Pun & games for kids of all ages, with hilarious panto good times, in RaPUNzel

 

Amelia Welcher as RaPUNzel (top) and Kristen Foote as Bunny (bottom)—photo by Burke Campbell

 

Red Sandcastle Theatre’s Panto Players are back at it again with more pantomime shenanigans in RaPUNzel, written by Jane A. Shields and Rosemary Doyle, and directed by Jackie English. RaPUNzel marks the company’s 7th annual holiday panto.

This time, the Panto Players take us to Italy in this delightful mashup of beloved fairy tales, pop music and musical theatre tunes as they deliver familiar stories and characters with some goofy—at times surprising—twists. A very pregnant Twankey’s (Chris Gibbs) cravings coax her husband (Farid Yazdani) to pilfer neighbouring ogre Monsanto’s (Taran Beaty) garden for lettuce. His mission becomes compromised and he’s caught in the act, forcing the expecting couple to make a terrible choice. Their thievery comes at a price: they must hand their baby over to the ogre!

Sixteen years later, and having held out on her end of the deal and lost her husband, the Widow Twankey gives in and the ogre gets her daughter RaPUNzel (Amelia Welcher), and locks her in an impenetrable, magically protected tower. Luckily, RaPUNzel’s nimble-footed bff hare friend Bunny (Kristen Foote) is able to get in and out of the tower, and provide our heroine with some company as they try to figure out how to get her out of there. Meanwhile, RaPUNzel’s hair is getting super long—and we wonder if the ogre is as naughty as he wants everyone to believe; after all, his faithful sidekick is a Chicken (Sebastian Marziali). And is Twankey as nice as she appears?

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Chris Gibbs as Widow Twankey, with Co-writer/AD Rosemary Doyle in the background—photo by Burke Campbell

Enter the handsome, though somewhat dim, Prince (Yazdani). Will he be able to free RaPUNzel from her tower prison? To add to the fun, director English returns as our favourite sassy pink cat, who first arrives on sabbatical, but comes on board to assist as only this cat can. And co-writer Doyle appears as the set-changing, noise-shushing Nonna,* a sweet old granny who suffers no fools.

It’s all very wacky and pun-filled—and we’re all invited to join in the fun. Gibbs gives a diabolically silly turn as the vain and manipulative Twankey; and Yazdani does an awesome Don Corleone impression as her husband, as well as a comedic, scene-stealing turn as the dim-witted yet determined Prince. Beaty is hilariously conflicted as the ogre Monsanto; holding RaPUNzel captive for “reasons,” the ogre’s love and care of his garden makes you wonder how bad to the bone he really is—and he brings some kick-ass guitar and vocals to that George Thorogood classic in the process.

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Taran Beaty as the ogre Monsanto, with Sebastian Marziali as Chicken (left), Chris Gibbs as Twankey (background) & Amelia Welcher as RaPUNzel (right)—photo by Burke Campbell

 

Welcher is adorably precocious as the feisty punster RaPUNzel; and impresses with great vocal chops on a Pink power ballad. Foote and Marziali give hilarious turns in multiple roles, starting with a pair of mobsters and a couple of dancing lettuce. Foote is hysterical and educational as RaPUNzel’s bff hare pal Bunny, schooling us on the differences between the hare and the rabbit. And Marziali brings cute and wacky fun as Monsanto’s right-hand man Chicken, providing comic observations and cheeky advice.

We’re invited—and encouraged—to cheer the heroes and boo the villain, and sing and groove along with the pop tunes, rap and musical theatre songs. And a few lucky young audience members will have a chance to get in on the action.

With big shouts to stage manager Deborah Ann Frankel, who’s been with this wild and wacky ride from the beginning; running all the lighting and sound cues, and shepherding the cast.

Pun and games for kids of all ages, with hilarious panto good times, in RaPUNzel.

RaPUNzel continues at Red Sandcastle until January 7, with evening performances at 7pm on December 29 and 30, and January 2-6; and matinees at 3pm on December 28 and 30, and January 3, 6 and 7. Get your advance tickets online (see the date-specific ticket links on the show page) or by calling 416-845-9411.

*As of December 28, Nonna will be played by Panto Players veteran Brenda Somers.

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Fabulous time as Panto Players milk the big panto fun in Jacques & the Bean Stock Market

Jacques-and-the-Bean-StockMarket2.3-longRed Sandcastle Theatre’s Panto Players opened their 5th annual holiday panto last week with a three-day pre-holiday run of Jacques and the Bean Stock Market, returning to the stage on Dec 26.

