A Christmas Panto About Christmas!
Note: extended to January 5, 2018
Ross Petty has created a 21 year tradition with his annual Christmas panto. His productions typically take a well-known fairy tale and turn it into a panto with the villain being loudly booed, and children participating on stage. But this year for the first time, the Christmas panto is actually a Christmas tale: A Christmas Carol with a Scrooge Loose. The family favourite is now on stage at Toronto’s Elgin Theatre.
This year’s panto was written by Matt Murray, originally from Sarnia, who has cleverly used every silly joke he could cram in. Murray has the knack for making it funny for the kids, but also peppering it with jokes that will make the adults chuckle. Like most pantos, there are some slightly naughty jokes that will sail right over the kids’ heads.
The panto follows Dickens’ original – well, somewhat. Scrooge is visited by three spirits and of course, eventually changes his greedy ways. But there are several deviations from Dickens’ story, en route to Scrooge’s rebirth.
Scrooge (Cyrus Lane) has two employees – Bob Cratchit (Eddie Glen), of course, and now Jane (A. J. Bridel). We know from the original that the miserly Scrooge didn’t pay poor Cratchit much, but to our dismay, Jane earns less than Bob, even though they do similar work. She’s told that it’s because she’s a woman, and as a result, she goes on strike. Lane is a perfect grumpy old Scrooge, while Eddie Glen, a perennial favourite at the panto, is his usual hilarious self. A.J. Bridel is delightful as the strong-minded Jane.
My favourite variation on the original Christmas Carol is the fact that Marley (Scrooge’s dead business partner and the ghost of Christmas past), is Jamaican with dreadlocks, and reggae beat. Marley’s Jamaican accent is well done by David Lopez.
Also, we are taken to the set of a favourite TV show, with host Helen So-Generous. Glen pulls off a cute Ellen routine.
Clever jokes abound – when Cratchit has an idea, a burning candle is projected over his head, instead of a modern light bulb. Modern pop music backs up the old story. The song “Shout” is sung to warn against waking up the sleeping Scrooge. “A Little Bit Softer Now” is very appropriate.
Another perennial favourite is Dan Chameroy in drag as Plumbum. She’s the spirit who ushers Scrooge around all night in a variety of lovely dresses, wearing her signature red lipstick, so carefully applied.
The Ghost of Christmas Future, as usual, takes Scrooge to the cemetery. But there they see Charles Dickens’ grave stone, and mention the fact that he must be rolling around in his coffin.
There are lots of cute inside jokes – like a comment about wanting more YTV and less CBC Kids. (Glen is the long-time voice of YTV.)
When Scrooge walks out, there are huge boos from the audience. He ad libs with “You’re booing me? You were 20 minutes late,” making reference to the fact that the opening night audience took a long time to be seated.
Adding to the fun of the Ross Petty pantos are the commercials. Videos on the big screen promote sponsors such as BMO, and we see Scrooge reluctantly putting his beloved money in the bank.
The panto is great fun for all ages, with excellent singing and dancing, together with hilarious comedic acting. When you’re tired of Christmas shopping, bring the kids and take time out to see the panto. It reminds us that this is a season for fun!
A Christmas Carol (the Panto) continues at Elgin Theatre, Toronto until December 31. Call the Elgin box office at 1-855-599-9090or visit www.rosspetty.com for tickets.
Photo: Eddie Glen as Bob Cratchit and Dan Chameroy as Plumbum in the panto version of A Christmas Carol.
A Christmas Carol – The Family Musical with a Scrooge Loose
Scriptwriter Matt Murray
Directed and Choreographed by Tracey Flye
Musical Direction by Bob Foster
Performed by A.J. Bridel, Dan Chameroy, Eddie Glen, Kyle Golemba, Cyrus Lane, David Lopez, Mariah Campos, Tristan Hernandez, Judy Kovacs, Jennifer Mote, Matthew Pinkerton, David Andrew Reid, Reece Rowat, Genny Sermonia.
Produced by Ross Petty
Elgin Theatre, Toronto
November 24 to December 31, 2017. Extended to January 5, 2018.
Reviewed by Mary Alderson