December 2016

Beauty and the Beast in Bavaria [MRN]

By Colleen Flanagan

December 22, 2016
[ click to read at their site]

Beauty and the Beast in Bavaria

Traditional British pantomime will feature original music and script

Anita Brusch (Jennifer Campbell) kicks it up with Const. Hanz (Mark Manning, left) and Const. Footz (Danni Bergeron) during a performance of Ellie King's Beauty and the Beast.

The Royal Canadian Theatre Company will be putting on the Christmas pantomime Beauty and the Beast at the ACT in Maple Ridge. Written by Ellie King, the pantomime will be closer to the original fairy story by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve that was published in 1740.

“It’s a traditional British panto with an original script. I write them every year. It also features original music. My husband and I, he composes and I do lyrics,” said King, whose husband is also the director. King’s story is set in the fictional town of Licketysplitz, Bavaria and tells the tale of a local merchant named Herr Brush and his two lovely daughters. When a shipment of goods fails to arrive for his store he is left destitute with nowhere to turn. In order to rescue her family from poverty, his youngest daughter, Isabella, becomes the only companion to a hideous beast in an old and lonely castle. Who will save her?

King strongly adheres to the true British pantomime tradition where there is are good guys and bad guys that battle over the fate of a protagonist who has to go on a journey filled with obstacles. Pantomimes are often based on fairy stories and legends. “It’s cultural thing. It’s a piece of theatrical history that’s 400-years-old and the elements of it go back way farther than that,” she said adding that it is a form of art she believes is worth preserving. “A lot of people think pantomime means without words and it doesn’t. A British panto is the exact opposite, it’s very noisy and it’s full of music,” explained King. Audience participation is always encouraged. “We encourage the audience to boo and to cheer and to join in. For the kids it’s huge for them. They don’t have to just sit there. They are an integral part of the whole performance,” said King. Every year she incorporates a gag into the production that would have been used in the 19 century pantomimes.

This year the gag is called The Somewhere Else gag where the comedic characters have to get each other to prove that they are not really there, that they are, in fact, somewhere else. The cast of 30 will be dressed in lederhosen and dirndl’s. “And our dame he’s actually 79-years-old this year and he dances around the stage like he is a two-year-old,” chuckled King, clarifying that the Dame in a traditional panto is not a drag act. “It’s a man in a dress. It’s very different. I’ve had men with beards and mustaches. There is a lot of theatrical history,” she said.

This is the Royal Canadian Theatre Company’s mentorship showcase. The theatre company offers free mentorship opportunities to people of all ages in the communities that they perform in. “We especially welcome children and youth,” said King. Auditions were held in June and then participants were taught the basics of singing, dancing, acting and stagecraft. “We make all their costumes, we rent all the spaces, we teach them good theatrical practice,” said King. “And at the end of it they get to perform on stage alongside the professionals and it doesn’t cost them a penny,” she continued. Needless to say King’s panto will have a happy ending on a journey that will include Bavarian music and dance numbers, corny jokes, special effects and spectacular costumes.

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Photos included, if any, originally supplied by The Royal Canadian Theatre Company unless credited to the specific publication.

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Beauty and the Beast article [TVS]

By Shawn Conner

December 14, 2016
[ click to read at their site]

Beauty and the Beast panto offers tradition, and a hint of the modern

Sleeping Beauty

Ellie King’s Beauty and the Beast

The panto fever that has hit Vancouver in recent years continues. This holiday season, no fewer than three versions of the traditional British entertainments are playing in Metro Vancouver. One of these is The Royal Canadian Theatre Company’s adaptation of Beauty and the Beast.

Certain conditions apply, however, before something can be considered an authentic, British panto. “Real British panto holds within it the old method of breaking the fourth wall and speaking directly to the audience, inviting audience interaction,” said Ellie King, artistic director of the Surrey company, as well as writer/director of the upcoming production.

