Volume 12 Week 5

Saturday, Dec. 10


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Orléans Ward
Bob Monette

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Cyrville Ward
Tim Tierney





(Posted 6:30 a.m., Dec. 17)

East End Theatre's original panto production stays true to the genre
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Security elves Salt and Pepper, played by Janette Smith and Lili Miller, confront the Abominable Snowman, played by Peter Frayne, in the East End Theatre production of The Christmas Adventure. Fred Sherwin/Photo

For the past 17 years, the East End Theatre company has built up a reputation of producing traditional Old English pantomimes with such familiar titles as Aladdin, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Dick Whittington and His Cat.

This year, the group's artiistic director, Nick ST. Francois, decided to try something different. Instead of performing one of a dozen or more tried and true pantos, he would write and direct his own vesion of the classic theatre genre.

The result is A Christmas Adventure, on stage this weekend at the Shenkman Arts Centre.

The play tells the story of the miserable Snow Queen who wants to stop Christmas and plunge the world into a deep freeze. To do so she places a spell on Santa Claus, causing him to lose weight, and kidnaps his daughter Evelyne and all the elves wth the help of her minion "Slush", played by EET panto veteran David McNorgan.

The job of rescuing Evelyne and the elves, and breaking the spell on Santa, is left up to Troy "the handsome elf", Magenta the Snow Fairy, and a pair of well-meaning, but inept security elves named Salt and Pepper.

Magenta is the dame of the play, a role that is unique to pantos and is traditionaly played in drag. In The Christmas Adventure, the role is carried out with great gusto by Kevin Rockle. The other main characters are played by Kim Reynolds, Brent Landry, Angel Morden and Tara Fitzsimmons, whose solo performances in the second half of the play are among the many highlights of what is a very entertaining production.

But for my money the real stars of the play are EET panto veterans Jeanette Smith and Lili Miller as Salt and Pepper. The chemistry between the two women is unquestionable, and the energy level Smith brings to the stage is off the charts. This is most evident in the second act during the scene in which they when over the Abominable Snowman, who is played by fellow EET veteran Peter Frayne.

The scene is by far my favourite of the play, based entirely on the interaction between the three characters and Smith's performance in particular.

I won't give away the ending of the play, but suffice it to say that our heros eventually free Evelyne and the elves and break the spell on Santa just in the St. Nick of time to save Christmas.

Considering The Christmas Adventure is ST Francois' first effort as a playwrite it's a job well done. The production stays true to the genre and beyond that it's wonderful family entertainment. The kids will immediately get caught up in the storyline and will relish applauding the heros and booing the villains with equal aplomb, while the adults in the audience will appreciate the double entrendes and occasional references to contemporary news events.

If your Christmas spirit is waning, or has yet to kick in, The Christmas Adventure can provide you with the perfect kick start. If it doesn't, then you may be beyond all hope, in which case I would watch Merry Christmas Charlie Brown, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Riendeer and Frosty the Snowman in quick succession. And if that doesn't do the trick you can always download Elf as a last resort.

But before doing all that, you still have two more chances to drop by the Shenkman Arts Centre to take in The Christmas Adventure with performances at 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. today. (Tomorrow's Sunday matinée performance is already sold out.) Admission to the play is $17.50 for adults and $12.50 for childen. A special family pack is also available for $54 and includes two adults and two children.

The Abominable Snowman chases off the Snow Queen's dastardly minion Slush, played by David McNorgan in the East End Theatre production of The Christmas Adventure. Fred Sherwin/Photo

The evil Snow Queen's comes face to face with Santa in the East End Theatre production of The Christmas Adventure. Fred Sherwin/Photo


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