Volume 10 Week 23

Saturday, Jan. 84


Updated July 223

Posted Feb. 17

Orléans Ward
Bob Monette





(Posted 10 p.m., Dec. 12)

Seventh installment in Christmas pantomime series a holiday hoot
By Fred Sherwin
Orleans Online

The East End Theatre pantomime production of 'Humpty Dumpty' stars Ron Kon as Dame Dobb and Bob Dickinson as King Florimond XIV. Fred Sherwin/Photo

For the past seven years, the East End Theatre company has been bringing traditional British pantomime to the Orléans Theatre stage much to the delight of audiences both young and old.

Past productions have included "Sleeping Beauty", "Jack and the Beanstalk" and "Dick Whittington and His Cat". This year the irreverent theatre company decided to tackle the pantomime version of the popular nursery rhyme "Humpty Dumpty".

The play is set in the Land of Nursery Rhymes where a large egg has sat on the castle wall for centuries, held in place by a magic spell. However, the magic is fading and before long the egg falls to the ground and breaks open to reveal Humpty Dumpty.

According to the legend, the Land of Nursery Rhymes will collapse when the egg falls. Humpty Dumpty is told by Mother Goose, who just happens to be the fairy godmother of the Land of Nursery Rhymes, that he has a special power. Whatever he wishes for will come true, but if he uses the power selfishly it will be lost.

When King Florimond, who is played by panto veteran Bob Dickinson, finds out about the egg he tries to get his men to put it back together. At the same time the play's villain Grimm shows up. Grimm is the henchman of Monstro the Sorcerer who is looking for a new bride. (If you don't recall anyone named Monstro in the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme, don't worry, it's the magic of pantomime>)

As in most traditional pantomimes, Grimm is a downright dastardly fellow complete with a cheesy mustache and sniveling demeanour, who incurs the wrath of the audience every time he steps on stage.

After arriving in the kingdom, Grimm quickly sets his sights on the King's niece Mary Quite Contrary who is struggling with her on and off again wedding plans with the play's hero Tommy, who in pantomime tradition, is played by a female.

But as it turns out Humpty Dumpty wants to marry Mary as well. Things come to a head at the King's birthday ball. According to tradition, the King will grant the first three requests asked of him during the ball.

When Tommy asks the King to marry Mary he refuses. He also denies Humpty's request to marry his niece. Upset that the King won't grant his request, Humpty wishes for the kingdom to collapse, which it does bringing the first half of the play to a close.

As the second half of the play unfolds, our heroes have relocated to a farm. Now powerless, Humpty works in secret to provide food for the displaced subjects in order to make up for what he has done.

Relentless in his pursuit of a bride for his master, Grimm eventually finds the group and kidnaps Mary as well as Polly Finders who is married to Jack Spratt. Jack and Tommy immediately set out to rescue the girls followed in hot pursuit by King Florimund and Dame Dobb.

Oh, I almost forgot. No self respecting pantomime would be complete without a character in drag known in panto parlance as the Dame. In this case, Dame Dobb is played marvelously over the top by another East End Theatre panto veteran Ron Kok.

The play ends with our heroes defeating the villainous Monstro and his henchmen. Humpty gets his powers back and restores the Land of Nursery Rhymes, Tommy finally marries Mary, Dame Dobb marries King Florimond and the rest of the characters live happily ever after.

Like all traditional English pantos, "Humpty Dumpty" is riddled with contemporary jokes containing references to things like Larry O'Brien, city council, the OC Transpo strike and Parliament.

The large cast was absolutely splendid. Kok and Dickinson were hilarious as always, especially during their scene together when Dame Dobb serenades the King with Abba's "Take A Chance On Me".

Janette Smith was smashing as Tommy and OYP veteran Samantha Chan was cute as a button as Mary Quite Contrary. Kudos as well to David McNorgan who played Grimm and Peter Frayne who may have thrown his neck out playing Monstro.

The surprise performance of the evening was turned in by Nick St. François, who played Humpty Dumpty. St. François was an absolute breath of fresh air. He immediately related to the kids in the audience who hung on his every word and he was consistent all the way through the two hour production.

Two other cast members who deserve a most honourable mention as well are Deborah Boileau and Lili Miller who played the King's men Powder and Shott. I'm almost certain that in their previous lives, Boileau and Miller were a very succesful vaudeville act. They were funny, entertaining and played off each other perfectly.

The rest of the cast included Elizabeth Fiander as Mother Goose, Hayden Smith as Jack Spratt, Miranda Tofflemire as Polly Finders and Taylor Boileau and Carley Beauvais as the pages, the pantomime cow and Monstro's henchmen.

Troy Tofflemire and Pat Messier provided the sound effects and musical accompaniment on piano and guitar, while Alex Castro, Sabrina Chan, Sarah Conway, Camille Daly, Calissa Daly, Sarah Fitzpatrick, Sydney Hartford, Tara Miller, Kristen Mainwood and Kassandra Savard were terrific as the chorus. In fact, they were one of the highlights of the evening.

"Humpty Dumpty" is the last in the East End Theatre's pantomime series. Next year, they will start from the beginning with arguably the most popular pantomime of the all "Aladdin".

If you have never been to a trditional British pantomime before you don't know what you're missing. Luckily, the East End Theatre company will be putting on three more performances over the next two days. There are two productions today (Saturday, Jan. 84 ) at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and tomorrow morning (Saturday, Jan. 84 ) at 11 a.m. The fourth performance at 3 p.m. is sold out. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under.

The Orléans Theatre is located in the Orléans Client Service Centre at 255 Centrum Blvd. For more information visit www.eastendtheatre.com.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)



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