier and her hard-working cast give their best efforts to maximize the fun quotient, there are inherent draggy and repetitive spots in the book that hamper any forward motion. The James Bond theme remains largely unexploited, outside of a plethora of punning references to 007 movie titles.
Bravo to Hunter Golden for a truly bravura turn as the evil goblin, Rumpelstiltskin – his commanding voice and presence make him a most effective boogie-man, and his number Food, Glorious Food, as sung menacingly to the children’s chorus, is a genuinely funny moment.
Kudos, too, to the irrepressible Jennifer Tiles as Rocky Raccoon and the bubbly Elyse Raible as Jack Russell, two wonderfully cartoonish animal characters who inject life into the proceedings whenever they appear (their costuming and makeup is splendid too).
MacKenzie Claus as principal girl Penny Money and Kirstin Stewart as principal boy Jimmy Bond are expressive young players of undoubted promise – and they sing nicely, too – although they are underserved by the script.
The same thinness of material also limits Bryce Mills, who nonetheless proves (again) that he has all the extrovert qualities necessary for a ludicrous Dame – although his memorable Goldringer (Goldfinger) number is thrown away far too early in the proceedings, and unaccountably misses the potential for interaction with its subject, evil Squire Goldringer (Ray Van Ieperen).
Van Ieperen – a favourite comic of this and many a White Rock panto past – seems as confused as the audience by the now-I’m-bad-now-I’m-not weaknesses of the plot, and his trademark schtick seems somewhat muted in consequence, although he makes the best of a burlesque belly dance number with Mills and Ines Quiroga.
Nigel Watkinson is well cast as the boffin Q – the one truly Bondian character in the proceedings – once again demonstrating he is a valuable member of White Rock’s panto team. Ryan Elliott as Penny’s father Miller Money provides a typically good-natured touch in an unchallenging role.
Krystle Hadlow is effective as apprentice witch Belladonna, kept in line by the other witches, maternal Marguerita (Dianna Harvey) and the mature Grisabella (Patte Rust). But while they’re all appealing players, one might wish that some of their extended exchanges had been tightened up by the judicious use of a blue pencil.
Panto giraffe Shenanigans is back, bigger and better than ever; Tom Saunders’ Wonderful Year lyrics are clever as usual and pianist Shelley Eckstein, a newcomer, does a good job of shouldering her musical-accompaniment role solo.
Chorus members both young and old do their best to provide that enthusiastic, neighbourly touch that has always been an endearing element of the White Rock pantos.
Rumpelstiltskin continues at Coast Capital Playhouse until Dec. 28. Tickets are available through the box office (604-536-7535) or visit www.whiterockplayers.ca