Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Priscilla: Queen of the Panto

Christmas traditions in the UK are a bit different from what we are used to in the US.  Sure, people decorate trees, put up lights, and exchange gifts -- the basics are the same.  But in the UK they have mince pies instead of Christmas cookies, Christmas pudding instead of pumpkin pie, and Father Christmas instead of Santa Claus.  No Christmas celebration is complete without Christmas crackers -- little cardboard tubes filled with paper crowns, silly jokes, and cheap toys -- and everyone books a ticket for their local Christmas Panto.
Josh shows off our tiny Christmas tree and his paper crown
Panto isn't pantomime like Marcel Marceau, it is a silly take on a traditional fairy tale or folk tale with a laundry list of required elements, including popular songs, pop culture references, a man playing a woman (or a woman playing a man), audience participation, and in the case of our local theater in Wimbledon, bizarre celebrity stunt casting.  The New Wimbledon Theatre is conveniently located about 5 blocks from our house, and rivals those in the West End both in size and caliber of shows.  Their annual Panto is notorious for featuring b-list American celebrities, such as David Hasselhoff, Pamela Anderson, and Henry Winkler.  Last year, we thoroughly enjoyed their production of Dick Whittington and His Cat with Dame Edna (who is actually an Australian man) as the Fairy, so we eagerly awaited the announcement of this year's play and guest stars.
The New Wimbledon Theatre
It was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, starring Priscilla Presley as the Evil Queen, and Warwick Davis as one of the dwarfs.  Wow!  Elvis' widow and Willow performing right down the street...
Yes, THAT Priscilla Presley!
After a couple Warwick Davis sightings around Wimbledon (he is tiny!), we finally got tickets to see the show on Sunday evening.  Once again, we weren't allowed to take photos during the show, but the sets and costumes were just as lovely as in last year's show.

The narrator introduced Priscilla Presley's character as "an evil queen with a strong American accent." Nice. She flubbed a few of her lines, but she looked pretty fabulous for her age (67!).  The show was just as entertaining as last year's production.  While still keeping true to the original plot of the story, they managed to incorporate the song "Wherever You Will Go" by The Calling (as a duet between Snow White and the prince), the Thriller dance, and a running joke about the dwarfs practicing for "Moravia's Got Talent."  One dwarf dressed up as Susan Boyle and lip-synced "I Dreamed a Dream," which fulfilled both the pop culture reference and a man dressed as a woman.

But the highlight (for me, anyway) was when Warwick Davis' character showed off his 'talent' towards the end of the show.  He appeared on stage in a tiny suit, dark wig, and sunglasses and lead the entire cast in a rendition of "Gangnam Style."  I was laughing so hard I was crying.

I wonder who will be performing in next year's panto?  I can't wait!

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