By Aj McDowell
If you’ve never been to a Britishstyle pantomime, then prepare your pumpkins and shine your glass shoes for Ryerson Theatre School’s graduating-class production of Cinderella.
While Ryerson has staged many different types of productions, this will be its first ever pantomime.
A pantomime – a theatrical performance of a nursery or fairy tale traditionally shown around Christmas – is typically a family friendly musical (but still with plenty of naughty humour) involving slapstick, drag and plenty of audience involvement.
“I thought it would be an excellent pre-holiday offering for Ryerson audiences,” says Peggy Shannon, theatre school chair and director of the show. “Cinderella is full of great music, heart and lots of funny, unexpected humour.”
The show features the entire fourth-year acting class, as well as several fourth-year dancers and more than 20 production students. Among the graduating actors is Petru Gheorghe, who plays Cinderella’s stepmother.
“I actually didn’t know what to expect with this project because I had never heard of a pantomime,” says Gheorghe, who was surprised when he discovered that he’d be playing the dame (a panto term for man playing a woman’s role).
“I left my character as a surprise for [my friends] because I think it’s such a ridiculously over-the-top part to play – they would never see it coming.”
The actors were selected for their roles based on a musical they produced last year, so many of them didn’t know what to expect.
Victoria Houser, who plays Cinderella, hoped to score the title role, but was still unprepared for the shock when she got the news.
“I thought my heart was going to leap out of my chest,” she says. “I had a hard time focusing on the rest of the conversation after that because I was so excited.”
Between classes, homework, jobs and four weeks of rehearsals, these students have their minds set on the show – and beyond. Their roles will provide them with an opportunity to showcase their talent and a stepping-stone for future auditions.
All of the students, meanwhile, look forward to spending time with much neglected family and friends.
Cinderella runs at the Ryerson Theatre from Nov. 28 to 30.