The Panto tradition is alive and kicking at Pasadena Playhouse as their fifth collaboration with Lythgoe Family Productions “A Cinderella Christmas” opened this weekend to raucous cheers and jeers! For the uninitiated, a “Panto” is a British tradition of putting on a fairy tale with added songs, dances, jokes, over the top characters and above all, audience participation. Indeed, everyone is encouraged at the beginning of the show to boo, hiss, clap and sing along throughout the performance. The Brits love a good panto and have been doing them since 1717.
To make it even more accessible to today’s families, the Lythgoe’s add contemporary dance, pop tunes and local jokes that brought a lot of knowing laughs.
This year, it’s the story of Cinderella finding her prince and it stars a breathtaking Lauren Taylor who brings a sweet innocence and pluck to the role singing hits like “A Moment Like This” and “Rise” with an assured soprano pop voice. Her step-mother is played wickedly with a side of sauciness by Morgan Fairchild. Kenton Duty is, you guessed it, quite charming as Prince Charming and has nice chemistry with his loyal servant, Dandini, played with effortless charisma.
Running away with the majority of the booing and hissing are the fantastically ridiculous “Ugly Sisters” played by the darling yet unrecognizable Josh Adamson and Ben Giroux. Hats off to costume designer Florencia M. Carrizo for the deliciously ludicrous concoctions worn by the sisters. Watching Adamson and Giroux’s deliciously wicked, pitch perfect performances dressed up in these sartorial delights is worth the price of the ticket alone. Finally, in a touching, torch song tour de force performance is the incomparable Alex Newell as the Fairy Godperson, bringing the house down with Whitney Houston’s “When You Believe.” The ensemble is rounded out splendidly by fantastic dancers William Clayton, Kelsi Darby, Ryan Fiene, Toi’ya Leatherwood, Joshua Rivera and Valerie Rockey. Children from local surrounding cities complete the cast, including Bryanna Fernandez, Joshua Guerrero, Lexi Hernandez, Ryan Jose, Jordan Nguyen, Daisy Stoneman, Yasmine Arya, Cody Copley, Madison Han, Alexa Jozuka, Sebastian Jozuka and Jordan Nat’ae.
It’s indeed a festive holiday evening to spend together with your kids who will have a blast from beginning to end, including a magical snowfall inside the theater and outside in the courtyard after the show. Arrive early for all the holiday fun including free crafts, activities, games and on some evenings even Santa Claus himself.
“A Cinderella Christmas” runs through January 8 at The Pasadena Playhouse. 39 S. El Molino Avenue in Pasadena. For tickets and information visit www.pasadenaplayhouse.org (626) 356-7529.