Review: 'Slipper' at Alberta Theatre Projects

Vicki Trask

OnStage Calgary Critic

I admit, I will not be the first to rush to the defense of the pantomime. It’s not my favourite genre of theatre but like anything, if it’s well done, then I must tip my hat to the cast and crew. I was very impressed with ATP’s latest production, which unfortunately closed before the new year. 

“Slipper: a distinctly Calgarian Cinderella story” is a contemporary pantomime written and directed by Rebecca Northan in collaboration with Christian Goutsis and Bruce Horak. It follows many classic tropes, like the “male” female lead character, the dame, the prince charming (although taking on the role of the principle girl), the call and answer portion, a myriad of musical numbers, and oh so many innuendos and topical jokes. 

In the words of Uncle George, “let’s go on a grand adventure and chase our sorrows away”. I think December was the perfect time to stage a production about love, and hope, and acceptance. What an absolutely heartwarming Christmas-time production to forget your troubles.

Ellie Heath plays Cindy (our Cinderella in male garb), with just the right balance of charm, kindness, and a childhood curiosity. She played to the children in the audience very well and kept a straight face as best she could, given the other fantastic actors sharing the stage with her. Overall, I thought this maiden carried the story very well. And she rapped! That is the beauty of new works on an old genre; your lead female gets to rap, and make dirty jokes, and dress herself with a ball gown that floats from the ceiling. It’s contemporary magic.

Joel Schaefer plays Edward Prince (oh yeah), a boy thrust from the past into a modern world where girls can were shorts and work outside of the kitchen. I thought Joel was sweet and naïve, not overly memorable, but very well done. Edward Prince is the moral drive in the story so he acts as an active audience member more often than not. While it’s an essential character, it’s not always easy to get a read on the actor’s ability in a role like that. From what I saw, Joel was absolutely fantastic.

Kevin Kruchkywich plays Uncle George (the “magical” dame), above and beyond my favourite character in this production. The dame is a fantastic role to play, in my opinion. Not only do you get fantastic outfits, but you get to have fun for two hours; make jokes, play with the audience, play with your fellow actors. I thought Kevin nailed it. He was funny, and fabulous, with just the right amount of modern flamboyance. Brava!

Elinor Holt, on the other hand, did not sell it to me. Playing Judith, the boo-worthy evil Step-Mother, she was meant to be exaggerated in her villainess, more comical than dark, and the epitome of grand gestures. In my opinion, the Dame and the Villain are the most interesting and engaging characters in a pantomime. Without them, the story falls flat. I’ve seen Elinor perform before and she’s fantastic. I didn’t believe that she believed what she was saying. That’s such an odd description but I just didn’t feel it from her the way I felt it from others. Her energy was off so she stood out to me.

And finally, Anna Cummer and Chantelle Han play Tuscany and Somerset (Cindy’s privileged teen step-sisters). I thought they were both adorable, bumbling, balls of energy. They worked incredibly well as a unit but still maintained their own physical characters. They seemed to really enjoy themselves and so I enjoyed watching them. My compliments you girls, well done.