presented by Imaginary Beasts: Winter Panto 2013
Part of the Emerging Theatre Company program
Conceived and written by Matthew Woods and the Ensemble
Directed by Matthew Woods
Choreography by Joey Pelletier and Kiki Samko
Review by Kitty Drexel
(Boston) The pantomime (panto) began its troubled youth as British entertainment based on the Elizabethan masque. It touched on classical subjects, included music and often borrowed from the Commedia dell’Arte style. These days, if one travels to jolly olde England during the Christmas and New Year’s season, one is confronted with vaudeville debauchery, bedazzled drag queens, slapstick and heaps of audience participation. It’s amazing that the US hasn’t already adopted the Panto and claimed it as our own invention. Enter Legend of Sleepy Hollow: An American Pantomime.
The form has been simplified and adapted for the small stage by Imaginary Beasts and contains the same wacky charm as its British cousin and more of the brash sassiness expected from the fringe theatre scene. We’re treated to country line dancing, Rocky references, and an extra hairy Fairy Godfather (Mikey DiLoreto) who speaks in rhyme and verse but not to a multimedia spectacular. The charm is in the ensemble’s work and it is served with campy flair.
The innuendo is vague enough that the show is suitable for viewers of all ages. The highly encouraged audience feedback is often not. In fact, the most troublesome moment of the show is a brief rendition of “The Name Game” – not because it is acted to reveal new levels of horror but because “The Name Game” is an inherently scary piece of music. Conversely, “Let’s Have A Kiki,” a dance hit by the Scissor Sisters, has been stripped of foul language and choreographed in a Vogue meets Phantom of the Opera’s’ “Masquerade” style by (appropriately named) Kiki Samko and Joey C. Pelletier.
The ensemble work is excellent. The character work is quirky; Brom Bones (Michael Underhill) has elements of John Wayne’s bravado; Ichabod Crane (Jill Rogati) has lovely legs and treats the audience to a Lena Dunham experience. Our guest celebrity is the fabulous Vivianne Van Winkle (Joey Pelletier) who serves as a moral and plot compass. She’s a necessary feature to the production as the story would otherwise unfold in continuous circles until it caved in on itself. As it is, the plot takes a little long to develop but that’s the fun in a panto.
Imaginary Beasts offers evening shows as well as matinees for the young and young at heart. It is a healthy entertainment for the entire family (ages 7 and up recommended)! Come for the twisted puppets and inventive costumes. Stay for the delightful dementation of a Halloween classic cum Cinderella tale.