BWW Reviews: Stages' PANTO MOTHER GOOSE - A Big Golden Goose Egg of a Theatrical Treat

Stages Repertory Theatre's PANTO MOTHER GOOSE is their fifth original "panto" production, and this new tradition has become quite the holiday favorite in Houston. For those who may not know, "panto" is a British tradition of winter musical comedy theater that puts a fresh, raucous spin on fairy tales by injecting the familiar stories with references to contemporary culture and encourages audience interaction (i.e. cheering for the heroes and booing the villains every time they enter the performance space). The product is a fun, lively performance that is fun for the whole family.

Kenn McLaughlin and David Nehls' PANTO MOTHER GOOSE takes audiences on a journey to Goose Island, where Mother Goose is ready to marry Old King Cole and retire from the nursery rhyme and poetry business. She abdicates her title, igniting a war for her crown that could possibly bring about the end of all rhyming in Goose Island and even our own world. Squaring off against Mary (of the quite contrary variety), Jack (with help from his doting best friend Jill) sets his sights on saving Goose Island from a dismal, rhymeless future. Mix in a full cast of zany Mother Goose characters, and the audience will be consistently delighted and amused through hilarious song, dance, and gleeful comedy.

Direction by Ryan Schabach is fast paced and highly entertaining. Every characterization is played as zany as is possible, ensuring that there are multiple laughs per minute. With Ryan Schabach at the reins, the show never lags or drags. In fact, there are so many truly funny, laugh out loud moments whizzing past that repeat viewings are the only way to ensure you've actually seen and heard everything.

As our pair of heroes, Mitchell Greco's Jack and Teresa Zimmermann's Jill are an affable and caring duo. The audience can't help but be spellbound by their zeal for life, rhymes, and each other. Mitchell Greco and Teresa Zimmermann easily bring the audience to their side, making rooting for them to succeed come naturally. Likewise, both Mitchell Greco and Teresa Zimmermann have fantastic senses of comedic timing, adeptly earning laugh after laugh from the audience.

The villains, Mary (the contrary one) played by Josh Estrada and Baron Von Nastypants played by Andrew Ingalls are slimy, despicable, and adroitly fun. With pristine machinations, Andrew Ingalls is nothing short of dastardly and diabolical, making even the youngest of children excitedly boo him at every turn. Josh Estrada is sillier, showing his heart printed boxers as often as possible, earning guffaws of laughter in addition to sneers. Both villains are vibrant and easy to despise, which makes the performance all the more fun.

Mark Ivy's Tommy Tucker is whimsical in his joviality. He is the town crier that loves to sing for more than just his supper. Never missing a chance to break into song and dance, Mark Ivy's Tommy Tucker is charismatic and enthralling, reeling the audience in from the very beginning of the show. Moreover, as a sidekick to the heroes, the audience has nothing but love for him as he keeps Jack and Jill on the path to success.

Wee Willie, played by Kyle Curry, is fantastically witty. Kyle Curry delivers pun rich one-liners that land perfectly time and time again. The ones that fall short are written to fall short, which makes the character all the more endearing as he celebrates his flawed punch lines. Despite being the sidekick for the villains, the audience finds Kyle Curry's portrayal of Wee Willie just as amiable as they do laughable.

Genevieve Allenbury as Mother Goose and Jimmy Phillips as Old King Cole play a cute, doddering couple. Their mirth is infectious, making children and adults smile ear to ear whenever they appear on stage.

As Buttons and Maria, Ryan Schabach and Sarah Myers, respectively, are a show stealing couple. Ryan Schabach's Buttons is a hard worker that has a big to-do list of items to accomplish before Mother Goose and Old King Cole can get married; however "Fall in Love" presents him with his biggest challenge. As silent Maria, Sarah Myers, makes her heartache tangible for the audience as she longs for Buttons to fall in love with her. This fantastically played subplot warms the heart and endears the audience to their characters and the rest of the show.

Hunter Frederick, Cameron Davis, and Danny Dyer are delightfully duplicitous as Hickory, Dickory, and Dock. Every great villain needs a slew of henchmen, and these three actors do skillful, fantastic jobs with those roles. Constantly chewing on golf tees and exclaiming "eat nails," Danny Dyer's Dock is possibly the most memorable of the three.

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David Clarke David Clarke has had a lifelong love and passion for the performing arts, and has been writing about theatre both locally and nationally for years. He joined running their Houston site in early 2012 and began writing as the site's official theatre recording critic in June of 2013.

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