A panto also needs a pair of lovers, and “a villain who wants to prevent them from getting together,” King said. “You have the hero or heroine who has to undertake both a spiritual and very often a physical journey, from a position of poverty to a position of gain. On the way, harking back to medieval morality plays, you have forces of evil and good fighting over the destiny of the protagonist.” In the tale, a young woman volunteers to help her destitute merchant father by working at the castle of the hideous Beast. Similarities to what is probably the best-known version of the story, Disney’s 1991 animated film, end there, more or less. Instead, King draws on the 18th-century tale written by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. Challenges in adapting the story to the panto form included fitting everything into a digestible length. We work very hard to bring our plays in under two hours,” she said. This is done both for the sake of the younger audience members, as well as adults with attention spans not adapted to three to four hours, the lengths to which pantos could run a century ago.

Besides story motifs, pantos have stock roles. For King’s Beauty and the Beast, the Idle Jack — whose role is to interact with the kids in the audience — is played by Stephen Elcheshen. Alan Cedargreen plays the Dame (here, named Frau Schackenbacken), a panto role traditionally performed by a man in a dress — though “it’s not a drag act,” said King. “It’s very different.” Like King, Cedargreen grew up in England knowing panto. “There’s a style of playing real panto that you need to know, I can’t put it into words — it’s an intangible. And he has that,” said King.

The main villain is played by Kerri Norris who, like Cedargreen, is a longtime player with the Royal Canadian Theatre Company. Norris is also the company’s costumer. Good and evil are represented by the fairy and the demon. “They’re the motivators,” King said. This year the demon is her son, James King; the fairy queen is played by Jacqueline Koenig. Crystal Weltzin plays the Beauty, Isabella. Jacqueline Bruce plays the Beast, who fills the panto role of Principal Boy, representing the personification of pure romantic love. In a tradition dating to the 18th century, Bruce wears tights — fishnet — and high heels. “Instead of a monstrous beast, we’re using a very stylized, elegant beast,” King said.

The panto begins with a prologue to explain how the Beast came to be the Beast — while hunting in the forest, he is very rude to a witch, who causes the transformation. “So he kind of looks like a stag that he might have been hunting. I really like that idea — it’s very elegant, but still not human.” Along with fairy-tale elements, this Beauty and the Beast contains references to contemporary events. “That tradition dates from the turn of the 19th into the 20th century, when a lot of East End of London musical turns were invited to come and join panto,” King said. “They used it as a platform to air their social ills and grievances. We do that too, though we’re not as serious about it. Obviously, Trump is in there. We try to be even-handed and hit on all major parties equally, but there are some targets you’ve just got to hit.”

More Press:

Photos included, if any, originally supplied by The Royal Canadian Theatre Company unless credited to the specific publication.

Articles quoted with full attribution under fair use doctrine. The link to the original publication may be deleted by the original publisher. This is beyond the control of RCTC.

Photo Credit:

Beauty and the Beast article [TVS] Read More »

Beauty of a panto [SNL]

  • Surrey B.C.  posted Dec 16, 2016 at 12:00 PM
  • Gord Goble

‘Beauty’ of a panto hits Surrey Arts Centre stage

SURREY — A fun-filled pantomime version of the “Beauty and the Beast” story hits the stage at Surrey Arts Centre starting tonight (Friday).

The Royal Canadian Theatre Company show, directed by longtime panto fan and writer Ellie King, puts a comedic twist on a classic tale of love, bravery and second chances.

The production continues until Dec. 26, 2016, followed by some dates at the The ACT Arts Centre in Maple Ridge. Visit for more show details.

Now contributor Gord Goble was at a dress rehearsal on Thursday, Dec. 15 to photograph and video the action:

Beauty of a panto [SNL] Read More »

Panto Bavarian-Style [PAN]

by Alex Browne – Peace Arch News
White Rock Surrey Langley posted Dec 8, 2016

There’s no use tackling a traditional British pantomime without a large portion of traditional British cheek.
Fortunately, that’s a quality that Merseyside-reared, Surrey Civic Treasure Ellie King possesses in abundance.

The director-playwright knows that friendly national stereotypes, groaner jokes and time-honored knockabout routines are the life blood of the panto, which true to its British show-biz origins, annually turns a well-loved fairy tale inside-out and serves it up, like a well-stuffed Christmas turkey, for the delectation of young and old alike.


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