Written by Jane A. Shields and Rosemary Doyle, and directed by Jackie English, The Panto Players take us on a wild and wacky ride, with twists and turns, corny fun comedy bits, young audience participation, and music and dance breaks featuring re-worked pop favourites.

A retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk, with a local modern-day twist, Jacques (Michael Postumus) is saddened when his mother Widow Twankey (Robert Keller) decides to sell the beloved family cow Buttons (Victor Pokinko), who’s producing some strange, undrinkable milk. Meanwhile, evil broker Ronald Bump (Taran Beaty), his business partner Harpy Golden (Matthew Donovan) and lawyer the Cheshire Cat (English) scheme to get Twankey to sell them her cottage property so they can build their next condo project. Add to that mix some Irish river dancing/Mexican jumping beans (Kristen Foote and Doyle, the two multi-tasking actors in this production) and you have hilarious good times, with a fun twist or two.

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Top (l to r): Michael Postumus, Robert Keller, Matthew Donovan, Victor Pokinko & Taran Beaty  Bottom (l to r): Rosemary Doyle, Jackie English & Kristen Foote – in Jacques & the Bean Stock Market – photo by Burke Campbell

Jacques and the Bean Stock Market features a delightful, hard-working cast – with several familiar faces from pantos past. Perennial favourites Beaty and English are back, with Beaty putting the “I” in “Evil” as the notorious bad guy Ronald Bump, the consummate money-grubbing, grasping corporate bad guy; and English returning as everyone’s favourite pink cat, but the wily, cocky feline has gone over to the dark side this year as Bump’s scheming and scamming lawyer. But darn it, you still can’t help but adore that candy floss-coated Cheshire Cat. Must be that cock-eyed smirk. And there are multi-character performances from Doyle, who starts off as a winsome pony, standing outside the door of the theatre, inviting folks to see the show, and served as a marvelous last-minute back-up as a Roadie and a Bean. Pokinko and Donovan (who were part of the Sleepy Beauty cast last year) return to the Panto Players this year. Pokinko is hilariously deadpan as the wry-witted and world-weary, but inevitably lovable cow Buttons; and Donovan is adorkable as Bump’s bow tie-wearing, put-upon business partner Harpy Golden; not content as Bump’s sidekick, he dreams of forming a boy band.

Joining this year’s rowdy good times are a few new faces. Postumus does a hysterical job with Jacques, a not too bright, but big-hearted lad with boy band hair and a German accent. Keller’s Widow Twankey is a sharp-witted, cunning dame with a fierce fashion sense and some fine Joan Collins-esque moments. And Foote (multi-tasking along with Doyle) is a treat, especially as one of the multicultural beans, an airy-fairy interpretive dancer who needs no excuse – or official venue – to perform her expressive art.

Shouts to the entire cast for juggling text, improv, audience participation, songs and choreography, as well as showcasing some fine musician chops in performances by Beaty (guitar), English (drums) and Donovan (trombone). Stand-outs: the “Definition” dance break/corny joke bits and Buttons’ rap.

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Rosemary Doyle as the winsome pony, working box office – photo by Burke Campbell

And big shouts to super busy Red Sandcastle A.D. Doyle for the always enjoyable and imaginative costumes and set (in addition to the million other jobs she does at the theatre), and the company’s intrepid stage manager Deborah Anne Frankel for keeping the rowdy fun all together.

It’s a fabulous time at Red Sandcastle Theatre as The Panto Players milk the big panto fun for kids of all ages in Jacques and the Bean Stock Market.

Jacques and the Bean Stock Market are on break for the holiday – and back up and running Dec 26 – Jan 2; check the show page for show times (or check out the dates/times in the poster image above). For advance tix, call: 416-845-9411 – otherwise, best get there early, as it’s an intimate space and a popular show. Cash only at the box office.

Side note for the grown-ups: (This comes from an exchange I witnessed between parents at yesterday’s matinee; I debated on mentioning it, but thought that there was something we could learn here.) Be prepared for LOLs and excited, noisy children – it’s a panto, so the audience is encouraged to cheer the hero and boo the villain. Some kids may get especially excited and boisterous – and if you feel a child is being over-exuberant in his/her participation, please try to be understanding. If you must speak to another parent about their child’s behaviour, please do so respectfully (without ganging up on them and out of earshot of the child), exercise compassion and tolerance, and try to avoid making assumptions. Everyone is there to have fun, so let’s be kind to each other.

