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Time to Get Silly With Stages' Reprisal of Panto Cinderella

Dwight Clark, Carolyn Johnson and Rutherford Cravens in Stages Repertory Theatre's 2008 production of Panto Cinderella.
Dwight Clark, Carolyn Johnson and Rutherford Cravens in Stages Repertory Theatre's 2008 production of Panto Cinderella.
Photo by Bruce Bennett

There's no better feeling than giggling till your face hurts, and the holiday season means it's time to get silly over at Stages Repertory Theatre. We're talking big laughs, slapstick, vaudeville, commedia dell'arte and cross-dressing characters, and it's all part of the fun with Stages' annual panto.

It's Stages' tenth year presenting the British-style pantomine, full of insider jokes and innuendo for the grown-ups and all the cartoonish buffoonery that kids love, and to celebrate they're reprising the first one they ever produced: Panto Cinderella.

"We're really stoked about that. We've come full circle," says Josh Morrison, who directs this year's romp.

The costumes are always over the top, with ridiculous wigs and dresses, and we expect no less with this year's batch of wicked stepsisters. "That’s one of the traditions. There’s usually a dame role, a male character that plays a woman," says Morrison. "The complexity is that it’s not actually men behaving as women, but men in women’s clothing. It’s an interesting sort of line to walk. It’s a really tricky role. We’ve had some people — Rutherford Cravens, the late Mark Adams, Kyle Sturdivant — they all did a great role."

This year's production has a few updates, but the music and lyrics by Gregg Coffin (Five Course Love) and book by Paul Witworth remain the same, full of whimsy and laughter.

"It's hard to stop giggling," says Morrison of the rehearsals. "The moment that I've been having the most fun with right now is when I have Ryan Schabach, Holland Vavra and Joe Daniels, the Lion from last year [Panto Wonderful Wizard]. Those three are brilliant comedians on their own and, putting the three together, when they're onstage it puts the entire room on the ground."

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So if you're a diehard panto fan, come celebrate the tenth anniversary of panto and the 40th anniversary season over at Stages. Returning cast members who appeared in the 2008 production include Genevieve Allenbury, Schabach, Tom Prior and Calvin Hudson; joining them onstage are Vavra, Daniels, Kay Allmand, Zachary Reeves and Jeremy Gee (our winner for Best Supporting Actor in the 2017 Houston Theater Awards).

And if you've never been, it's your chance to see why we nominated last year's production of Panto Wonderful Wizard as a finalist for Best Musical. It's an all ages production that speaks to many levels.

"That’s one of the brilliant things about panto. There’s a bear and sheep and woodland creatures. Commedia styling and vaudeville have the cartoonesque [for the kids] and then there’s a lot of wordplay and political jokes and local jokes for the parents," says Morrison.

Performances for Panto Cinderella are 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, 2 and 7 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, November 29 through December 31 (additional matinee performances are scheduled for December 21-22 and 28-29), 3201 Allen Parkway, 713-527-0123, stagestheatre.com, $25 to $59.

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