Illustration by Julia Woolf


Princess and the Pea adapted from Hans Christan Andersen by Mike Balser and Norma Rushton

Dates and Venue 26 November - 6 December @ 7:30 p.m. ; 29-30 Nov & 6-7 Dec @ 2.30 pm
Surrey Arts Centre, 88 Avenue/King George Hwy.Surrey, BC

Reviewer Ed Farolan

This was a fabulous production, with children and adults of all ages in the audience participating together with the actors onstage . You'd think all of Surrey was in this show...a cast of almost a hundred dancing, singing and acting, plus almost a full house (just a few empty seats left) durig the matinee performance I attended. It was quite a long show (almost three hours) but the children who were booing the villains (Duke Orson played by Roger Hussan and Shirley played by Julie Brooks) seemed to enjoy the show. Even my 7 and 5 year old nieces enjoyed booing the villain! Hussan played his part really well. His timing was just perfect.

The dancing and singing was really entertaining. I only wished the main actors had remote microphones on so we could hear them sing, especially where I was sitting way at the back of the theatre. In a stage as big as the mainstage of the Surrey Arts Centre, microphones onstage don't really help very much. You need to have individual microphones on the singers.

What this panto has done was update and apply certain topics to today's happenings. A lot of Surrey City Hall jokes were mentioned, as well as the Sky Train where low life can be found. A mention of Roger Hussan's company is also mentioned, as some sort of a private joke. Some of the quips were intentionally corny, and I found some of the dialogues too long. In pantos, as in this one, women usually play men and vice versa, for comic effect. Here, Queen Cornelia is played by Arne Larsen and Prince Hilaire by Jessica Bruhn. They portrayed their parts quite well. I also enjoyed James Walker who was the Man of Many Hats as he interfaced with the children in the audience.

Production-wise, the set was colorful. I would have wanted quicker set changes, though, to get the pacing of the show going. The lighting was well-timed, and the orchestra played beautifully. The songs were contemporary, such as "Luck Be the Lady Tonight". There was even break dancing and hip-hop music, all part of the contemporary panto, a mish-mash of vaudeville and musical theatre .

Based on Christan Andersen's fairytale, this panto is about a young woman whose claim to being a real princess is tested by placing a pea under her mattresses. This tale most probably had its source in folk material, and the story was first published in 1835. It has been adapted to various media including musicl comedy and television drama.

I congratulate producer Mari Anne Hussan for all the work put into this production. She was also in charge of costumes, and what a task! There were so many costumes that had to be sewn, including penguin costumes and tap dancing shoes. That indeed is a lot of work. But as the saying goes, "no guts, no glory" and I admire the guts of this charitable society that has been in existence since 1982. I'm amazed how theatre companies like this one still keeps on going despite so much media happening in today's contemporary society: movies, dvds, ipods, cell phones, tv, internet, etc.

Congratulations to the cast and crew for all the effort in coming up with this production, and I look forward to seeing more of your shows!.

© 2008 Ed Farolan