An East Van Panto to top them all

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East Van Panto: Wizard of Oz | Theatre Replacement | The Cultch’s York Theatre | November 28, 2018 – January 6, 2019

Political jokes, silly costumes, and hyper-local content always make for a great time at the East Van Panto — but this year’s edition might just be the best yet. The re-written pop songs are hilarious, the set and props are spot on, and the jokes are full of local and political references.

As always, there are a few twists in this tale. Kansas becomes Port Coquitlam, instead of a tornado Dorothy (Christine Quintana) is flung from her home by a burst pipeline, and Rachel Notley is the Wicked Witch of Western Canada. On her journey to find the Wizard of OV (Olympic Village), Dorothy meets a BC Lion (Craig Erickson), a Stoned Crow (Raugi Yu), and Tin Them (Dawn Petten).

In her Ruby Fluevogs, Dorothy follows the “condo brick road” along with her three companions to Olympic Village—a magical place where everything is green and everyone wears yoga pants. When they are put to sleep by the smell of the chicken factory, it’s munchkin kombucha that saves the day.  

From the moment Justin Trudeau (Kayvon Koshkam) came running down the aisle of the York Theatre, for an “impromptu” selfie with a few audience members, it was clear this show was going all in on the political content. Trudeau sticks around for the show and ends up being a CanCon cop who interrupts Dorothy every time she tries to sing “Over the Rainbow” telling her she should sing a Canadian song instead.  

One of the best scenes is good witch Gloria Makarenko (Dawn Petten) singing “Hey Makarenko!” and citing almost every CBC broadcaster — it’s one of those moments that is likely to send you into fits of uncontrollable laughter, and there are many more throughout. Petten also shines as the over-emotional Tin Them whose heart is three sizes too big.

Erickson is perfectly maniacal as Notley, flying in on a broomstick with a gas hose nozzle at the end of it. Her oversized plucked chickens (instead of flying monkeys) cluck around aimlessly in the most bizarre yet somehow realistic costumes (by Barbara Claydon). Yu’s Stoned Crow is just that — never quick on the uptake and frequently has the munchies. They are an odd bunch and it makes for a wild ride until Dorothy clicks her heels.

The Panto Kids sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and the hilarity comes to a close, but the memory of this brilliant Panto will have you laughing all the way into 2019.

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