Monday, January 19, 2015

Imaginary Beasts Presents Winter Panto 2015 - "Kerplop! The Tale of the Frog Prince"

I have come to see Imaginary Beasts' annual Winter Panto as a necessary rite of passage to help me to make the transition as the vibrant holidays give way to the gray skies of February.  The shenanigans of this wonderfully entertaining troupe always promise a kind of January thaw.  And this year's edition of Winter Panto is no exception.  "Kerplop! The Tale of the Frog Prince" is a wonderfully frothy confection for children of all ages.  It continues the decade-long run of Imaginary Beasts keeping alive in Boston the longstanding British tradition of Panto.

I am going to assume that you know the familiar plot of the Frog Prince, whose amphibian curse can only be reversed by a kiss from the princess.  Matthew Woods' actors ring changes on this familiar theme that are hilarious and fast-paced.  The large cast of sixteen actors regaled the Saturday audience from start to finish, often extemporizing in response to the very vocal young audience members who offered running commentary on the action unfolding in the imaginary kingdom before them,  Mr. Woods is a master at creating these annual extravaganzas, writing, directing and often performing in the Panto. He manages to broadcast his message simultaneously to two different audiences.  His FM (Family-friendly Material) broadcast delights the youngsters with plenty of opportunities to thwart villains with lusty shouts of "Boo - Hiss - Boo"!  And he has the actors urging the audience to support the environmentally-sensitive heroes and heroines with cries of "Go Green - Go Green"!  There is a simulcast AM (Adult Material) show being offered in parallel, with clever and very timely allusions to current events (The I-93 protesters) and golden age oldie but goodie songs by Three Dog Night.  The audience sing-along to "Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog" was a particular delight.

Elizabeth Pearson as Prince Friederich
Erin Eva Butcher as Princess Aurelia
Michael Underhill as Sir Heinrich
Here are this year's cast members and their particular roles in this Kingdom:

  • Kiki Samko - Is hilarious as Old Mother Schnell, serving as a geriatric guide from venue to venue - turning the scene from a frog pond to a palace courtyard with a few arthritic steps and turns and voila! "We are already here, my little mushrooms!"
  • Matthew Woods - Gloriously Green as Wicked Water Nymph Aquanetta, hoping to usurp control of the Kingdom of Little Puddle from the reigning Queen.
  • William Schuller - As Aquanetta's son, Wart, the Water Troll, he tries to fool the Princess into marrying him.
  • Amy Meyer flits around as Zip the Dragon Fly - dropping Wikipedia-like tidbits of knowledge about the life cycle of dragonflies.
  • Molly Kimmerling is the Good Fairy, Waterlily.  She works hard to urge the audience to help her to hold at bay the forces of evil.
  • Noah Simes is the Oracle who is misled by a blot on the oracular page and mistakenly thinks they are in the Age of Aquarius rather than the Age of Pisces.  Later, he plays Jeremiah the Bullfrog, who almost croaks from one of Aquanetta's tricks.
  • Bob Mussett is Buttondown, the Lord High Chancellor.  He tries in vain to keep the Queen from overspending from the Royal Treasury.
  • Audrey Lynn Sylvia and Lizette Morris play the matched set of Prim and Proper, in their starched white caps tying to keep things in order amidst mounting chaos.
  • Joey Pelletier, is, of course, Her Majesty the Queen.  We, of course, are not worthy to comment upon her Royal Personage, but will offer the comment that she wears Cotton Talbot-Minkins' fabulous frocks with aplomb and panache!
  • Mikey DiLoreto is Coco the Skunk, a Harpo Marx-like bicycle-horn-tooting presence in Black and White.
  • Cameron Cronin as  Le Grande Moustache careens around the stage with outlandish French accent overlaying the South Boston foundation of his speech patterns, offering a make-over for the princess.  His turn as the cheeky impostor is a highlight of this production.
  • Michael Chodos as Leech is another highlight.  The slug is a dead ringer for Gollum, and the grimace permanently pasted on his slimy visage is a remarkable achievement in physical acting.
  • Michael Underhill brings his usual exuberance to the role of Sir Heinrich, accompanying the Prince in his quest to find a Princess Bride.
  • Elizabeth Pearson is Prince Friedrich, fooled by Aquanetta into taking a sip from the chalice that will usher in the Kermit curse.
  • Erin Eva Butcher is Princess Aurelia, the Wild Child who will not take the easy path of a comfortable life in the palace.
William Schuller as Wart
Matthew Woods as Aquanetta
Michael Chodos as Leech

All of this fun and sturm und drang is enhanced by the Set designed by Mr. Woods and Candido Soares, the Lighting of Christopher Bocchiaro, Puppet Design of Elizabeth Pearson and Jill Rogati, Sound Design of Deirdre Benson and Matthew Woods and Choreography by Cameron Cronin, Kii Samko, Joey Pelletier and the Ensemble.

If you already have tasted the wonders of a Winter Panto, then I need say nothing more than to remind you to take this year's booster shot of Panto fun.  If you are new to the whole Panto phenomenon, hop on down to the BCA's Plaza Black Box for your initiation into this delightful world.  I would be surprised if it does not become an annual mid-winter pilgrimage.

Molly Kimmerling as Waterlily
Amy Meyer as Zip

"Jeremiah was a Bull Frog, 
Was a good friend of mine
Never understood a single thing he said
But I helped him to drink his wine.

Joy to the world!
Joy to you and me!"

Through February 7

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