For the uninitiated, British panto is a rich holiday tradition that goes back for centuries. It’s a family-friendly musical theater extravaganza, always during the holidays, with lots of audience participation. There are some constants: The shows are always based on a fairytale. Pantos always include a dame (the story’s narrator) played by a man dressed in drag, a horse or cow, and a leading man, played by a woman wearing boots and shorts. I’ve been to a panto years ago when we were living in the U.K. but haven’t seen one in recent years and never here in the states. When we heard there was playing here in Sacramento (City Theatre), we had to check it out.
The panto was “Alice in Wonderland” and we loved it. They threw some characters from “The Nutcracker” into the mix, along with heavy pop culture references and some familiar pop songs. Candy was tossed into the audience at regular intervals, we had a great time shouting at the actors (“She’s behind you!”) and we were all given balls to pelt the Queen of Hearts. It was amazing, manic and joyful and will certainly be part of our holiday tradition going forward.
Now I am just hoping the kids aren’t really disappointed when they go to a regular play for the first time!