Big shiny panto fun with Panto Players’ Sleepy Beauty @ Red Sandcastle Theatre

Sleepy-Beauty-Star-CorrectedSheets and coloured fabric, plus some artfully custom cut tape and green felt, become castle walls and turrets, and an enchanted forest. All part of the magic and imagination at Red Sandcastle Theatre – in this case, for the Panto Players’ production of Sleepy Beauty – The Tale of the Narcoleptic Princess and Her Cat.

Written by Jane A. Shields and Red Sandcastle A.D./impressaria Rosemary Doyle, and directed by Jackie English, this modern-day retelling of the beloved fairy tale features a sparkling, multi-talented ensemble cast and a head boppin’, toe tappin’ series of pop tunes tailored for the show.

Three fairies (Matthew Donovan, Victor Pokinko and Brenda Somers) attending a christening for Princess Suzie come up with a plan to thwart the evil machinations of bad fairy Malefolent (Taran Beaty), softening the curse set upon the infant, tasking a remarkable pink cat (English) with looking after her, then finding a prince (Andy Ingram) to break the sleeping spell that bewitches a teenage Suzie (Rebecca Perry).

The fairies are a treat: Donovan is all heart and southern gentility, with a touch of befuddlement and insecurity, as Twankey Fairy; Pokinko is fabulously dapper and entertaining as woodland Fairy of the Trees Algonquin (but you can call him Al); and Somers is a ball of blue fun as the sharp-witted, colourful-haired Fairy of the Lake. Perry is adorably precocious as Princess Suzie (also doing double duty as the hilariously doting Queen) and has an impressive set of pipes; and Ingram is wonderfully goofy as the handsome, but dim-witted, Prince Joe (and gives a comic turn as the King). Beaty is chock full of evil comedic deliciousness as the jealous and vengeful horned fairy Malefolent. And English is a delight as everyone’s favourite wry-witted pink cat with a French accent.

All the shenanigans kept running by Doyle (wearing many hats, including box office, lighting FX and palace guard) and SM Deborah Ann Frankel, Sleeping Beauty features colourful, striking costuming (designed by Doyle, who also did the set) and catchy, fun tunes borrowed from pop – lyrics rewritten for the show – like “Wake Up, Little Suzie,” “Can’t Touch This,” and “Celebration,” and from artists like Katy Perry and ZZ Top. And the entire cast transforms into a band, rockin’ out on “Call Me Al” – with Beaty on guitar, Donovan on trombone and Pokinko on keys.

Sleepy Beauty is a big shiny panto good time for kids of all ages.

Sleepy Beauty continues its run at Red Sandcastle Theatre until Jan 4, including 2 p.m. matinees (Dec 28 and 31, Jan 3 and 4) and 7 p.m. shows (Dec 29 and 30, Jan 2 and 3).

#DICKWHITFORMAYOR and his… Cat brings holiday panto fun @ Red Sandcastle Theatre

DICKWITFORMAYOR-POS-ON-LINE-1.21Red Sandcastle Theatre continues its annual tradition of holiday fun for all ages with its musical pantomime #DICKWHITFORMAYOR and his… Cat.

Co-written by Jane Shields and Rosemary Doyle (who is also Red Sandcastle’s owner and A.D.), all the classic panto characters are here – with a twist and a decidedly local flavour, including some timely jabs at municipal politics. Inspired by Dick Whittington and His Cat, this version is set in two Toronto neighbourhoods at opposite ends of Queen Street, Parkdale and Leslieville (the latter the location of the theatre), and references local Leslieville shops. Drawing from music theatre and current pop music, the cast belts out tunes from the likes of Annie and Katy Perry – to great fun effect.

The energetic, multi-talented cast takes us on a big wacky fun ride as our young hero Dick Whit (played with adorable, wide-eyed optimism by Allison McCaughey) is inspired by the world-wise Vagrant (fierce style and cockney sass from Brenda Somers) to travel from Parkdale to Leslieville to find his fortune. In Leslieville, Dick encounters Jamie Olisfer the Nasty Chef (played with delicious arrogance and a soupcon of evil charm by Taran Beaty) and his employer the Widow Twankie (Phil Luzi, gloriously larger than life in a series of stunning bright pink wigs) – and Dick’s luck begins to change for the better. That is, until he’s kept up all night by the awesome moves and super-energized go-getter ‘tude of tap dancing brother and sister act King Rat (Andrew Prashad, who brings a lovely sense of verve and naiveté) and Queen Rat (Sarah Murphy-Dyson, who rounds out her performance with an adorably sweet insecurity). Coming to Dick’s rescue is the Cat, an audience favourite at all of Red Sandcastle’s pantos (played by Jackie English with unflappable nerve, cocky charm and cat-like agility), who provides a unique solution to the rat problem. And, of course, the nasty Chef has a disgustingly evil plot and our stalwart hero Dick manages to thwart it with the help of his friends.

