Panto is back, and Stages has got it. This distinctively English performance art (lovingly called panto) is a holiday tradition that uses fairy tales, men in drag, women as boys, songs and dances and stage effects, mixing them all up to leave us helpless with laughter. Each of Stages' holiday Pantos gets more loopy, inspired as much by low-rent Benny Hill as by high-caliber Steve Martin. This year's panto, Pinocchio, has an original score by Steven Jones, book by Eric Coble, and lyrics by Coble and Kenn McLaughlin, who also directs. It's a contempo version of Carlo Collodi's immortal tale - the famous wooden marionette is a robot, his dad's a computer geek and the wily Fox is now Miss Treats, who wants to stop all the singing and dancing going on around town. (We hope Monstro the whale makes an appearance.) 7 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; 7:30 p.m. Fridays; 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays. Through January 9. Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Parkway. For information, call 713-527-0123 or visit www.stagestheatre.com. $23 to $43.
Fridays; Tuesdays-Thursdays, 7 p.m. Starts: Nov. 5. Continues through Jan. 9, 2010