The Cultch
East Van Panto: Pinocchio by Marcus Youssef, music & lyrics Veda Hille

Dates and Venue November 20, 2019 – January 5, 2020 at 7pm (weekend matinees at 2pm) | York Theatre, 639 Commercial Drive

Director Stephen Drover Choreography Amanda Testini Costume Designer Barbara Clayden Set & Props Designer Yvan Morissette Props Mastery Heidi Wilkinson Lighting Designer Adrian Muir Scenic Illustration Cindy Mochizuki Stage Manager Jan Hodgson Musicians Veda Hille & Barry Mirochnick

Reviewer John Jane

Audiences obviously like how the Cultch does pantomime, because they keep coming back every year. This year, they’ve chosen Pinocchio and once again Marcus Youssef has stepped up to write the script, maintaining the winning format of setting the show in current time with interwoven references to local businesses on Commercial Drive, south of the 600 block where the York Theatre is situated.

Pinocchio, the no-strings attached marionette wants nothing more than to be a real boy. Poor Pinocchio doesn’t realize what he is letting himself in for. Gelatto (this name has two ‘t’s and yes, he does sell ice cream)) is given a life-size wooden puppet – or marionette – or is it just a doll? With the help of a mercurial faerie (Chirag Naik) on a hover board and a quirky four-handed, ninety-one year-old cricket called Jiminy Pattison (groan!) Pinocchio is given the gift of speech and movement. The faerie sets Pinocchio a target of achieving 100,000 InstagramTM followers in order to become human and fulfill Gelatto’s dream of having a son.

Like all good pantomime, East Van Panto: Pinocchio is totally character driven. Where this production succeeds is with a talented cast that looks to be having as much fun on stage as the audience is in their seats. All the required elements are there: a conspicuous villain, vibrantly hand-painted scenery, young cast members who don’t quite manage the dance moves and comically bad impersonations of national politicians.

Of course, a Panto wouldn’t be a Panto without involvement from the kids in the audience. So when Pinocchio has a choice to make between right or wrong, he goes to the audience for guidance. Despite the children’s emphatic chorus of “No!” Pinocchio dismisses the good advice, thus keeping the story moving forward.

Pippa Mackie is perfect as Pinocchio. She displays child-like innocence as she is constantly outwitted by those with narcissistic agendas as well as a penchant for physical comedy with her awkward wooden gait. Amanda Sum as the iconic cricket anchors the show, however, her Doug Ford impersonation seemed more like Donald Trump. Chirag Naik and newcomer Emma Ross showed remarkable versatility across multiple roles.

Veda Hille returns as music director and keyboardist with Barry Mirochnick on percussion. Hille also put together the fit-for-purpose lyrics in the tunes borrowed from sources ranging from: Mamma Mia and Solsbury Hill up to a Rossini aria from Figaro.

Pinocchio is an energizing family show offering a happy diversion for children, parents and grandparents; a celebration of community with an eco-message we shouldn’t ignore.

© 2019 John Jane