There’s only one place in town where you can see Disney Channel teen idols, a ‘70s/‘80s TV diva, ugly stepsisters in drag, a gender-bending fairy godmother, a pygmy horse, magic effects and transformations galore, and some terrifically danced production numbers; hear over a dozen Top-40 hits (and more one-liners than a Henny Youngman set); and perhaps most excitingly, get to cheer the heroes and boo the villains—and that’s at the Pasadena Playhouse, once again treating L.A. audiences to the British tradition known as “Panto” with this year’s A Cinderella Christmas, the fifth annual Panto At The Playhouse.

 Master Panto writer Kris Lythgoe shakes up this tale as old as time by having Prince Charming (Shake It Up!’s Kenton Duty, dreamy) swapping places with his loyal right hand man Dandini (Davi Santos, equally dreamy), the better to walk amongst the villagers and find his true love—which of course he does, though Cinderella (Best Friends Whenever’s Lauren Taylor, lovely as a princess should be) believes she’s talking to a servant and not the Prince.

 Unable to forget the “simple kitchen maid from the small town of Pasadena,” the Prince decides that there must be a ball … and you know the rest.

 Glamorous Morgan Fairchild chews scenery as befits the Flamingo Road/Falcon Crest star as Cinderella’s evil stepmother, the Baroness Hardup, but it’s her two not-so-lovely daughters (Ben Giroux as Hollywood and Josh Adamson as Vine) who steal scene after scene while sporting outfits each more outlandish than the one before, flirting with an unsuspecting audience member (“Albert, I think I saw you on my Tinder profile”), and spouting one-liners left, right, and center.

Serving as our guide to Cinderella-land is the scullery maid’s lovestruck best friend Buttons (6’8” charmer Matthew Patrick Davis), who welcomes us to the ‘80s (the 1680s that is), calls us all “Boys and Girls,” delivers his own one-liners (“Things are so bad that parents in San Marino are being forced to fire their nannies and actually learn their children’s names.”), and exhorts us to “Boo those ugly sisters as loud as you can.”

 And Glee fans will squeal with glee for Alex Newell’s transgender Fairy, whose “When You Believe” and “One Moment In Time” could teach the finest soul divas a thing about hitting high notes.

 Bonnie Lythgoe directs with accustomed flair while choreographer extraordinaire Spencer Liff has grown-up dance whizzes William Clayton, Kelsi Darby, Ryan Fiene, Toi’ya Leatherwood, Joshua Rivera, and Valerie Rockey and their pint-sized counterparts (Bryanna Fernandez, Joshua Guerrero Lexi Hernandez, Ryan Jose, Jordan Nguyen, and Daisy Stoneman at the performance reviewed*) executing Broadway, ballet, and even minuet moves to DNCE’s “Cake By The Ocean,” Lorde’s “Royals,” and Bruno Mars’ “24k Magic,” musical director Michael Orland and his band (Brian Boyce and Keith Harrison) providing bang-up backup every dance step of the way.

 A Cinderella Christmas looks fairy-tale fabulous on the Pasadena Playhouse stage thanks to set designer Ian Wilson, lighting designer Chris Wilcox, and above all to costume designer Florencia M. Carrizo, whose creations inspire oohs and aahs galore (and delighted gasps at each new Hollywood and Vine shocker, in particular their dueling tributes to Pink’s and In-N-Out), with additional kudos to Steven Cahill’s impeccable sound design.

Liff is assistant director. Orland is musical supervisor and arranger. Additional program credits go to technical director Phil McCandlish, musical supervisor Nancy Severinsen, wardrobe supervisor Kate Bergh, and many more. Phil Gold is stage manager and Roxana Kahn is assistant stage manager.

 As in pantos past, adults are reminded to leave all grown-up cynicism and sophistication at the door, let loose their inner child, and cheer and boo to their heart’s delight. And if you, personally, find yourself shouting out warnings to the hero of impending danger, rest assured, you won’t be the only one not acting his or her age—and loving every second of

A Snow White Christmas, Aladdin And His Winter Wish, Sleeping Beauty And Her Winter Knight, Peter Pan And Tinker Bell – A Pirates Christmas, and now A Cinderella Christmas. Nobody does Panto in the U.S. like the Lythgoes, and their latest may well be their best. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a panto-rrific time!

*Alternating with Opening Night’s “Black Team” are “Gold Team” members Yasmine Arya, Cody Copley, Madison Han, Alexa Jozuka, Sebastian Jozuka, and Jordan Nat’ae.

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Pasadena Playhouse, 39 South El Molino Ave., Pasadena.

–Steven Stanley
December 8, 2016
Photos: Philicia Endelman


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