The Waterworks Players’ version of “Puss In Boots” is pure catnip

Published 4:04 am Thursday, December 7, 2023

For a long time now the folks who come to a Waterworks Players panto know they’re in for a  fun-filled evening. “Puss In Boots,” this season’s offering, doubles down on the fun. 

As is often the case in a panto production, the plot plays a distinct second fiddle to spectacle:  colorful, outrageous costumes; broadly comic characters; lots of movement, especially dancing.  Those familiar with the fairy tale will quickly spot its hallmarks: three poor brothers, inheritors of  a run-down mill; a vicious ogre; a beautiful princess who will marry her heart’s desire; and of  course Puss In Boots, the heroic, precocious cat. 

But this “Puss” is a mashup of all kinds of things—other fairy tales, movies, pop culture, and even  a current larger-than-life politician. However, it’s those over-the-top characters who most grab our  attention. Their names alone hint at all the mashed-up hilarity that ensues: Fairy Poppins; Patty  Cake; Dipsey the Donkey; Hickory and Dickory; Olaf the ogre and his Igor-esque sidekick  Gunther; a whole host of young Harvesters and Ghosts; and of course Puss, himself. 

Email newsletter signup

Jokes, puns, and double entendres pop up throughout the play for young and old(er) alike. Puss  brags, “I can quote Shakespeare: ‘Tabby or not Tabby.’” And Patty Cake—a bake shop  personified—riddles a group of youngsters with “How do you make a creampuff? Chase it around  the garden,” and then only a few beats later asks them, “Would you care for a fruity tart?” (Also:  note the visual pun she’s wearing.) And the panto ends with even more jokes, this time from the  audience, as Hickory and Dickory invite kids down to the stage with “Anybody out there who  knows how to tell a joke?” 

Kudos to this strong, amusing cast. Newcomer Jaylin Groner’s Puss is a fetching and feisty  delight; Waterworks veteran Christy Moore is a hilariously frazzled Fairy Poppins. Jordan Whiley,  playing his fifteenth panto Dame, is a hoot as Patty Cake. Sarah Varela gives an outstanding  performance as Dipsey, the one true pantomime character. Maurice Ellis’s Jack is the ideal Good  Guy Who Gets the Girl. Elijah and Kolby Logue, as Hickory and Dickory respectively, are a barrel  of laughs as Tweedledee and Tweedledum-like siblings. Erik Varela, as Olaf, amusingly channels  his inner ogre; and Pamela Wright packs a real verbal punch as a put-upon Gunther. Reeves  LaRoche is a “solid” King Vincent, and Maya Hoffman is fetchingly regal as Princess Bethany.  Gregory Gibbs and McKinney are efficiently professional Royal Guards. And finally: Eliza  Vincent, Lilly May Redd, Grayson Clabo, Logan Butwin, Cece Halliday, Evelyn Wright and  Madelyn Schock, most of whom are debuting in this production, are a wonderfully scary chorus  of Ghosts and Harvesters. 

Kudos, too, for “Puss’s” creative team: Director Mary Jo Stockton; Set Designers Sean Dowse  and Billy Tucker; Stage Manager Erika Evans; Lighting Design and Operator Renee Segroves;  Troy Halliday and James Eggleston, Sound; and LeeAnn Schock, Costumes.

The final three performances of “Puss In Boots” are this weekend: December 8 at 7 p.m. and  December 9, with a matinee at 2 p.m. and evening show at 6 p.m. For ticket information, consult  the Waterworks website: waterworksplayers.org.