When Imaginary Beasts presents a new show, I come running. I know it will be hilarious. I know it will be wildly imaginative and their PANTOs are just the thing to get you through a nasty winter. The Beasts’ annual Winter Panto 2014 (running through Feb. 1st) is fashioned after the Olde English pantomimes, where stock characters send up the status quo, commedia dell’ arte style.
Matthew Woods and company create the panto as an ensemble, working with a baseline (RUMPELSTILTSKIN, this time), fleshing it out with spectacular antics, bad puns and good wit, then peppering it with outrageous topical references: Lerner and Lowe, Miley Cyrus, Patti LaBelle, Saint-Saëns, Freddie Mercury, Sondheim, the Beatles, and much more, all embroidered seamlessly into the delicious hodgepodge.
Little children are driven to paroxysms of delirium when none of the characters on stage notice the approaching fox (What does the fox say, indeed!). Adults squeal like children at the ribald asides (which scoot over the heads of the little ones) and at the divine gender switches: Kiki Samko is a spunky royal prince, Joey C. Pelletier gilds the Lily (Does he ever!) as plucky Caroline Rose Markham’s haughty mum and Noah Simes cuts a grand swath in Cotton Talbot-Minkin’s gorgeous fuchsian gown. (Talbot-Minkin’s ingenious costumes are an integral element of any IB show, as are Woods’ and Dierdre Benson’s clever set and sound designs.)
Molly Kimmerling does double duty, as the impressive glass eyed third of the Lady Marmalade trio (along with a resplendent Mikey DiLoreto and a playful Amy Meyer), then as that pesky fox who drives the children to distraction. Beth Pearson zooms about as a kazoo wielding bumble bee (more spectacular costuming) whose honey is so seriously coveted by Cameron Cronin’s brown bear that she indeed exits in true Shakespearean style, “pursued by a bear.”
At one point Daniel J. Raps is encouraged to perform his dialogue in (of course) raps! Bryan Max Bernfeld as the minstrel/bard tries to keep the story straight but it’s hopeless as detours galore happily sidetrack the troupe. William Schuller as the king is beset and bedeviled by the evil Sir Wantinvain. Michael Underhill has a fine time twirling his invisible mustache. Director Woods gets down into the act as well, as the nasty gnome Rumpelstiltskin. Not to worry. The bad guys never triumph in a Panto but where would we be without them!