Opening Night Theatre is taking a popular culture spin on the Christmas “panto,” with a production of Star Warz, accompanied by music from the Beatles.
Producer Camille Knight has written the panto every year since ONT started community theatre in Mission five years ago.
The panto (short for pantomime) is a popular British tradition, usually involving a well-known fairytale told in a silly way, along with a lot of cross-dressing to go along with the silliness. The lead male and female roles are usually both played by women, while the “dame,” an old female character, is played by a man.
In Star Warz, Jabba the Hutt is played by Gerwin Mills, who recently portrayed Abraham Van Helsing during their production of the Death of Dracula, who has filled the dame role in previous years.
Jabba was turned into a female, explains Knight, because Star Wars has few female characters.
“The role of the dame is always a sort of grotesque cross-dressing so you’re never under any illusion it’s a real female. It’s usually the evil stepmother or someone like that.”
The ONT panto has always had two fairies who battle it out in previous years and attempt to influence events in the story. This time Fairy Naughty, Susan Dearing from Dracula, travels to a galaxy far, far away to become Darth Vader, while Fairy Nice, played by Jennie Bice, becomes the revered Yoda.
“In the very traditional pantomime in the U.K. there’s a lot of double entendres and innuendo but it’s also aimed at kids. The kids love the silly slapstick and the adults like the stuff that goes over the kids’ heads.”
Camille Knight plays Chewbacca, and Dracula director Tony Loyer plays the role of Han Solo. Of course, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia and other characters are also in the play, and the storyline is loosely based on the first three films that defined early 1980s pop culture.
The characters sporadically burst into song with songs entirely from the Beatles, with the lyrics rejigged to better suit the Star Wars theme.
The show runs from Fridays to Sundays from Dec. 9 until Jan. 8. Tickets are $12 for adults, $6 for children (free under age three), and the family pass (two adults and two children) is $30.
Tickets are available at Murdoch’s Book Shoppe or at the door at 33135 North Railway Avenue in Mission.