With shouts to SM Deborah Ann Frankel, who’s stage managed every panto at Red Sandcastle Theatre, for running sound and lights, and keeping it all together.

You have two more chances to join in the fun at #DICKWHITFORMAYOR and his… Cat – today (Sat, Jan 4) at 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. All happening at Leslieville storefront theatre Red Sandcastle Theatre – 922 Queen St. East (north side, just east of Logan, next to Ed’s Real Scoop).

The Shoe’s fits of laughter @ Red Sandcastle Theatre

The Alice in Blunderland Panto Players Co-op is back this holiday season with more family-friendly panto fun at Red Sandcastle Theatre with their production of The Shoemaker and the Pant-O-Mimes!

Co-written by Jane A. Shields and Red Sandcastle Theatre A.D. Rosemary Doyle (who also makes an appearance or two onstage after taking care of the box office), and directed by Jackie English (who reprises her Alice in Blunderland turn as Cheshire Cat) – and featuring two mimes this time around – Shoemaker is an extravaganza of singing, dancing and fun packed into a 90-minute show.

The audience is treated to the sight of a simple but extremely effective set as they enter the theatre to sit around a t-shaped catwalk. What amounts to dozens of pairs of shoes hang, individually, from the ceiling, and a single chair sits up centre with a luxurious red curtain back-drop – and a bubble machine is deployed from its spot up in the ceiling during key moments in the festivities.

Not only have our Shoemaker (Brenda Somers), his wife Twanky (Richard Waugh) and their daughter Cinderella (Amber-Kelly Mackereth) fallen on hard times, they’re also stuck in a bad contract with evil fashion designer Kenneth Coal (Taran Beaty) and his mean girl model sidekick/assistant Ivana Lot (Allison McCaughey) – and the family is forced to create thousands of pairs of shoes for no pay and risks losing Cinderella to marriage with Coal. With a little faith, magic and hard work – and the assistance of an incredible feline (English’s Cheshire Cat) and two mimes (Annie Chen & Francis Bueron), the gang sings and dances their way to saving the day – with some hilarious visits by a lost Wicked Witch of the West and a disgruntled Christmas Elf (Doyle).

Somers is delightfully sweet as the gentle, put-upon Shoemaker and Waugh is wonderfully engaging – not to mention fetching in that fairytale frock – as his take-charge wife Twanky, and Mackereth’s Cinderella (no, not that Cinderella) is hilariously confused and conflicted about practically everything – especially about whether she wants to marry Coal. Beaty is deliciously evil as the arrogant, power-hungry Coal, and McCaughey is seductively nasty as his conniving assistant. English’s Cheshire Cat (by way of the Pink Panther) is wonderfully sly and brilliant, and Chen and Bueron’s mimes are endearing and adorable – not to mention slammin’ hip. Doyle’s hysterical appearances as the Witch and Elf, along with the pop soundtrack references to shoes in the pre-show music and current star hits rewritten for the show, all add to the fun. My fave music/dance moment was Twanky’s “These Boots Are Made for Walking” – the song breaking out into a full dance party at the end of Act I. The audience is encouraged to cheer for the hero Shoemaker and boo the villain Coal – and several of the younger audience members helped out onstage as models for the big fashion show scene.

This is some big singin’ and dancin’ holiday panto fun for the whole family.

The Shoemaker and the Pant-O-Mimes! runs until January 6 – with 7 p.m. shows January 2 through January 6 and matinées at 2 p.m. on January 5 and 6. Tickets (1/3 the price of the “other panto”) are: $25. reg. $10 child $15 Students, seniors, artists … FAMILY DEAL PACK IS ONLY $50 FOR 2 adults & 2 kids ($5 for an extra child). For reservations, call the box office at 416.845.9411 or email redsandcastletheatre@gmail.com

Hope the holiday season has been good to all y’all – and Happy New Year!