Theater Review – Cinderella, A Holiday Panto

The Frazier Historical Arms Museum wants to expose Louisville to panto, a theater form that has rarely been presented in the United States. A staple of the British holiday season since the middle ages, traditional panto encourages audience participation, uses slapstick humor, mixes gender roles and sprinkles the dialogue with local references.

In “Cinderella, A Holiday Panto,” the performances ranged from very strong to merely adequate. The traditional use of a junior chorus played well, and the children were delightful. Among the adult characters, the standouts were the Ugly Sisters, played by Lucas W. Adams (Hollyhock) and Mike Fryman (Pansy). They are two funny, talented men who should take their show on the road. Sylvia Cardwell was excellent as the Fairy Godmother, as was Janet Jenkins as Buttons. Jeremy White was entertaining as the beleaguered Lord Dandini.

Another panto tradition is the use of current music. This did not fare as well during some parts of the performance. The singing overall was not strong, and the audience tended to lose focus during the musical numbers. A big attraction of this type of play is audience participation, and it was difficult for the players to regain their momentum after a particularly slow song. The play is also too long in the first act but picks up steam again after intermission.

This “Cinderella” is geared toward children but much of its humor is adult (although the bawdy jokes seemed to go right over the kids’ heads). All told, this troupe gets kudos for staging such a little-known art form. Once my companions and I got into the spirit, we laughed until our sides hurt.

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