White Rock council members may have found their way into the White Rock Players Club annual Christmas pantomime before – but never so completely.
Local government has always been a popular target for topical panto jabs, of course, and has even occasionally rated mention in the “It was the year that…” lyrics for the show’s perennial musical number The Wonderful Year We Fell In Love.
But Coun. Scott Kristjanson has shattered White Rock precedent with his appearance in the current Players Club opus, Robinson Crusoe, running at White Rock Playhouse until Dec. 26.
Instead of simply receiving a passing mention, he is embracing a major role as principal villain – the evil island Governor Don Juan de Segusting, hell-bent on thwarting hero Robinson (Adrian Shaffer) in his quest for the Seven Pearls of the Seven Seas – and for the hand of Lady Pamela (Anne Matterson).
Only other local politician in recent memory to get so involved with the panto tradition is Judy Higginbotham, who has appeared in numerous editions of Ellie King’s Royal Canadian Theatre Company (RCTC) pantos in Surrey.
In taking the part, Kristjanson said he has been careful not to trade on his political identity.
“I didn’t tell anyone (in the show) I was on council, because I didn’t think it was relevant. It was only recently that I told the director, Cathe Busswood.”
It was fun, however, he noted, to find the panto’s script actually makes reference to a motion he made and which council passed.
Political considerations entered the rehearsal process only once, he added, when he felt uncomfortable delivering a jibe at the expense of a local politician for whom he has a great deal of respect – a line which was subsequently dropped.
“I did manage to talk the director into allowing me to make one small reference to White Rock City Council – which I thoroughly enjoy,” he said.
In appearing in Robinson Crusoe, Kristjanson – by profession a computer programmer and project manager with 35 years in the telecom and big data sectors – is trading on musical theatre and improvisation skills, honed while he was attending the Ottawa School of Dance and Drama.
He indulged his fondness for the stage by appearing in a couple of RCTC pantomimes in Surrey after moving to the Peninsula area.
But he said he and his family are big aficionados of the White Rock version, having attended every show (except last year’s online-only version) since 2010.
“We saw our first one when our daughter Alyssa was not even three years old – I thought maybe she’d last about 15 minutes, but she was captivated by the whole thing,” he said.
Kristjanson said he has been thoroughly enjoying his first experience on the White Rock stage, which turned into a more major commitment than he was anticipating.
“I’ve been doing some courses at The Drama Class and Cathe put out a call through that for background people. I signed up for that, and then about halfway through rehearsals one of the people had to drop out, and Cathe asked me “Scott, how would you feel about taking the role?
“Don Juan is fantastic – in all the traditional pantomimes the main villain is the Demon King, who is the opposing force to the Good Fairy (played in the show by Cecilia Peralta).
“Don Juan is like that – he’s the main bad guy. While there are a couple of villainous pirates about (Captain Skullduggery, played by Meredith Graham and Morgan, played by MacKenzie Claus) they’re nothing to my character’s villainy.”
“I have been having so much fun in the show, surrounded by so much talent. Adrian has got some great musical numbers – every time I hear them I just melt.”
He’s also enjoyed being on the receiving end of quips from popular panto dame Bryce Paul Mills, who plays Ma Pedlar in the show.
“At one point people on stage were asking ‘where is Don Juan’, to which Bryce responded ‘he’s off learning his lines’,” Kristjanson noted.
But most fun of all is the chance to play someone utterly wicked, he said.
“I get to ham it up and go right over the top,” he added. “I play it like I’m the hero of the show – I’m convinced that I’m going to win everything – and get the girl.”
The show runs until Dec. 26 (except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) at the White Rock Playhouse, with 7:30 p.m. evening performances Wednesday through Saturday and 2:30 p.m. matinees on Sundays.
For more details and to reserve tickets ($28), visit whiterockplayers.ca