“There’s no place like PoCo. There’s no place like PoCo.” Yes, in The Wizard of Oz, as presented by the East Van Panto, Dorothy lives in a tiny house in Port Coquitlam, not Kansas. She isn’t carried away by an act of God, but instead by a certain burst pipeline. And the wizard, well, you’ll have to come and see what local figure he turns out to be.
So, it’s not Judy Garland skipping along the yellow brick road, but I think that’s just fine.
A Re-imagining of a Classic
Dorothy lands at the intersection of Nanaimo and Hastings and in Vancouver, “the world’s greenest city”. She meets the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion, but they don’t look the way you might expect. Scarecrow is the weed-packed Stoned Crow. The Tin Man is Tin Them, an Eastside Culture Crawl sculpture that didn’t sell, oh and is gender-nonbinary. And, the cowardly lion is still cowardly, but now he’s a B.C. Lion player afraid of the ball.
All these re-imagined characters come with a unique soundtrack too, spanning genres and decades. The songs are also universally well-sung, as the East Van Panto cast has some serious pipes. Christine Quintana (Dorothy) is particularly impressive.
The sets also bring various Vancouver neighbourhoods to life, and the giant Wizard face is truly the standout visual in the show.
The East Van Panto Experience
This was my very first panto, and the participatory nature of the experience was more enjoyable than I expected. It was fun to sing along, shout out, and participate in ways frowned upon at a conventional theater performance.
The only thing that gave me pause was that the East Van Panto allows kids five and up to attend these shows. I think the theory is that children won’t get the more controversial stuff, and will simply enjoy the performance on a level different from adults. I’m not sure I completely buy that theory, though. Some kids are perceptive enough to get at least some of the more obvious things. So, if you’re not prepared to have a conversation with your kids about the green stuff inside of Stoned Crow and the chicken factory smell that puts Dorothy to sleep , I’d give this one a miss.
However, adults, you will laugh and smile. You’ll enjoy the jabs at politicians and the price of real estate, because, hey it’s better to laugh than cry, isn’t it?
Note: I won two tickets to this show and a luncheon that preceded it from the SFU alumni association. This was a wonderful treat, and I sincerely thank my alma mater for it. Read about my last win from SFU here.