• 66°

‘Beauty’ is Panto-magic

It’s that time of year again! Decembers in Farmville have been much more entertaining ever since Mary Jo Stockton brought the much loved, time-honored British pantomime to town. While common in Great Britain, pantomimes, or pantos as the Brits say, are not as well known in the U.S. And contrary to what many first think when they hear the word “pantomime,” they are not quirky performances made in silence by actors with clever face paint. A pantomime is a theatrical production usually based on a fairy tale and primarily for children, although the combination of narrative, dance and large doses of humor aided by a healthy portion of slapstick comedy are also appealing to an adult crowd.

In its 12th year, Waterworks Players’ much anticipated pantomime is an overwhelming success. This year’s production, directed by Stockton, is James Barry’s “Beauty and the Beast” and if the first show was any indication, this is a real crowd pleaser. Friday’s cast played to a completely sold out crowd of energetic, appreciative folks who enjoyed every moment of the production. Barry’s version of the fairy tale is charming and he enriches the plot with colorful characters, snappy dialogue and dance numbers that drew more than a few children out into the aisles to dance along with the cast. Audience participation is a large part of the pantomime’s entertainment and this year’s show counts on an active audience from the first lines of dialogue.

But the real magic in this year’s show is found in the cast Stockton has assembled. A combination of experienced actors and talented newcomers, the energy and life that radiate from their performances will capture you from the start. In Barry’s version, the well-known fairy tale occurs within the context of particularly effective narrative frame, the struggle between two powerful fairies, one bent on evil, Fairy Bovver Boots (Pam Wright) and the other, Goody Two Shoes (Christy Moore) who is determined that good will win. Wright delightfully antagonizes both the sweet-natured Goody Two Shoes, as well as the audience, with an energetic performance, excellently coiffed purple hair and a perfect evil witch laugh. The main story line is superbly portrayed by beautiful, strong Belle (Kolby Grimsley) and a Beast (Stu Nicholson) who captures the audience’s hearts long before the wicked curse that binds him is broken. Jordan Whiley (Claude), Leigh Lunsford (Pierre), and John Burton (Dobbin) deliver strong performances in their respective supporting roles, while Noah Blakeslee (Carlos) and Cole Pillow (Chico) team up to create a lot of laughs as a youthful pair of ne’er do wells. Don Blaheta is unforgettable as Belle’s extraordinary sister Smelle, a role that invites witty double entendres and mischievous plays on language. As always, this year’s cast includes a delightful group of children who add to the merriment as they dance, laugh and sing throughout the show. This year’s set is particularly well crafted and special mention must be made of the colorful, creative costumes that add sparkle and fun to the play.

There’s only one weekend left to see this year’s pantomime. Show times are Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 6 p.m. Tickets are just $5 and, when purchasing your tickets online, you can select your own seating at http://waterworksplayers.org/buytickets.