Oh, Yes It Is: Panto!

One of the best things we did while in England was to see my first pantomime, or panto. It was the girls' first time, too, but forget them. I had a blast.

We saw Aladdin starring Coronation Street's Bradley Walsh at the lovely New Victoria Theatre in Woking, Surrey. Linda did a great job getting our seats, in that we were dead center in the first row of non-posh seats. The view was fantastic, the seats comfy, and the concessions typically English. What is it with eating ice cream whenever they can?

Not that I got any, Keven. Humph.

What I found interesting about watching the performance with the girls is that this was their first live theater experience. Ilsa was particularly concerned about the villain. "He's just playing a bad guy, right?" Seems that the presence of a real-life person who might possibly be a real-life bad guy was a bit disconcerting. Juliette thought the whole thing was too loud and kept her hands over her ears for most of the time.

Because audience participation is such a big part of panto, there are generally two groups of people going bananas in show of support. The first is the older children, say ages 8-13 (under eight is not rowdy enough, at least not for girls, and over 13--well, teenagers are too cool for that shit). The second is the parents of young children as we indoctrinate the younger ones and encourage them to get over their shyness/fear. So I hissed and shouted "Oh, no it isn't" and sang along like mad. It's actually quite freeing and imbues a surprisingly strong sense of communal spirit.

The dancers were great, the scene production and costuming was surprisingly elaborate and top-notch, and when things went wrong--which they seemed to do quite a lot, even to the point where Bradley Walsh thanked us for bearing with them through the cock-ups--the actors were first-rate in their ability to improvise and make everyone laugh.

As I held Ilsa on my lap for the finale sing-off (we were assigned "When the Saints Go Marching In" and clearly roasted the left side of the theater), I got a little weepy. I enjoyed it so much--and despite their initial trepidations, the kids had a brilliant time too--so I thought that we must continue this tradition and see another one when we're in England for Christmas again in two years. My mind started doing the math: Juliette would be 8 and Ilsa 7; then Juliette would be 10 and Ilsa 9; then Juliette would be 12 and Ilsa 11--and then they'd be too old to want to see some dumb old panto!

I got weepy!

Then I hugged the five-year-old in my lap all that much harder and sang until she told me I was hurting her ears. Good times.

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