“Little Red Riding Hood” A Traditional English Christmas Panto

Dame Hood and young cast members

Dame Hood and young cast members

If I told you I went from downtown Seattle to Federal Way to go to the theatre you might well laugh and say, “Well that would be like going from Manhattan to the outskirts of New Jersey to see a show. Why on earth would you do it?”

I did it because I am enchanted by pantos, and Centerstage down in Federal Way seems to be the only theatre in this region presenting one each year. Pantos, the very popular Christmas entertainment in England, are traditional fairy tales complete with songs, dances, jokes, exaggerated characters, and lots of audience participation. Children absolutely love them. Grownups come, even if they don’t have the excuse of children, because the shows are so entertaining, usually filled with double entendres and always, always charming.

In this “Little Red Riding Hood” written and directed by Vince Brady with music directed by David Duvall, two magical creatures—a good fairy (Trista Duval) and a malevolent witch (Olivia Lee)—open the show with the first instructions for audience participation. We are asked to greet each of them with particular sound effects whenever they appear on stage. Of course they are very busy throughout the performance. One tries to save Red Riding Hood from harm, and one seeks to make her life miserable.

Helen Martin as the red hooded young girl has many adventures before she meets and falls in love with her prince (Zack Summers). Meantime all manner of craziness ensues. Alan Bryce as the very large Dame Hood makes a somewhat naughty coquette who ventures into the audience to flirt with one of the male attendees. Dame Hood wears a blonde wig, and “she” goes for heavy rouge and eye shadow. “Her” numerous petticoats, while not exactly stylish, do stand out and add to “her” coquettish charm, and what a coquette “she” is!

Throughout the production there are droll, dumb jokes to delight the adults and silly mistakes to thrill the children. The three-year-old in front of me was so thoroughly enchanted by what he was seeing that his mother had to restrain him from running onto the stage at one point.

There are no Christmas trees or Christmas references in pantos. These shows are simply hilarious takes on traditional fairytales that provide holiday fun for people of all ages and all religious persuasions.

Through December 22 at Centerstage Theatre, 3200 SW Dash Point Rd., Federal Way, (253-661-1444 or centerstagetheatre.com).

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