For years, Maria Turton would watch with awe the spectacle of the Christmas pantomime on stage at the Metro Theatre in Vancouver.
The boos for the villains, cheers for the heroes, the music, dancing and flashy costumes all added to the appeal. There was no doubt in her mind she wanted to be on stage and be part of it.
The only problem was Maria was just five years old at the time, recalls her mom, Nicola.
“I told her she had to wait a few years,” said Nicola, who also grew up with Christmas pantomimes and passed along her love for their glitz, glamour and magical presence to her own family with tickets to productions each year.
Now 13, Maria, a Grade 8 student at Hugh Boyd, is an experienced panto performer who, along with cast members that include fellow Richmond performers Sylvie Lui and Kathleen Robertson, has been busy since September preparing for her second panto production — Aladdin, which runs Dec. 11 to Jan 3.
The tale of the mysterious east, a genie, a princess, and street-smart young boy, Aladdinis perfect for the audience, which, in classic pantomime tradition, is encouraged to interact.
“On some nights, the audience can be really loud. Other nights, they can be a bit quieter. That pretty much makes it a different show every night,” said Maria who was in Metro Theatre’s production of Jack and the Beanstalk last Christmas and this time out is an acrobat and part of the ensemble in Aladdin. “It’s just a whole lot of fun having the audience take part. And when some of the kids from the audience get to ask questions, it can get pretty interesting.”
For Lui, pantomime was uncharted performing territory for the 25-year-old.
“I think it took me a few rehearsals to get used to the other people in the cast yelling, booing and cheering when we were doing our read throughs,” said Lui, a McRoberts grad who had never seen a panto before being cast as one of Princess Jasmine’s attendants. “I had no idea the show is meant to be interactive.
“It’s so much different than what I’ve done before,” added Lui who was part of the chorus in Le Nozze di Figaroand Madama Butterflywith the Burnaby Lyric Opera.
Lui said she will be drawing a lot on her gymnastic and cheerleader training with Richmond’s Panther Cheer — where she coached panto cast mate Maria Turton — for her on stage role in Aladdin.
Robertson, a Grade 11 student at York House School, said she also had to adjust to the panto environment after her first show - — Mother Goose--— two year ago. And now she finds herself feeding on the energy generated by the audience.
“That really allows you to go outside of your usual performance and do something special,” she said.
Tickets for Aladdinat the Metro Theatre are available online by visiting metro theatre.com and clicking on the ticket information bar.