You may know the story of Sleeping Beauty, but you’ve never seen it like this.
When watching the Elgin Theatre Guild’s annual panto, “Sleeping Beauty,” expect the unexpected. A tablet named Chiri makes an appearance amongst the medieval-style costumes, the Prince is played by a woman (Judy Cormier), the characters periodically mock the script, and pop culture references abound.
Following its genre of a traditional English pantomime, “Sleeping Beauty” is outrageous, hilarious, corny, and involves lots of audience participation. The show’s opening night at the Princess Ave Playhouse was Thursday, Nov. 29, and it runs until Sunday this weekend and Thursday to Sunday next weekend (Dec. 6–9).
With 46 actors, 23 of them children, the stage is often a busy place, but choreographer Eleanor Robson and director Lesley Chapman have ensured that it is not chaotic. Adult and youth choruses frequently enter and exit the stage and keep the action flowing.
Some highlights include the antics of Nurse Nelly Nutmeg (Samantha Daniel) and Jerry the Jester (John Allen), Lesley Chapman’s rendition of the Evil Fairy Malicia, and of course, the unconventional romance between Princess Rose (Victoria Radauskas) and Prince Harry (Judy Cormier).
Elgin Theatre Guild President Lesley Chapman is the director of “Sleeping Beauty” and plays Malicia. She was also the one to put forward the idea of a pantomime at Christmas several years ago. Pantomimes are still popular in England, traditionally performed for families around Christmastime and New Year’s.
According to Chris Chapman, Technical Director of the theatre guild, the board members at the time were unsure about how Canadians would respond to a pantomime. However, seven years of pantos later, it has become an Elgin Theatre Guild tradition around Christmas, and every show has been a success.
“We’ll have over 1000 people over the nine shows,” Chris explains. “We just wish we could spread that through the other three shows we do,” he laughs. Both Chris and Lesley were very pleased with opening night. The audience laughed and interacted with the actors, and kids in the crowd shouted and sang along when they knew the words.
Lesley introduced the idea of a panto because she grew up seeing them at Christmas, and wanted it to become a tradition in St. Thomas, too. She notes that every time they put on a panto, they see a lot of new faces. Several of the shows were sold out before opening night.
Preparing for “Sleeping Beauty” was no small task for the volunteers at the Elgin Theatre Guild. Five months of planning, 63 sound cues, and approximately 500 sequins were involved, Lesley told us with a laugh. Some of the sequins were the handiwork of the actors themselves. The fairies’ dresses were made by a local seamstress and the actors embellished them with hot glue guns, sequins, and flowers in their spare time at rehearsal. After the tremendous amount of work that went into planning, Lesley said she was “really, really pleased” with how it all came together.
The theatre guild’s panto tradition will continue next year. Lesley will announce what play they will perform at the last show of “Sleeping Beauty,” which is at 2pm on Sunday, Dec. 9. To make it part of your family tradition, get tickets for $12 each at Railway City Tourism or online.
Photos: Brandon Olsen | Establish Media