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Community Matters

Central Alberta Theatre offers British Pantomime to the Children of Red Deer

November 22nd, 2013

This year, Central Alberta Theatre is offering the children of Red Deer a new dimension of the Christmas experience: It is a British Pantomime named “Cinderella Dances With the Stars.”

As far as is known, Red Deer hasn’t witnessed a Pantomime before. The Panto (as it is called in England) is part of British Christmas Tradition in which a familiar fairy tale is performed using the whole spectrum of performing arts such as — but not limited to — comedy, dance, political satire, and drama. It is usually performed by a mixture of professional actors and people from other areas such as sports or politics. One of the actors is designated to encourage audience participation.

As a child in Birmingham, England, Lawrence Hobbs (the show’s executive producer) could not only look forward to presents, carols and reindeer during the Christmas season, he could anticipate attending one or more Pantos with family and friends. Lawrence has fond memories of being permitted to loudly boo, cheer, and heckle the actors in an era when children were taught to be seen and not heard.

Retired Red Deer school teacher Albert Azzara — a veteran of eleven Pantos in Lethbridge — has rewritten “Cinderella” for the Panto format and will direct the production.  “Audience participation is a key element,” says Albert. “Children love being encouraged to ‘BOO’ the villain, argue with the Dame, and warn the the Principal Boy when something bad is about to happen. We’re going to have some great fun as the villain tries to thwart a series of dancing princesses who try to win the hand of the prince in Royal Red Deer’s own ‘Dances with the Stars competition.’ ”

Pantomime literally means “all kinds” of “mime.” Pantomimes can be traced back to the middle ages since they incorporate traditions from the Italian ‘Commedia Dell Arte’ and British music halls. Modern British pantomime is modeled on the early masques of the Elizabethan and Stuart days. Lately, elements of American Vaudeville have been added to produce an adaptable festive institution loved by children of all ages. CAT’s production will continue the tradition with Dame, Panto horse, chase, black light ballet, appearance by local dignitaries, as well as references to Red Deer landmarks, people, business and popular culture.

The Panto genre has been quite successful in BC, Ontario and Lethbridge. They have also proven popular in Australia, South Africa, and the USA — where the New York production of “Humpty Dumpty” ran for over 1200 performances.

The production will run on the main stage of Red Deer’s Memorial Theatre from December 13th to the 21st with evening performances and matinees. Ticket pricing is geared to make it an affordable Christmas treat. As Lawrence Hobbs explains, “We’re ensuring tickets will be much more affordable than many of the touring Children’s shows. Several of the ten performances will be weekday matinees so that school groups can come to the show together.”

Additional information about the event, the performance schedule, and ticket pricing may be found at http://www.centralalbertatheatre.net/current-season-guide/cinderella-dances-with-the-stars

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