The ancient theatre tradition of Pantomine or Panto is well known in the UK, but less well known or understood in the Colonies. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Matthew Woods, Imaginary Beasts presents an original Panto each Winter, based on a traditional story that is appropriate for children yet known by all adults. Winter Panto 2014 is "Rumpelstiltski , or All That Glitters." This production glitters in every conceivable way. And I did not even have to conduct a "straw" poll to come to this conclusion! Allow me to explain.
Panto is fun. It is clever. It is brilliantly silly. It is high camp. It invites and demands audience participation. It elicits prompted frequent "Boo - Hiss - Boo" from the audience when a villain is nigh, and it evokes spontaneous giggles and guffaws when the children respond to the wondrous silliness of a bear and a bee fighting over honey, or when an adult gets the double entendre that buzzes over the head of the younger members of the audience. It is a mash-up of allusions to popular culture and popular songs - from Abba, to Sondheim to "Goldfinger" to "What Does the Fox Say?"! There are alliterations and limericks galore. You can also expect a plethora and plenitude of polysyllabic punning, punditry and Pant-asmagorical proceedings pleasingly provided by pulchritudinous performers!
The cast members are clearly having fun in their scenery chewing, over-the-top posturing that is all part of the history and charm of Panto. Men in dresses, glitter and wigs, and women in armor are all part of the schtick. The ensemble is a wonderful amalgam of some of Boston's best young artists:
Bryan Bernfield is Birtle, The Bard - Birtle's heart is far from brittle.
Beth Pearson is Bumble, the Humblebee - to Bee or not To Bee! The buzz on her performance is very positive.
Cameron Cronin is Bruin, The Bear - Gloriously inarticulate in turning every phrase into the name of a food item.
Mikey DiLoreto is Lady Marmalade - If only the Elliot Norton Awards had a category for most frightening wig!
Molly Kimmerling is Lady Glory - Helps the audience look out for the endangered sleeping infant.
Amy Meyer is Lady Honor - Shares her sister's glass eye to peer into the distance and into the future.
(Together these three are The Weird Sisters, who serve as commentators, spell-casters and visions of delight!)
Daniel J. Raps is Hark, The Herald - His entrances and exits become increasingly dramatic
Kiki Samko is Prince Florin - Best thighs in the Kingdom
William Schuller is King Guilfroy the Good - Regally manipulated by the sneering Wantinvain.
Michael Underhill is Sir Wantinvain - One could envision him tying a young damsel to the railroad tracks
Noah Simes is Mistress Curdle - Boasts a basso profundo falsetto to die for.
Sarah Gazdowicz is Curdle's daughter, Myrtle - Trying to escape the clutches of Mommy Dearest.
Joey C. Pelletier is Dame Gilda Lilly - Joey always excels and delights in gilding the lily!
Caroline Rose Markham is Marigold - she blooms in this heroine role.
Matthew Woods is Rumplestiltskin - as the dwarfish villain, he stands tall in this role!
|Kiki Samko (Florian), Bryan Bernfield (Birtle)|
Matthew Woods (Rumplestiltskin), Cameron Cronin (Bruin)
Caroline Rose Markham (Marigold)
Together, they spin a tale or a "yarn" that is pure gold. The sold-out Saturday matinee audience was a wonderful admixture of families with young children, young professionals, die-hard theatre lovers, and a sprinkling of those of us old enough to have gone to high school with Rumplestiltskin. Each audience segment seemed equally enchanted and entranced, but were responding to and savoring different pieces of the pie. The requisite audience participation that is built into the piece sometimes leads to hilarious and spontaneous moments. At one point in the story, a character responds to some confusion she has caused and says: "I think I will take a couple of steps back and start over." She takes two giants steps toward stage right. Immediately, a young audience member says to his Dad in a "stage whisper," "Hey, she took two steps forward; she didn't take any steps backwards!" Audience and actors alike erupted in laughter. Such is Panto.
If this past weekend's sold-out house is any indication, tickets will be at a premium for the rest of the run of the show, which ends on February 2. Don't get shut out. Click on the link below to order tickets.