Saturday, January 4, 2014

Sleeping Beauty--Our 2013 Panto Experience

After having so much fun at last year's Panto, we decided to go again this year. My brother and his girlfriend were in town, so they came along for the fun.

In case you've never heard of Panto, here's my brief overview from last year:
Pantomime (often abbreviated 'panto' because there are no mimes!) is an English tradition around Christmas and New Year's that dates back to the 1700s. The show is a musical comedy based on a fairy tale. Songs, dances, and jokes are non-stop. Songs can be original but often are adaptations of pop songs or other familiar tunes. Often jokes are made about local and national celebrities and nearby towns or shops. The shows are family-friendly and audience participation is encouraged. The villain taunts the audience and asks to be booed, for example. Some of the characters are played by actors of the opposite gender. The Dame, usually the mother of some character, is played by a man in outlandish costumes. The Hero is played by a woman, usually in some tight breeches so you know she's a girl. Two actors play an animal, usually a horse or a cow. The good fairy enters from stage right (the audience's left) and the villain from stage left (the audience's right), mimicking the ancient theatrical tradition that the right side is Heaven and the left is Hell. A chorus of extras provide back up dancers, singers, villagers, minions of the villain or whatever is needed for the story. Usually there's some slapstick scene involving baking or decorating and at least one sing-along for the audience.
 Last year's show was Jack and the Beanstalk. This year's is Sleeping Beauty. The panto is more or less exactly the same as the fairy tale. Two changes were made. First, a boy named Tom was born the same day as Aurora (a.k.a. Sleeping Beauty) in the castle and they are a couple even though he is the cook's son. The cook is the Dame and Tom is the Hero who eventually saves Sleeping Beauty. The chorus does service as minions to the villain, but at one point a big yellow minion from Despicable Me comes on stage. He comes back later, so maybe he filled the horse/cow role for this production.

The second change was the location. The castle is Knaresborough Castle, about four miles from the theater. This relocation allowed plenty of North Yorkshire gags. Also, they put Mother Shipton in (though not as the bad fairy) and her cave is one of the spooky places Tom and company visit. She was a famous sooth-sayer back in the 1400s who made all sorts of vague predictions. She fit in well.

The stage before the show

Overall the production was amazing, though not as good as last year's. Maybe it isn't as fresh and new like the first time seeing a Panto. We had a great time none-the-less and highly recommend it.

One of the after-effects of the show is new theater experiences at home. J and L both have put on performances. L is usually the star/author/director with J in a supporting role or narrator.  He always carefully reminds us in the audience to "Turn off your cellphones and give a big round of applause!" In one production, L was a princess (actually, she is a princess in all the productions) and J was an alien. L wound up killing the alien and then said, "Who am I going to marry now that the alien is dead?" I guess that's a problem with a two-actor show!

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