WHITEHALL — Local theatre history will be made Jan. 26-28 when Whitehall Middle School presents “Aladdin, a British Panto.”
The production in the Whitehall High School auditorium will mark the first time this kind of show has been staged in West Michigan.
Performances will be 7 p.m. Jan. 26 and 27, and 3 p.m. Jan. 28.
Advance tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for students. Tickets the day of the show are $10 for adults and $5 for students. Tickets can be purchased on line at aladdinpanto.eventbrite.com, at Whitehall Middle School, or at the door the day of the show.
British pantomime is a theatrical spectacle that blends commedia dell’arte and vaudeville-style performances. There are beautiful sets and costumes, wacky characters like the Panto Dame which is traditionally a man dressed as a woman, and audience participation. There is not only speaking, but also singing, dancing and hubbub.
The show is interactive, blurring the line between actor and audience. This family show is something the English look forward to seeing each year around the holidays and New Year.
“Pantos are without doubt a staple of British culture,” said Samantha Farrar, the show’s choreographer. She should know. Farrar emigrated here three years ago from England.
“Every year during Advent and into the new year, theatres across Britain put on their very own Pantomime,” she said. “Audience interaction is key, and no winter feels quite right without seeing at least one Panto. With local jokes, songs, and dances, it is always a lot of fun for any age.”
Director Kim Harsch agrees that this show is a departure from Whitehall’s usual Disney productions. “It is seriously funny and fun for the audiences,” she said of the script purchased form British playwright Nigel Holmes. “These 40 kids are having a blast and they are contributing to the humor, adding little extras here and there.
“I can see this becoming a tradition for Whitehall. Once audiences understand their level of involvement, I know they will want to participate in one each year.”
Harsh said she loves the opportunity of cross-cultural understanding the play allows. So does Farrar.
“I am so thrilled that Kim Harsch has taken on the challenge of bringing part of my home here to Whitehall,” Farrar said. “It’s always so good to share different cultural experiences. For one thing, it encourages a better understanding of one another, which is something we should all develop to improve our world. For another, it is just a lot of fun.
“Seeing the middle school students throw themselves into something completely different and seeing the enjoyment they are getting out of something dear to my heart is such a wonderful feeling. I cannot be more impressed with their enthusiasm and hard work. This will be a show not to be missed.