What happens when you take a fairy tale, add music by Lady Gaga, a miniature pony (who plays a dog) and audience participation? You get a British holiday show called a panto!
“A Snow White Christmas” is playing at Pasadena Playhouse in southern California from December 12 through 30. This panto is based on the original story of Snow White, but it’s nothing like the Disney version. It includes all the characters we know: Snow White (played by Nickelodeon star Ariana Grande), the Prince (Curt Hansen), the Wicked Queen (Charlene Tilton) and the Magic Mirror (Neil Patrick Harris). But it also includes some new characters, such as a narrator named Muddles (Jonathan Meza). In traditional panto style, Muddles encourages the audience to boo for the Wicked Queen and cheer for Snow White.
“The audience gets to be a part of the show with us,” Ariana told TFK. They shout at the actors and sing along. It’s very exciting!”
What Is a Panto?
Take a traditional story, such as a fairy tale. Add current music, jokes and references to pop culture. The result is a panto, which is short for pantomime. You might think of pantomime as a wordless show, but actually it has absolutely nothing to do with being silent. At “A Snow White Christmas,” not only are kids encouraged to boo and cheer, they can sing along to pop music by Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Michael Jackson.
For more than 200 years, British people have enjoyed pantos, which are usually shown during the holidays and have elements of Shakespearean theater. (William Shakespeare was a famous English playwright). Kris Lythgoe, the writer and producer of “A Snow White Christmas,” loved going with his mother to pantos as a child. He wanted to share his love of these musical comedies with his young son. So he asked his mother, Bonnie Lythgoe, to come over from England and help him. She directed “A Snow White Christmas.”
“It’s about time children were introduced to the theater, but in a family-friendly way,” says Bonnie Lythgoe. “Theater is nothing like television. It’s something so magical that you couldn’t possibly get in the television world.”
Fun for Everyone
I was lucky enough to enjoy the show from center stage, in the front of the theater. The interaction between the characters and the audience was just plain fun. It was an exciting experience to have the Wicked Queen or Muddles speak directly to the kids in the audience and ask for their opinions. The whole production was wacky. Judging from the noise the audience made, I wasn’t the only one enjoying it! Between the dancing dwarves and the slapstick comedy from Muddles and Prince Harry, it was a good-humored and playful night.
Are you looking for family-friendly fun this holiday season? Take it from me, this winter wonderland is not one to miss! “A Snow White Christmas” is a show that people of all ages will enjoy.
Curt Hansen, who plays Prince Harry, agrees wholeheartedly. “If I had seen a show like this as a kid, I would have absolutely loved every minute of it,” he told TFK. “I enjoy it now as an adult!”