Arts & Culture

Metro panto rich with Richmond links

By Lorraine Graves

Published 4:45 PST, Fri December 13, 2019

Last Updated: 2:36 PST, Tue January 7, 2020

Alice may be back in Wonderland at the Metro Theatre this season, but for four of the pantomime’s crew their lives are based in Richmond.  

This year’s production, written by Bard on the Beach instructor, Erik Gow, offers something decidedly different for Metro while maintaining most of the traditions Metro fans and families have come to love. Those brought as grandchildren, often return as parents, reliving their memories while seeing the wonder anew through their children’s eyes. 

This season’s panto features all the usual corny conventions, things for the audience to shout and a host of larger than life characters that sing, dance and ham it up.  

One of those vibrant characters is local lawyer, Danielle Lemon as the Queen of Hearts. 

The Richmond connection continues with Mark 'Sparky' MacDonald who plays Tweedle Dum and   

Liam Fetigan, well known to local audiences as a finalist in this year’s RichCity Idol, is in the ensemble. And choreographer Suzanne Ouellette’s work is often featured at the Richmond Gateway Theatre. 

The Metro Theatre Christmas Panto has long been a holiday tradition for Richmond families. It’s an affordable, near-by production suitable for all ages. 

The Sentinel interviewed Lemon about her life both on the stage and in the legal profession. 

How does a lawyer come to play The Queen of Hearts?

“Pretty much as any actor gets any part—I auditioned. I perform onstage whenever my legal responsibilities permit it. I suppose being a lawyer has allowed me to cultivate some of the confidence and bravado required to play The Queen of Hearts.”

Compare and contrast practising law and performing in an audience participation play. 

“In the practice of law you have to be ready for anything; be a great listener, be able to think on your feet, expect the unexpected and change direction in a heartbeat. That's exactly what performing improv or interacting with an audience is like. However, law is different than performing in that, to be successful, you need to be logical, rational and precise.  Performance is more emotionally driven, more instinctual.  It's nice that I get to develop both sides of my brain, practicing law and performing.”  

What is your background?

I have been acting, singing and dancing my whole life, and always thought my career would be something related to that.  My parents warned me that life as an artist would be difficult, so I had better get a good backup career - so I became a lawyer, which I guess is a pretty good backup! I studied theatre arts at Pearson College on Vancouver Island, then obtained a Bachelors' Degree in English Literature at UVic.  I didn't quite know what to do with a Bachelors' in English so I went to law school at UVic as well, and then pursued a Masters' Degree at the London School of Economics. Even during my law school years and in the first years of my career, I performed whenever I could.  I don't think I would know who I was if I wasn't singing, acting or dancing in some capacity.

What part of Richmond do you live in?

“I was born in Richmond, as was my dad, but I was raised in Victoria, although we spent a lot of time in Richmond growing up, visiting family.  I moved back to Richmond when I bought my first home, in 2015, and live in the Terra Nova area. There is something really comforting about living in Richmond, where my family has so many roots. It gives me a sense of belonging.”   

Do you find Metro to be very far from home? 

“Not at all! It's a hop, skip and a jump over the Arthur Laing bridge! It's really nice to be onstage so close to home, and especially nice to be onstage at such an established theatre that's been around for almost 60 years!”  

What part would you love to play in future?

“One of my dream roles is to play Roxie Hart in Chicago. There's something fun about a lawyer playing a merry murderess, isn't there?”\

How do you feel when you are on the stage?

“I feel at home. It's a place where I can let loose, be silly, and express myself.  Time always flies when I'm onstage.” 

In Metro’s 35 year panto history, they never performed Alice in Wonderland.  So, more than 150 years after Alice first went down the rabbit hole Richmond, and Metro Vancouver audiences have the chance to go down the rabbit hole themselves at the Metro Theatre. 

Each year Metro chooses a charity to support this year, it is Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue (http://www.orphankittenrescue.com/) in honour of the Cheshire cat. Patrons can bring items to put under the kitty Christmas tree such as cat food, toys or cash.  

With sing-along, audience participation, and fun for kids from 3 to 300, Metro Theatre’s traditional panto runs through Jan. 4 with matinees, special performances and evening performances at 7:30. The play runs 90 minutes so no one is up too late. 

For information or tickets go to metrotheatre.com or call the box office at 604 266 7191.

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