Nursery rhymes take on life of their own

St. Luke’s Players bringing Mother Goose pantomime to the stage

Christopher Harris (centre) stars as Mother Goose in the production of the same name by the St. Luke’s Players

It looks like the St. Luke’s Players pantomime is still the most popular of the community theatre group’s annual productions.

Tickets for Mother Goose – this year’s wild tale that draws from dozens of classic fairy tales – have already sold out for the 13 volunteer-run performances. St. Luke’s 10th annual pantomime is set to open tonight (Dec. 18), with thrills ensured for theatre fans of all ages.

“It’s great for the young kids and it’s great for the parents,” said Dave Hitchcock, who’s co-directing the play alongside Merry Hallsor. “There’s a level of humour that appeals to the kids, and there’s a level of humour that sometimes the kids don’t understand but the adults do.”

The plot of Mother Goose takes bits and pieces from a broad range of children’s works, tying together characters like Little Bo Peep and the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland into a lively and hilarious stage production.

“It’s like all pantomimes – it’s based on a well-known story, very loosely,” said Hitchcock. “In this case, Mother Goose is based on the old woman who lived in a shoe and she had so many children she didn’t know what to do.

“All her children are nursery rhyme characters. We have Jack and Jill, Little Boy Blue, Little Miss Muffet – all the familiar ones.”

As with many children’s stories, Mother Goose is a tale of good versus evil: the Chancellor attempts to evict the title character and her children from their shoe by raising taxes so he can build a sewage treatment plant on their property.

However, the family goose, Priscilla, turns out to be “the goose that laid the golden egg,” suddenly making Mother Goose rich enough to afford staying in Gooselandia. The Chancellor then schemes with his henchmen (aptly named Hook and Crook) to steal the goose for themselves.

“It contains all of the ingredients that we’ve come to expect in a pantomime,” said Hitchcock. “There’s lots of singing and dancing and jokes and local references – and audience participation. They’re required to boo the bad guys and cheer the good guys. They invite the kids up onstage at one point to help sing a song and do the actions.

“There are chases through the audience, as well, with the actors. The audience is very much a part of the production.”

The show has been about two-and-a-half months in the making, with the production’s 23 cast members and 30-something crew members rehearsing three nights a week in the leadup to opening night. Hitchcock said there may be some butterflies in a few stomachs, but he expects those to go away when the spotlight comes on.

“There’s a feeling of anxiety about how it’s going to go, but as soon as you get onstage and hear the audience, it’s a great feeling,” he said. “You get so much feedback that it gets the adrenaline rush going. It’s great.”

Mother Goose runs from Dec. 18 to Jan. 2 at St. Luke’s Hall, located at 3821 Cedar Hill Cross Rd. The St. Luke’s Players will perform at 7.30 p.m. on Dec. 18, 21 to 23, 28, 29 and Jan. 2, as well as at 2 p.m. during matinees on Dec. 19, 20, 26, 27, Jan. 1 and 2.

For more information, visit stlukesplayers.org.

 

jacob.zinn@saanichnews.com