People’s Light captures the spirit of holiday cheer in Little Red Robin Hood: A Musical Panto, its 16th consecutive holiday pantomime in the English Christmastime tradition.
This edition, a sparkling mash-up by playwright Kathryn Petersen and composer/lyricist Michael Ogborn, combines the storybook classic “Little Red Riding Hood” with the social-justice warrior tale of Robin Hood in a mishmash that is delightful mayhem all around.
And, yes, all the standard panto tropes are here: slapstick humor, the hero-villain dichotomy, music and dance, little animal pals, a cross-dressed “dame,” and the smoke-and-glitter transformation scene.
Here, too, is the playful, ad-lib engagement with the audience that makes this art form a favorite. Every show is different because every audience is different.
Viveca Chow shines as Little Red Robin Hood’s high-spirited Amelia, who visits her Granny even as she defends Sherwood Forest against the plundering Lady Nottingham (Mary Elizabeth Scallen).
You’ll come to cheer the vivacious heroine, of course, but the audience at the performance I attended took special relish in booing Scallen’s evil villain. Egged on by cues from music director John Daniels, Scallen sometimes prowls the audience, taunting us “little villains.” (It’s a family-friendly show.)
When Nottingham announces her plan to turn the “vermin” of Sherwood into pelts, Rocky the Raccoon, (Susan McKey), Bert the Beaver (Victor Rodriguez Jr.), and Skippy the Chipmunk (Eli Lynn) become furry insurrectionists. They help deposed editor Floyd Flynn Finkelstein (Christopher Patrick Mullen) create The Howler, an underground newspaper.
Armando Gutierrez plays Lupo, a big, bad wolf more unloved than evil. Hanna Gaffney is Maid Marian in Sherwood and also the secretary/spy Matilda in Nottingham. Tom Teti plays Friar Tuck and also Friar T.O. (Tuckered Out), while irrepressible Mark Lazar is Granny and also Maud, the requisite dame.
Topical humor abounds: Nottingham’s throne evokes Game of Thrones, and Amelia’s struggle references Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, in a brief, whimsical video. As usual, capering characters toss out candy — in this case, Swedish fish.
Chorus member Ebony Pullum warbles lamentations in “Ancient Oak,” underscoring the ecology theme. But Director Bill Fennelly never lets message overtake fun-house frolics. The set by Michael Schweikardt and costumes by Richard St. Clair make the stage a blaze of color.
Little Red Robin Hood: A Musical Panto
Through Jan. 5 at the People’s Light, 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern.