Pinocchio learns about authenticity in the ever-hilarious East Van Panto

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East Van Panto: Pinocchio | Theatre Replacement and The Cultch | York Theatre November 20, 2019 – January 5, 2020

The highly acclaimed creative team of the 2018 Panto, The Wizard of Oz (playwright Marcus Youssef, composer Veda Hille, and director Stephen Drover), is back again for another year; and the Panto is even more highly anticipated after Theatre Replacement co-directors Maiko Yamamoto and James Long won the Siminovitch Prize (the top prize in Canadian theatre) the day before opening night.  

As always the Panto puts its own twist on a classic tale. Pinocchio (Pippa Mackie) has a father named Gelato (Shawn Macdonald) who owns a gelato shop, the famous cricket is Jiminy Pattison (Amanda Sum), and Pinocchio has a trendy Fairy Instagram Mother (Chirag Naik). Most of the action takes place on Commercial Drive where the Abruzzo and Calabria families battle it out to claim best coffee on the drive.

Pinocchio is “just a puppet like Kermit and Andrew Scheer” until his Fairy Instagram Mother tells him he can be real if he gains 100,000 Instagram followers.

The whole cast pulls out all the stops to have the audience laughing along, especially Naik as the sassy, fabulous Fairy Instagram Mother, Mackie as the impressionable marionette, and Sum who expertly channels her evil side for Jiminy Pattison and Doug Ford. Shawn MacDonald’s rendition of Figaro’s Aria was also a hit, and the P-A-N-T-O song, sung to YMCA tune, is always a fun way to close the show.

Hilarious rewritten lyrics to pop songs are a highlight, including an appearance from Justin Trudeau who sings to the tune of “A Whole New World,” a cheeky reference to his Aladdin costume. A smug Micheal Bublé also appears to sing “Feelin’ Good,” and Doug Ford is the “Bad Guy” singing new lyrics to Billie Eilish’s hit song.   

And of course, I couldn’t imagine a Panto without Veda Hille and Barry Mirochnick’s witty musical accompaniment at stage left. With fun interactive scenes for the kids, and plenty of jokes about politics and current events for the adults, the Panto is a must-see Christmas tradition that never disappoints.

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