Stars abound in punny panto
The Queen, Stephen Harper and stripper-turned-actor Channing Tatum all make appearances in Cinderella Dances with the Stars.
OK, they won’t personally appear in the Central Alberta Theatre production. But they will be represented by local community actors in the Christmas show that opens on Friday, Dec. 13, at Red Deer’s Memorial Centre.
The family oriented “panto” is locally written and directed by city resident Albert Azzara in the English pantomime tradition. This means male actors will play over-the-top female “Dame” roles, in the style of Monty Python.
Local dignitaries — including Mayor Tara Veer and former mayor Morris Flewwelling — will make some cameo appearances.
The audience will be encouraged to cheer for heroes and hiss and boo at villains — and puns will be made on everything.
And I mean everything.
For instance, Cinderella Mozzerella, who will be played by Red Deer singer Olivia Smith, lives in Lowland Brown (a play on Highland Green).
The villainess is called Natasha of Bullwinkle, after the East European vixen from the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon. Her multiple-personality-disordered compatriot Boris’s real name is Rudolf of Nureyev — and the ballet associations go on to include Queen Isadora of Duncan (who boogies to music from the band Queen).
The Prince Charming dancing character is called Prince Channing of Tatum. And the prime minister is called Stephen Harmonica.
There will be some senator jokes and maybe even some Rob Ford references (providing Azzara can find a family friendly way of presenting them).
“There will be lots of jokes that adults will get and lots of sight gags for the children,” he promised — including Cinderella drawing on her inner Miss Piggy to karate chop the bad guys.
In case you’re wondering, yes, there is a plot line buried under all the songs, jokes and puns, and it goes something like this:
Prince Channing is in danger of losing his crown unless he marries a dancing princess by age 25 — and his biological clock is a-ticking.
A kingdom-wide dance competition is planned to attract gals who know how to cha-cha and have ambitions of marrying the prince.
Meanwhile, poor Cinderella would like a crack at becoming Prince Channing’s bride, only she’s at the mercy of her mean stepmother and two stepsisters after her father gets kidnapped.
They don’t want her to attend the dance-off. And neither does Prince Channing’s evil cousin Boris — who actually doesn’t want any eligible bachelorettes to attend.
Boris stands to inherit the crown if Prince Channing doesn’t fulfil his marital obligations, so he schemes to derail the whole dancing/dating competition.
Audience members will be left wondering: will it go ahead? Or more to the point: will poor Cinderella have a hope of entering and winning the dance-off and getting the final rose — even with the help of her unionized Fairy Godmother?
Azzara said audience members will have to watch the musical saga to find out.
The crowd will be expected to do more than just sit there and watch the action unfold — they will have to help Cinderella get her man.
Azzara noted that Cinderella never did learn to tell time, so kids in the audience will have to observe the large grandfather clock on stage and tell her how many minutes she has until it chimes at midnight.
While Cinderella Dances With the Stars involves a cast of 20-plus actors aged from 11 years to their mid-80s, and Azzara has double cast some roles, he said rehearsals have gone swimmingly. “It’s been a lot of fun.”
The good thing about directing a play that he also wrote is “I have licence to change whatever I want — it’s my script!” added the retired school drama teacher who started acting in Christmas pantomimes in his native Lethbridge.