Local audiences will again be able to enjoy the unique charms of ‘panto’ with Snow White and the Seven Nobbits, being staged by the Red Deer Players.
The ‘panto’ is an Anglo-Italian Christmas tradition, proved popular not only in the UK but Australia, South Africa and the U.S. where one New York production once ran for 1,200 performances.
Last year, a panto – also described as basically a British music hall theatre with song and dance borrowing stories that are loosely based on fairy tales – was produced by Central Alberta Theatre. It also marked a first for Red Deer.
This year, the Red Deer Players are having a go at it under the solid directorship of Carole Forhan and Sue Humphreys.
Performances run at the Scott Block Theatre, opening on Dec. 26th and continuing through to Jan. 3rd.
Curtain is at 7 p.m. except the Dec. 28th matinee, which is at 2 p.m.
As Forhan points out, this year’s panto – penned by local playwright Albert Azzara, loosely follows the tale of Snow White.
Azzara has taken the liberty with a century’s old story and updated it in his usual zany fashion.
“He has added some local flavour and lots of local content as this is what the true spirit of panto is all about,” said Forhan, adding that the show is suitable for the entire family.
There are people such as Buttons, Bingo the Panto Horse, Mother Twerk (the Panto Dame) and her very odd family, handsome Chad Charming and Mr. Nasty. There are true villains such as Lady Borden, Butterworth and Gooner the Hitman.
“Lady Elizabeth Borden, Snow White’s wicked stepmother, treasures her magic iPad that tells her she is the most beautiful woman in the world. But things change when an earthquake hits the area at the precise moment of Snow White’s 18th birthday.”
Now grown up, Snow White takes the title as the world’s most beautiful woman – which of course Lady Borden is horrified to learn.
She plots with her butler and Gooner McGoonigal to ‘do away’ with the newly-minted number one beauty.
“Meanwhile, in Nordegg, the Twerks, Button’s adopted family consisting of mother and her seven nobbits, discover that the mine that they had been running for years has collapsed in the earthquake.”
While checking out the damage, they rescue poor Snow White.
“And with the imminent seizure of their mine by the bank, Bingo saves the day in a most unusual way.”
Chad Charming also shows up, charming Snow White and they of course live happily ever after.
For Forhan, it’s a special delight to be involved with a panto, as she is originally from England where the tradition is extremely popular.
She pointed out that a member from her crew, who was recently in England, told her there were some 400 pantos taking place across the country at that time including four taking place in his town.
“They often run until the end of January, and they sell out.”
The quirky nature of the productions keep audiences engaged.
“For actors – everything you learned in theatre, throw it out the window – it doesn’t count. This is why in England all these famous movie stars just love to have a go at panto,” she explains. “You can just go and have fun doing it.”
She is also extremely proud of her dedicated cast of 17.
“Ashley Newman plays Snow White – she looks like Snow White, she sounds like Snow White, she sings like an angel. She’s brilliant.”
Musical numbers run the gamut from I Feel Pretty from West Side Story and I’d Do Anything from Oliver to Oh What A Beautiful Morning from Oklahoma and Whistle While You Work from Snow White.
Other gems include If I Only Had A Brain and Somewhere Over the Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz.
Ultimately, perhaps actor Geoff Tagg, well-known to local audiences through his many performances with CAT and set to star in this show as well, sums it up best.
“It is more than just the zaniness. It is the chance to bring out the child in all of us, to lose ourselves for awhile, to put aside the cares and worries of everyday life.”
Tickets are available at the Black Knight Inn Ticket Centre by calling 403-755-6626 or going online at www.blackknightinn.ca.