Arts & Entertainment
3 min

Horny housemother no challenge for Thompson

Curtains up on Beauty and the Beast

Scott Thompson as Plinky in Ross Petty's Beauty and the Beast, which runs Nov 25-Jan 2. Credit: Courtesy of Ross Petty

Scott Thompson is wearing a dress onstage! Okay, it’s hardly a shocking sight for anyone familiar with the  actor’s work. After all, Thompson and his fellow Kids in the Hall routinely donned dresses and wigs to create many of the characters in their TV show.

But while Thompson and company (Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald and Mark McKinney) crafted fully-realized female characters that belied the actors’ gender, Thompson says his latest foray into women’s clothing feels like uncharted territory. From the platinum blonde wig to the striped stockings and ballet flats, Thompson is every bit the classic drag dame as Plinky, the horny housemother in Ross Petty’s latest holiday extravaganza, Beauty and the Beast.
 
“In many ways I’m actually playing a drag queen,” says Thompson. “I have the role of the dame, which is a classic element to the pantos they have in England. In this show, we have moments in the play where you let the audience know you’re a man playing a woman. With The Kids In the Hall, there was no wink to the audience. We played it as female characters.”

Petty’s yearly shows have become a staple in family entertainment, with audiences roaring at his wickedly skewed takes on classic fairy tales. From Peter Pan to Cinderella, Petty has lampooned them all with an infectious glee that is as much fun for kids as it is for adults. The humour borders on ribald (but it’s never vulgar), and it’s always obvious that the company is having at least as much fun as their audience.

“I’m loving it,” Thompson says. “Everyone’s so talented, and it’s great to celebrate them. Once you get past the incredible jealousy at them being so good and only in their 20s, you realize that working with them helps keep you young. That’s actually what the rehearsal period is for: to help you get over your envy and rage.”

A highlight of this year’s show will certainly be Thompson’s take on Beyoncé’s song “All the Single Ladies”, a performance set to rival Liza’s Sex and the City schtick.

“Poor Beyoncé is going to die and roll over in her grave if she hears about it,” Thompson deadpans. “I make mincemeat out of that song.”

It’s wonderful to see the actor in prime form, following a scary bout of stomach cancer in 2008. He’s now cancer-free and eager to get to work.

Beauty and the Beast marks the first time since university he’s made a commercial theatre appearance that’s not sketch comedy or a one-man show.

“Before Kids in the Hall, I did a play at Theatre Passe Muraille where I had sex with Terry Fox. Perhaps that’s what killed my theatre career.”

And, of course, a writer of Thompson’s calibre can’t resist adding a few personal touches to the Beauty and the Beast script. For some producers, this might prove contentious, but Petty couldn’t be more delighted.

“Scott’s working his ass off,” says Petty, who does double duty as Baron Von Cowell in the production. “He’s courageous and hilarious and sees what works best for his character. He’s completely committed, and I love that about him.”

Producing these annual productions is truly a year-round job, and it’s a testimony to Petty’s tenacity that his Fractured Fairy Tales are now celebrating their 15th anniversary.

“The majority of my time is spent making deals come together to sponsor these shows,” he says.

Petty is typically modest about the company’s success, pointing instead to the high calibre of stars he’s been able to attract for the lead roles. This year boasts Canadian Idol winner Melissa O’Neil as Belle and Degrassi’s Jake Epstein as her hirsute lover, while previous productions have seen the likes of Sean Cullen, Sheila McCarthy and even Petty’s wife, ballet superstar Karen Kain.

When asked about future productions, Petty plays coy about which fairy tale he plans to skewer next. He does hint, however, that at some point we may be seeing a certain little girl trotting up a golden path in ruby-red shoes.

Beauty and the Beast runs Nov 25 to Jan 2 at the Elgin Theatre. See rosspetty.com for ticket details.