Sandra Adamack photo Plucky Aladdin (Adrian Shaffer) must outwit the villainous Abenazar the Great (Jake Hildebrand) in the 65th anniversary White Rock Players Club pantomime Aladdin and the Magic Lamp (running to Dec 29 at White Rock Playhouse, 1532 Johnston Rd.)

Panto magic returns to White Rock stage with Aladdin

New Players Club Christmas show grants director Dann Wilhelm’s wishes

Dann Wilhelm is taking it easy this Christmas season – by his standards, anyway.

Some would say that directing Aladdin and the Magic Lamp – 65th anniversary edition of White Rock Players Club’s legendary pantomime (running through December at White Rock Playhouse, 1532 Johnston Rd.) – would be, in itself, enough of a responsibility.

But this time last year, Wilhelm was pushing the limits by not only directing – but also serving as author, actor and musical director – for the runaway hit Robin Hood and the Skytrain of Doom.

With Aladdin, it seems all his wishes are coming true.

He has a cast packed with popular and reliable local talents (a number of them making a welcome return from Robin Hood); a “fun” script by Chase Thomson, which he is co-producing with Charles ‘The Fez’ Buettner; Sierra Milne, returning to do choreography; and a full-time musical director, Marquis Byrd – although Wilhelm admits he “helped a bit, in that department,” including choosing a score that pays tribute to the hits of Elton John, and Freddie Mercury and Queen.

“We had two really popular biopic movies this year that kind of cinched that!” he added.

And, yes, he – and others – have added to the script, in typical White Rock panto fashion, to include more localized and timely zingers.

“It started out kind of generic, but we threw in some local references and updated some pop-culture references and added some local, provincial and federal government jokes,” Wilhelm confessed.

“But at least I didn’t cast myself,” he noted (panto fans will recall his commanding performance last year as the villainous, yet somehow likable, Sheriff of Nottingham.)

“That was kind of my last choice last year – it was really helpful I had so many great people come out to audition for this show. That’s one less thing I had to worry about.”

The show opens officially tonight (Dec. 6, 7:30 p.m.) at White Rock Playhouse after two preview performances, and runs through the month to a last matinee on Dec. 29.

It promises to be a colourful version of the time-honoured panto classic, thanks in no small measure to bright and glitzy costumes put together by Amara Anderson and sets designed by Damon Bradley Jang and Buettner – albeit with a little more realism, Wilhelm said, than the cartoonish “Sgt. Pepper-style trees” that suited Robin Hood’s Beatles-oriented approach.

“Damon is a local actor, director and choreographer who also has a background in marketing and set design – which has worked out really well for Aladdin,” Wilhelm said.

“The sets have a really cool and very different idea for a panto that I’ve never seen before, a lot of multi-use pieces that spin around and become something else – things are moving constantly,” he added.

Also constantly on the move in this show is versatile player Adrian Shaffer stepping into the lead role of poor-but-happy Aladdin who lives with his mother Widow Twankey (veteran panto comic Ray Van Ieperen in full-on Dame-mode) and brother Wishy Washy (former FVGSS player Paige Thomsen) at the family’s laundromat.

“Adrian has this natural charm about her,” Wilhelm noted. “It was kind of a no-brainer to cast her when she auditioned – she was nailing it from her first readings.”

Sadly, Aladdin becomes a pawn in the schemes of the wily Abenazar the Great (Jake Hildebrand, relishing the opportunity to play a villain), who is plotting to take over the world with the help of a magic ring and a magic lamp.

But the young man’s fortunes change when he meets the lovely, strong-willed Princess Jasmine (Sara Morales), who has been resisting the attempts of her father, the Emperor (Reginald Pillay) to arrange a marriage for her.

“Sara’s new to the group, but super-adorable,” Wilhelm said. “Reg is a riot. The Emperor starts off being very misogynistic, tending to talk to down to Jasmine, but as Reg plays him, he goes from silly to sillier.”

Also contributing to the fun are Christopher Hall as a very flamboyant Genie of the Lamp, Janelle Carss as a conflicted Genie of the Ring (forced to help Abenazar but wanting to help Aladdin) and Dianna Gola-Harvey as Jasmine’s helpful handmaiden, Handy.

“We have a small ensemble cast this year – which means that everybody has their moment to shine,” Wilhelm said.

Evening performances are at 7:30 p.m Wednesday through Saturday, with 2:30 p.m. matinees Dec. 8, 15, 22 and 29 (closing show).

Tickets ($24; $15 students and seniors) are available from whiterockplayers.ca or call 604-536-7535.



alex.browne@peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Not everybody lined up to vote on Saturday. In Surrey, 68,396 mail-in ballots still need to be counted for the final election tally. (Black Press Media)
North Surrey voters steer left, South Surrey voters steer right

Once again, it’s NDP orange in the city’s north end, Liberal red in the south

Peace Portal Alliance Church, at the corner of King George Boulevard and 152 Street, is the extreme-weather shelter for South Surrey for the upcoming season. It is to have 14 mats available nightly for those experiencing homelessness, regardless of weather conditions. (Tracy Holmes photo)
14 beds planned for South Surrey extreme-weather shelter

Webinar tonight to field questions, share info on Peace Portal Alliance Church refuge

Fraser Health declared an outbreak of COVID-19 at Delta Hospital on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. (Grace Kennedy photo)
Outbreak over at Delta Hospital

In all, 45 cases of COVID-19 were identified and seven patients died during the outbreak

The Sunshine Band Club video posted to Youtube.
VIDEO: Surrey youth band shines light on ‘COVID blues,’ raises money for hospital

Virtual concert from Sunshine Band Club, established last March

FILE – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province during a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

Three people have died over the past three reporting periods

Graphic on promo material for Best Buy Canada’s Tech Wonderland event.
Drive-through ‘Tech Wonderland’ coming to PNE site a few weeks before Christmas

Best Buy Canada-backed ‘holiday’ event to raise money for charity

Aaliyah Rosa. File photo
Crown says murder of seven-year-old in Langley was planned, deliberate

The trial of KerryAnn Lewis began Monday in New Westminster

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. (B.C. government photo)
Unnamed school in Fraser Health region closed due to COVID-19

Closure announced by Dr. Bonnie Henry during daily briefing

RCMP have released more details regarding what led up to an arrest caught on video in Williams Lake Sunday, Oct. 26. (Facebook video screenshot)
Review launched after ‘high-risk, multi-jurisdictional’ chase, arrest in Williams Lake

RCMP launching a full review and code of conduct investigation

(Pxfuel)
B.C. limits events in private homes to household, plus ‘safe six’ amid COVID-19 surge

Henry issued a public health order limiting private gatherings to one household, plus a group of ‘safe six’ only

Most Read