Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Last Thursday night, my god-daughter and I bailed out of a taxi and joined the throng outside the Elgin Theatre, queuing up for the opening night of CINDERELLA - The Gags to Riches Musical.

I freely confess that I love pantomimes.  The venerable English Christmas tradition has a history going back to the Saturnalia pageants of the ancient Romans.  Ross Petty's 19th incarnation of his annual holiday production did not disappoint.

The show began with two Wayne's World types, Dwayne and Zane ( Panto stalwart Eddie Glen and fine panto writer, Reid Janisse, respectively)  who are wizards in training at a magic academy that bears a passing resemblance to Hogwarts.  The dudes steal their pompous Professor Yongenbloor's (Dan Chameroy, who re-appears as an utterly delightful Plumbum, the Fairy Godmother) magic wand and use it to transform the old French fairytale of Cinderella into a pop musical, set in present-day Toronto.

Singing, dancing, satire, sight gags, double entendres, loud booing of villains and all manner of merry mayhem ensues.

A put-upon Cinderella (Danielle Wade) struggles to save her organic market from the clutches of Revolta Bulldoza ( Ross Petty), her evil stepmother, and her awful step-sisters, Nastine ( Bryn McAuley) and Shakiki (Cleopatra Williams).

Petty shoe-horns on the Spanx, and coats himself with the contents of an entire MAC counter to concoct a deliciously nasty Wicked Stepmother.  He delivered some of the best lines - scripted, and otherwise - of the night. Revolta's offspring, Williams and McAuley channel a combo-platter of  Kardashian and Jersey Shore to create their  fun-to-watch Mean Girls. 

Meanwhile, on the other side of town, a handsome and successful Prince of Pop (Jeff Lillico) is stalked by groupies, but seeks a significant other who shares his love of healthy organic food.  A reality television ball on the CBC gives him a chance to find a girl  he can  give a rose to.   Lillico is perfectly cast as a soulful, singing and dancing Prince.

Danielle Wade makes a lovely Cinderella. With the help of her dear friend Buttons, (panto stalwart and charmer, Eddie Glen) some garden gnomes, and a fabulously unbalanced Fairy Godmother, good triumphs over Evil, and Cinderella gets her fella - and a ride to the ball in a show-stopper of a horse-drawn carriage.  My young charge and I gasped in delight when it appeared, as did the rest of the audience.

This is a stylish production, with a well-crafted and funny script, solidly directed by Tracey Flye.  There's more than enough satire to keep this fairy tale out of saccharine territory . Bob Foster keeps the musical numbers going at an energetic clip. Michael Gianfrancesco designed some lovely costumes and makes clever use of projections to create an appealing and uncluttered set. Both the cast and the audience had a lot of fun during the proceedings.

If you've never made a panto part of your holiday tradition, this is an absolutely excellent way to waste some time and money with young people you love during this festive season.

My god-daughter was still talking about the show a week later.  And we both got a pony for Christmas - without having to try and convince her parents to let us turn their garage into a barn!  Have an ice-cream in the interval, and go look at the mechanical windows at the Bay and the lights at City Hall after the show. Holiday magic in the city doesn't get much better than this.

Cinderella at the Elgin Theatre continues until January 4th 2015