Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Aladdin at Centerstage

The Dog’s Bollocks

by Michael Dresdner

Left to right: Terry Edward Moore, Kate Alden, Casey Raiha

Centerstage has now established a tradition of presenting English Panto each Christmas season, and they do it divinely. This year’s delightful entry is Aladdin, directed by Roger Curtis, and trust me, it’s the dog’s bollocks.

(For you Yanks out there, “the dog’s bollocks” is a British slang term meaning awesome.)

Pantomimes, or Pantos, are raucous, riotous, randy interpretations of fairy tales aimed squarely at families with children, larded with layers of humor sure to hit all ages, song, dance, and lots of audience participation. The players talk with the audience, encouraging them to help out, cheer the heroes, who enter stage right, and boo the villains, who enter stage left.

(Another note for you Yanks: In this case, Pantomime does not mean silent. After an 18th century audience clearly preferred the spoken preamble, a mime show’s savvy producers threw out the silent portion of their two part entertainment. Somehow, the name pantomime stuck, along with a host of traditional conceits.)

This year’s offering boasts incredible sets (Steffon Moody), stunning costumes (Deb Skorstad, Malia Seavy) and wigs (Jonni Whitby, Barbara Peterson), reams of often hilarious props (Becca Hines, Mary Sawyer, Laura Campbell), clever lighting (Amy Silvera), lots of songs, and superbly executed dance numbers (dance captain Katherine Jett) performed by the entire light-footed cast. As always, the heavy music load is adroitly handled by house musical director and resident genius David Duvall and his backup band (Andrew Carson, Mike Eytcheson, Kaarin Lysen, Matt Goodin)

In addition to the attractive and talented romantic leads, Aladdin and Jasmine (Casey Raiha and Kate Alden), Pantos typically have certain obligatory characters, often intentionally played by the opposite sex. For instance, there’s a “male” cop, PC Pongo, played by a young, sexy woman (the stunning Anna Marie Clausen) who is costumed so you don’t ever forget it. Abanazar is this iteration’s personification of evil (Terry Edward Moore ), the Emperor of Cathay (Dale Bowers) is the blustering, foolish father, and the necessary fairy godmother this year is a pair of male and female genies (Josh Williamson and Brynne Geiszler), she in traditional belly dancer garb and he decked out like an over-the-top disco dude. But my favorite repeat character is the ugly old hag of a woman played by a rather large male. Artistic director Alan Bryce took the droll but juicy part of Widow Twankey and made it hilarious. He was but one of many cast members who got to reel out one-liners filled with subtle innuendo, bad puns, topical gibes, and locally-aimed insults.   

One of my favorite bits, and one the audience is encouraged to help with, is a mockery of the song Twelve Days of Christmas where “a partridge in a pear tree” is replaced by “a bra that is made to hold three.” Don’t even ask what the rest of the days are, but be assured there will be enough custard pies hurled to satisfy even the most jaded theatre goer.

If you’re already a fan of Panto, this one is not to be missed. For those who’ve never experienced it, be certain to make time in your schedule to go to Aladdin at Centerstage, and expect what’s possibly the most delightful two hours you’ll spend this holiday season.

Nov.30 to Dec. 22, 2013

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