Photos courtesy of Mark Garvin Photography
This year People’s Light and Theatre Company celebrates the production of its 10th Holiday Panto with Cinderella: A Musical Panto by Kathryn Petersen with music and lyrics by Michael Ogborn. Following the panto tradition of taking well-known folk tales and other favorite children’s stories and turning them on their ears, Cinderella is set in the not-so-distant land of Malvernistan in the roaring 1920s. Cinderella’s animal pals are gangster-types of the era that help her with her chores, but are also detective-types that help solve the crime of what really happened to Cinderella’s mother. Those infamous evil stepsisters are want-to-be flappers that greet folks with a “Hey-ho, daddy-o.” Prince Aidan of Sargasso dreams of leaving his princely duties for vaudeville and he and his valet, Barnaby, exhibit vaudevillian repartee in their hilarious exchanges. Petersen explains that “I’m still telling the tale of Cinderella [but] I’m going to tell it [in] a way an audience has never heard it before and I’m going to twist it and have fun with it. But there’s still the essence of the story.”
As People’s Light enters its tenth anniversary of Holiday Pantos, it offers a time to remember its past and celebrate those who have come together to make it such a joyful, raucous, and unfailingly entertaining event for the holidays. Since the first panto was produced at People’s Light in 2004, a core group of artists have honed the development and performance style of this distinctive form to truly make it their own. Pete Pryor, director of the past five Pantos at People’s Light, observes, “Everyone that’s been in the Panto rehearsal room has developed a kind of performance vocabulary that’s unique to this process. It’s all about invention, giving and taking, flexibility, and expert levels of coordination.” Veteran Panto actors Mark Lazar, Kim Carson, Jeffrey Coon, Joilet Harris, Susan McKey, Christopher Patrick Mullen, and Tom Teti will welcome Panto newcomers Alex Bechtel, Liz Filios, Leah Poyo, Jillian Shea Spaeder, and Josh Totora into the process of creating this music and dance infused, uproarious, and fully engaging experience.
The artists on stage certainly pitch in to the fun, but it’s the multigenerational audiences that flock to the Pantos that are integral to making this interactive performance form fully resound. Petersen affirms, “over the years, I have learned one important thing – that the audience members are full participants in the event. The story doesn’t exist up on stage, but it is created with and among the audience. […] I love standing in the aisle or in the wing looking down a row of audience and seeing a whole family from kids to grandparents, with all of them rapt and laughing. Real credit goes to the whole team for making that happen year after year, but there’s something about the form that, if we do our job right, it respects everybody in the room.”
What Exactly Is A Panto Anyways?
The panto is a tradition borrowed from England, where almost every town has one during the holiday season. Pantos are a mix between a fractured fairy tale and a variety show, using familiar stories to form the basis for exaggeration, outrageous jokes, and rollicking songs and dances. At People’s Light, they incorporate traditional elements, including “the dame” (a man dressed as a woman), audience participation (in the form of cheering the heroes and booing the villains), a “messy bit,” candy passed out to the audience, and a “silly song” that inspires an audience sing-along.
Cinderella: A Musical Panto previews on Wednesday, November 20th, Thursday, November 21st and Friday, November 22nd at 7:00 pm. The play opens on Saturday, November 23rd at 7pm and runs through January 12th. Audiences are encouraged to join the artists after select Thursday evening performances for a conversation about the production.
Adult tickets start at $40. For tickets, call the Box Office at 610.644.3500. Special discounts are available for groups of 10 or more. For more information or to purchase group tickets, call 610.647.1900 x111, or email email@example.com.
Create-your-own subscription packages are still available for the 2013-2014 season and start at $99. Productions include Cinderella: A Musical Panto (November 20, 2013-January 12, 2014), Ghosts (January 15-February 9, 2014), Pride & Prejudice (February 26-March 30, 2014), Dear Elizabeth (April 2-27, 2014), Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie (May 7-25, 2014) and Bach at Leipzig (July 9-August 10, 2014). The Discovery series packages for multigenerational audiences start at $69 for youth and $90 for adults and include Cinderella: A Musical Panto, Pride & Prejudice and Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie. Visit peopleslight.org or call 610-644-3500 to order.
Actors, prices, productions, performance dates and times are subject to change. Additional service charges will apply. Contact the Box Office for more details.
Panto Brunch with Cinderella Characters
Join us at 12pm at The Farmhouse Bistro for brunch before the December 8th and December 22nd Sunday matinees and meet your favorite Panto characters. If you already have performance tickets, you can add brunch for $21.95 for adults and teens and $12.95 for children. Brunch packages include brunch with the characters and 1 ticket for Cinderella. $71.95 for Adults, $66.95 for teens (13-17), and $57.95 for children 12 and under. For reservations, call 610.644.3500 or visit PeoplesLight.org.
About People’s Light
People’s Light, a professional, not-for-profit theatre in Chester County, Pennsylvania, makes plays drawn from many sources to entertain, inspire, and engage our community. We extend our mission of making and experiencing theatre through arts education programs that excite curiosity about, and deepen understanding of, the world around us. These plays and programs bring people together and provide opportunities for reflection, discovery, and celebration. Founded in 1974, we produce seven to nine plays each season, in two black box theatres with 340 and 160 seats respectively, mixing world premieres, contemporary plays, and fresh approaches to classic texts for our 7-Play and Discovery Series.