Winter Panto 2012: The Half-Baked & Hard-to-Swallow History of Humpty Dumpty, Or, One Egg is Enough
Conceived & Written by Matthew Woods & The Ensemble; Directed by Matthew Woods; Costume Design by Cotton Talbot-Minkin; Co-Director and Lighting Design by Michael Underhill; Scenic Design by Mac Young, Matthew Woods, & The Ensemble; Stage Managed by Vivian Yee; Puppets by Jill Rogati
CAST: Erin Brehm, Robin Eldridge, Amy Meyer, Matthew Woods, Mauro Canepa, Sam Eckmann, Jesse Wood, Denis Drago, Mikey DiLoreto, Jenny Reagan, Christina Malanga, Kiki Samko, Molly Kimmerling, Derek Fraser, Christopher Nourse, Jill Rogati, Michael Underhill, Matthew Woods
Performances through February 4 by imaginary beasts at the Plaza Black Box Theatre at The Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street, Boston; Box Office 617-933-8600 or www.imaginarybeasts.org
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away (the North Shore), imaginary beasts Artistic Director Matthew Woods and his band of merry men and women put on an annual show. Every winter for nine years, they devised an original Panto to fulfill their mission to bring innovative yet accessible theatrical performances to the community and allow company members to explore and develop exciting theatre. This year for the first time, Woods brings the whole kit and caboodle to Boston for the imaginary beasts’ production of Winter Panto 2012: The Half-Baked & Hard-to-Swallow History of Humpty Dumpty, Or, One Egg is Enough.
For the uninitiated, the British Panto has nothing to do with pantomime; rather it is a hybrid version of musical comedy theatre, predicated on fairy tales and children’s stories, peppered with local cultural references, pop song parodies, a modicum of cross-dressing, stock characters, and large doses of silliness. A cardinal rule is that good always triumphs over evil, and having fun is of the utmost importance. The members of the cast interact with the audience, shattering the fourth wall, and everyone is expected to join in loudly and raucously.
Think Fractured Fairy Tales meets Dr. Seuss, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what is on the bill of fare in Humpty Dumpty in the Plaza Black Box Theatre at The Boston Center for the Arts. Woods plays the evil King Icicle who, with his sidekick (the not-so-fearsome Yeti aptly named Frostbite), threatens to turn Nursery Rhyme Land into his own perpetually frozen winter wonderland. As a portent of doom, Icicle places a giant egg atop the wall of Old King Cole’s castle and, when the egg falls, all hell breaks loose. Cole’s twin sister Mother May I usurps the throne when the curse makes him ineligible to rule and one of the King’s men must undertake a dangerous mission to The Land Before Rhyme to reverse the curse (note: local reference to the Boston Red Sox).
Mother Goose (Erin Brehm) is a Glinda the Good Witch-type who sets up the story in verse, attended by her faithful and intelligent magical goose Sunnyside (Robin Eldridge). As “the ones who see all,” the Three Blind Mice belie their moniker and serve as oracle to the humans who stumble around without a clue. Cole (Mikey DiLoreto), his wife The Queen of Hearts (Jenny Reagan), their daughter Princess Mary Mary (Christina Malanga), and the entire kingdom are at the mercy of Mother May I unless Tom Tom (Molly Kimmerling) and his brother Simple Simon (Michael Underhill), both the sons of Old Mother Hubbard, are able to come to the rescue. They must put their heads together to foil King Icicle, avoid the grasp of the giant spider Eensie Weensie, and outsmart the Pie Man who wants to steal Old Mother Hubbard’s secret recipe. Little Miss Muffett, Humpty Dumpty, the King’s Men Jack B. Nimble and Jack B. Quick, and Tray, the Wonder Dog, are vital to the triumph of good over evil, as well.
Winter Panto 2012 is a remarkable achievement with its large cast, the entire script written in verse, and the multiple storylines that are interwoven. In addition to wearing the crown of King Icicle, Woods conceived and wrote the show with contributions from the ensemble, and he also directed. Methinks there would be a benefit in having a dramaturge make some edits because the first act is overlong. It suggests that everybody was having such fun developing all of the threads of the various fairy tales that by the time they realized how many loose ends they needed to tie up, they were unable to weed out any of the story arcs. Everything gets resolved neatly and at a much quicker pace in act two.