December is typically a month when Ellie King is in a mad scramble to stage her latest panto for audiences in Surrey and elsewhere.
But not this year.
With the pandemic putting an end to such in-person gatherings, the managing artistic director of Surrey-based Royal Canadian Theatre Company is among many who have shifted to an online platform for performances.
In King’s case, she’s unearthed a 2016 production of the panto “Beauty and the Beast” for by-donation viewing on the company’s website, to be followed by the streaming of “Sleeping Beauty” in early January. Look for dates and more details at facebook.com/rctheatreco.
The 90-minute version of “Beauty and the Beast,” written and directed by King, played Surrey Arts Centre four years ago, around the time RCTC was planning to move into its Whalley-area studio, at 10660 City Parkway. Rehearsals for the show, involving close to three dozen actors, took place in storefront space at Guildford Town Centre.
Fast-forward to 2020 and that panto represents the good ol’ days for Royal Canadian, which has been in limbo this year due to COVID-19.
Typically, the company’s free youth-mentorship program culminates in participants getting involved in its traditional British panto.
But again, not this year.
“RCTC has had to cancel just about all of our 2020/2021 season, although we are hoping to bring you our spring show in 2021,” King told fans of the theatre company. “We miss all our panto peeps, especially our Youth Mentorship participants, and sadly we aren’t able to present our annual Relaxed Performance for those with intellectual and other challenges.
“But don’t worry, live panto should be back in 2021 (Covid willing!) with ‘Alice in Wonderland,’” King added. “See you this time next year!”
A Langley resident, King recently celebrated 30 years of writing and directing panto shows in the Vancouver area, and has continued the tradition with Royal Canadian Theatre Company since it was established in 2006.
For those not in the know, a pantomime (or panto) is a type of musical comedy that puts a twist on an original fairytale or other story, and is usually performed around Christmastime. Goofy jokes and visual gags are part of the family-friendly fun.
“Nothing says ‘holiday season’ quite like a good, old-fashioned panto,” says King, who credits Crystal Weltzin for all the work to put the panto videos on the web. “She’s a wonderful young woman,” King added.
For viewing online, she suggests audiences eat mince pies and drink eggnog.
In the first of RCTC’s two video shows, will the lovely Beauty escape the clutches of the horrid Beast? Is the Beast really that bad? What about Herr Hanz and Herr Footz? And is Augustus Schwackenhammer really his name?
“Good and evil continue their never-ending battle and along the way we laugh, sing along, ooh and aah and have a whole lot of fun,” King says.