In a celebration of theatrical magic and creativity, Korda Artistic Productions is set to launch its landmark 20th-anniversary show, “Panto, The Panto: Into the Pantoverse.” This grand spectacle will light up The KordaZone Theatre in Windsor, Ontario, starting from December 7th and running through to December 17th, 2023. The show stands as a testament to the enduring charm and innovation of Korda’s pantomimes.
At the helm of this ambitious project are two creative powerhouses: Joey Wright, who co-wrote the script with Jeff Marontate, and Karen Tompkins, the visionary director. Wright, a newcomer to the panto scriptwriting scene, collaborated with the experienced Marontate to merge two decades of Korda’s panto characters and stories into a single narrative. “We were looking for ways to celebrate Korda’s 20th anniversary, so I figured why not take a look at all our previous pantos and find a way to squish them all into one super fun time,” Wright shared.
Tomkins’ connection to Korda runs deep, and her excitement for directing “Into the Pantoverse” was immediate. “As soon as the title of this year’s panto was announced in December of 2022, I hopped on board and started planning… even before there was a script!” Tomkins said. Her approach to directing a panto is both innovative and collaborative, focusing on providing the structure for the cast to explore and expand their performances.
The show, rich in diversity, features an eclectic cast of characters. From John Shellhorn’s dual role as Tinkerbell and Darth Vader to David DuChene’s portrayal of Jafar and Nik Prsa’s Widow Twankey, the stage will be a whirlwind of familiar faces in new, hilarious contexts. Wright and Marontate have crafted a script that balances humor for all ages. “It may be a kids’ show, but there are definitely jokes in there for the adults!” Wright commented on the script’s universal appeal.
Tomkins’ directorial vision for “Into the Pantoverse” was clear from the outset: to make it a celebration of Korda’s panto history. She reached out to actors who had originated roles in previous productions, ensuring a blend of nostalgia and freshness. This approach required Tomkins to be both creative and resourceful in assembling her cast.
The writing process for Wright and Marontate involved a dynamic interplay of ideas, with Marontate’s extensive knowledge of past productions playing a key role. “Jeff is such a talented writer, it was amazing to see the edits and ideas he created and built upon the concept I developed,” Wright acknowledged. The duo’s collaborative spirit infused the script with both heart and humor.
Tomkins, too, emphasized collaboration in her directorial process, especially in the comedic and musical aspects of the production. “Having seasoned actors in the cast has made my job very enjoyable. These people are the best in Windsor/Essex and as long as I provide the basics, their create characters beyond my own imagination,” she explained.
One of the unique features of “Into the Pantoverse” is the blend of silliness and sophistication in its humor, catering to both children and adults. This balance was a challenge for Wright in his scriptwriting debut. “The challenge for me was actually writing the script. I’ve never been a part of the script writing process, so it was a very steep learning curve for me,” he admitted. Tomkins also faced challenges in ensuring the adult humor remained family-friendly, adopting a ‘mean director’ role when necessary to keep the content appropriate for all ages.
Audience participation, a cornerstone of panto, is integral to “Into the Pantoverse.” “Audience participation is one of the foundations of Panto storytelling,” Wright highlighted, underscoring the interactive nature of the production. Tomkins also ensures that the energy remains high, with actors engaging as both performers and audience members during rehearsals.
Both Wright and Tomkins view “Into the Pantoverse” as a boundary-pushing example of traditional pantomime. “Since a panto, by definition, pushes all boundaries, Into the Pantoverse is an excellent example of the genre,” Tomkins stated. The show is not just a retrospective but a forward-looking piece that celebrates Korda’s past while ushering in its future.
The goal of “Into the Pantoverse” is simple yet profound: to leave audiences smiling. It’s a show that honors KordaZone regulars with familiar characters in new situations, symbolizing both continuity and change. As the production comes to life, it promises a blend of laughter, nostalgia, and new memories for all who attend.
“Panto, The Panto: Into the Pantoverse” runs from December 7th to December 17th, 2023, at The KordaZone Theatre, 2520 Seminole Street, Windsor, Ontario. This panto extravaganza is a celebration of two decades of storytelling, humor, and theatrical magic, inviting audiences to be part of a memorable chapter in Korda’s continuing legacy. Tickets are available online.