This holiday season, Pantomagine Productions will be bringing Cinderella: A Semi-Improvised Pantomime to the Montreal Improv Theatre. The performers of Pantomagine will be taking the classic fairytale of Cinderella and adding an improvised and traditionally British twist to the beloved tale. For avid fans of Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Picture Show and the interactive spectacle that occurs every Halloween, this might be a perfect new yuletide tradition in the same vein.
In anticipation the show’s opening on Friday, December 14th, Montreal Theatre Hub’s Alex Gauthier took a moment to speak to one of the producers and actors playing the eponymous Cinderella, Hannah Cartmel. Read our full preview piece below.
Drawing from the canon of classical fairytales, pantomime brings familiar stories to the stage mixed in with musical scenes – a tradition that occurs during the holidays across the United Kingdom. “It’s put on from the West End Theatre in London to little amateur theatres in local village halls,” explains Cartmel, who describes panto as “a monkey’s tea party of singing, dancing, audience interaction, over the top characters, and both cheeky AND naughty bits.”
Pantomime attempts to include local and topical humour, and here “while the story is still fundamentally Cinderella in a fairy tale world, it’s also located in Montreal”. The theatrical form also notoriously includes an element of drag; in this production, the stepmother and stepsisters will be played by the gender-crossing co-producer Albert Tebraak, François Messier and Thomas Victorio, respectively, while the prince will be portrayed by Katie Pagnucco.
Finally, integral to the pantomime experience is audience participation. Cartmel reveals that the narrator in the form of the Fairy Godmother might suggest, for example, that audience members boo or hiss at the evil characters and that the performing players will, in turn, react to that. “This will allow audiences to feel like they are truly part of the show – and that is only one of the many exciting aspects of interaction that will be included in this particular presentation.”
While pantomime is normally based on a script, this original retelling of a well-known tale takes a creative leap by attempting to take the intuition of its improv-comedy focused cast and adapt it into something a little more spontaneous. Cartmel quips that “everyone knows Cinderella […] here, our characters are established but the dialogue will be improvised and we will develop character traits and storyline elements based on suggestions from the audience.” She continues to explain that “audience input can include things such as ‘why are the step sisters so mean’ or ‘what riles them up’.” The show will furthermore strive to differentiate itself by allowing for a different ending than that which we are accustomed to.
Whether you’re looking to catch some musical improv or want to start a new Holiday tradition, Cinderella: A Semi-Improvised Pantomime promises to be a crowd pleaser in more ways than one. Don’t miss its one-night-only performance on Friday, December 14th at 10:00pm on the Montreal Improv Main Stage (3697 St-Laurent). Admission is $8, or $5 for Montreal Improv students.