Posts Tagged ‘Ghent Playhouse’

“SleepFrog” Unleashes Panto-Madness at the Ghent Playhouse [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, December 5th, 2013
The Cast of SleepFrog. L to R: Judy Staber, Nellie Rustick, Tom Detwiler, Michael Meier, Paul Murphy, Joanne Maurer, Mark “Monk” Schane-Lydon, Cathy Lee- Visscher, Sally McCarthy, Paul Leyden.

The Cast of SleepFrog. L to R: Judy Staber, Nellie Rustick, Tom Detwiler, Michael Meier, Paul Murphy, Joanne Maurer, Mark “Monk” Schane-Lydon, Cathy Lee- Visscher, Sally McCarthy, Paul Leyden.

Theater Review by Gail M. Burns

I am coining a new word – Pantoloonacy. The troupe who write and perform the annual British-American Pantos at the Ghent Playhouse style themselves the Panto-Loons, and therefore it is only proper that I spell my avid fandom for their annual efforts accordingly. This year they are presenting a mash-up of Sleeping Beauty and The Frog Prince titled SleepFrog, and while they have not succeeded in blending the two tales as brilliantly as when they magnificently merged The Three Bears and The Three Little Pigs in Menageries a Trois, their Loonacy shines through, and I hear the seats are selling out.

In case you still don’t know what a Panto is, it is a British holiday tradition where you take a familiar story, have everyone cross-dress, and proceed to merrily shred the plot while inserting a pile of topical humor and songs. Under British-born Judy Staber’s guidance, the Panto-Loons have made this artform (and I use the term “art” very loosely) the must-see of the season in Columbia County.

With a script that calls for six fairies (of the winged variety) and two frogs, costume designer Joanne Maurer, who also plays King Posterium, has once again turned out a pile of colorful, hilarious costumes that transform men and women into women and men and animals and supernatural beings of all shapes and sizes.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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Review: An Exceptionally FIne Lettice and Lovage at the Ghent Playhouse [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013
(l to r) Johnna Murray, Joan Coombs and Nancy Hammell in Lettice and Lovage in Ghent, NY.

(l to r) Johnna Murray, Joan Coombs and Nancy Hammell in Lettice and Lovage in Ghent, NY.

by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Gail Burns: People have been talking about this wonderful community theatre production, so we just had to squeeze it in. And am I glad we did.

Larry Murray: And those who read this will be able to as well since it is playing at the Ghent (NY) Playhouse for one more week. Theatre people know about the comedy Lettice and Lovage which revolves around a deceitful docent who livens up her historic tours of yet another of England’s fusty* and dusty historic homes with tales from her own imagination. But anyone who has been held captive on a “historic” tour that is dull as dishwater will love the twists and turns that follow.

The playwright Peter Schaffer has always had a knack for picking colorful and interesting characters, from Mozart in Amadeus to the stableboy who blinded horses in Equus. Barrington Stage did his wonderful Black Comedy a couple of seasons ago, and I have to admit that Schaffer is one of my favorite playwrights.

Gail: I am not sure I’d rank him that high on my list. His plays, especially Equus, tend to be over wrought, and the plot is the thing I like the least here. When I reviewed the 2003 and 2004 Shakespeare & Company productions I wrote: “…[The play is] rather predictable and formulaic in that oh-so-wacky way television has trained us to expect. I enjoyed the laughs…but I would have enjoyed them more if they had supported a more serious purpose than another when-I’m-an-old-lady-I-shall-wear-purple-carpe-diem-you-can’t-take-it-with-you slab of silliness.” And “…playwright Peter Schaffer…has used the captivating character of Lettice Douffet as a way to hold the audience’s attention while he rails about everything from ugly British architecture to stifling work environments, and celebrates everything from Shakespeare to Tudor cuisine.”

I enjoyed it though because I saw it in the Spring Lawn Mansion, which played the role of Fustian House* exceedingly well, with Tina Packer and Diane Prusha in the title roles. But you saw the original London production starring Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Gail Burns on “Robin Hood: Fifty Shades of Green” – The Panto Loons 2012 Edition [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, December 6th, 2012
The cast (l to r) Judy Staber, Mattew W. Coviello, Sally McCarthy, Johnna Murray, Cathy Lee-Visscher, Michael Meier, Mark “Monk” Schane-Lydon, Joanne Maurer, Tom Detwiler, Paul Murphy, and Paul Leyden. Photo: Daniel Region

The cast (l to r) Judy Staber, Mattew W. Coviello, Sally McCarthy, Johnna Murray, Cathy Lee-Visscher, Michael Meier, Mark “Monk” Schane-Lydon, Joanne Maurer, Tom Detwiler, Paul Murphy, and Paul Leyden. Photo: Daniel Region

For the Berkshire-Capital region’s most comprehensive listing of theater offerings visit GailSez.org

After this past presidential election cycle, it is only natural that the Panto Loons would select Robin Hood – whose hero robs from the 1% to give to the 99% – as the story they would send up this holiday season. And considering that the Loons start writing in July and the show goes up a scant three weeks after election day, they must be very clever indeed to get the political humor just right (or in this case just left) so that the show rings true whatever the outcome.

(Quick Introduction for Panto Virgins: The British Pantomime or Panto tradition has nothing to do with what Americans know as Pantomime or Mime. There is a LOT of talking and singing and no one wears white-face or a beret. The best analogy for Baby-Boomers is to imagine the Fractured Fairy Tales segment from the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon show live on stage, set to music, with everyone in drag. There is a lot of topical political and cultural humor, and the songs are all new lyrics set to old standards. Its all very, very silly.)

While I recognized, happily, several jokes from their 2004 staging of this same story – the female anthropologist joke and the epithet “You flatuent anchovy!” in particular – this is an all new 2012 version, retaining only Head Loon Judy Staber’s gently sloshed performance as Friar Tuck and Johnna Murray’s perfect turn as Maid Marion, a young woman with the riches and womanly virtues of a true princess, and the speech impediment of Elmer Fudd. Her love for Wobin, er, Robin Hood (Cathy Lee-Visscher) is as unswerving as her hate for Sheriff Cockalorum of Nottingham (Sally McCarthy), whom his greedy Mother Dona Trumpet (director Tom Detwiler) wants her to marry.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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