It’s behind you! (oh no it isn’t!): The history of the East Van Panto

It’s official, the most wonderful time of the year is rapidly approaching. Everything at Starbucks has turned a garish shade of red, and all the drinks are spiked with EggNog. Pacific Centre will soon start lulling their shoppers into a state of hypnotized spending surrender with the repetitive tones of Jingle Bells. And the Ugly Christmas Sweater party season has been in full swing for so long that we haven’t even put ours away from last year yet.

As you know, here at The Cultch, we like to put our own twist on the holiday season. In fact, we like to turn it completely on its head with our incredible winter programming (can you say Little Dickens?!?). And this year marks the sixth anniversary of on of our favourite holiday treat: Theatre Replacement’s East Van Panto.

So, what better time to take a look back at the last few years of glorious pantomiming? Let’s reminisce about all the weird and wonderful ways that Theatre Replacement has created a home-grown East Van tradition that just keeps getting bigger and better every year.

Okay, here we go…


2017 brought us the delightful Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Written by Mark Chavez, directed by Anita Rochon, with music and lyrics by Veda Hille. The Georgia Straight described it as “a hyperlocal and wonderfully creative reimagining of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.” It featured some of the years biggest hits including Despacito and Can’t Stop This Feeling – all rewritten to have a more East Van flair, of course.

Spotlight on: The Dame

With every panto comes a Dame – an over the top female character always played by a man. Snow White’s Dame was played by Alan Zinyk in the role of The Evil Stepmother – the Real Housewife of West Vancouver.


2016 Panto audiences were enthralled with Little Red Riding Hood, whose adventures took her along the Adanac bike path on the search for Grandma’s house, at the Woodwards Building.

Spotlight on: the Studio 58 students

Every year, the East Van Panto plucks three, willing, Studio 58 students from their highly regarded conservatory style performance program, and plops them onto the York stage in the most ridiculous costumes. The aim is to flesh out the cast with three up and coming, pre professional actors and give the students some stage time in a professional, Vancouver production. In 2016, the lucky three were: Stephanie Wong, Elizabeth Barrett and Mason Temple who donned their brussel sprout and hot dog costumes with the upmost of professionalism.


Hansel and Gretel stole the show in 2015 with a Vancouver version of their perilous plight. After being dropped off in the wilderness of Stanley Park by their evil food-blogger stepmother, the sibling duo ran into a hippie witch who captured them and fattened Hansel up in preparation to consume him. Naturally, hilarity ensued.


Spotlight on: The Kids

Pantomimes are traditionally a family affair. And not just in the audience, but also on the stage. Each year, the East Van Panto enlists fifteen kids, in five groups of three, to take it in turns to don adorable costumes and make their stage debuts. In Hansel and Gretel, the children appeared as cute, fluffy woodland creatures as well as an army of gingerbread men (still cute, but also slightly ominous).


The East Van version of everyone’s favorite Disney movie came to life on stage in 2014. With a saxophone playing Cinderella, ugly stepsisters with vinyl collections, and a suspiciously Trump like King, this version was perhaps slightly ahead of its time.

Spotlight on: The Music

Since the East Van Panto’s conception in 2013, local musician, composer, and genius: Vede Hille has provided the score. Vede is infamous for taking well loved pop songs and giving them an East Vancouver flavor. Check out how she spun this T-Swift classic.


And so we come to the end of our journey through time. Back to the OG East Van Pantomime. One thing we can say for certain is our graphic design has come along way. Jack And The Beanstalk, the first production of its kind here in Vancouver, also marked the first production in the newly renovated York Theatre. It was a huge hit that would go on to spark a new tradition in East Van that would last for (at least) six years.

Spotlight on: The Set

Since the beginning of the East Van Panto incredible local artist, Laura Zerebeski, has provided the backdrops. Her incredible, impressionist interpretations of East Van’s landmarks provide the weird and wonderful worlds that our characters live in.

And there we have it, some blasts from the past of the East Van Panto. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed taking this stroll down memory lane with us. If you can’t get enough of the East Van Panto, there’s another lane that you can stroll down with us very soon – and this time, it’s yellow! Get your tickets for the East Van Panto: Wizard of Oz right here. 


By Charlotte Wright

Community Outreach and Marketing Intern

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