This afternoon, I was treated to a lovely rollick in a world very near and dear to my heart. I got to go see the Imaginary Beasts’ Winter Panto, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
Sleepy Hollow is what it sounds like, a sleepy little hamlet in Tarrytown, New York, about
forty five minutes away from where I grew up. Of course, most of us know it exists because of Washington Irving’s very famous bit of pith about the town (historical note: the headless horseman’s bridge has since been lost; there is a bridge in Sleep Hollow, but it’s a modern construction, despite the historical plaque set upon it).
American Pantomime is… really not what it sounds like. It’s derived from the English form which was a pithy bit of entertainment incorporating music, slapstick, topical references, mild innuendo, etc. The American form, much like its English cousin, is traditionally performed around Christmas time (the Imaginary Beasts perform one every winter). Salient to the American form is that it’s plot is based in nursery stories retold on the stage incorporating these elements.
Point of dramaturgical order: do not confuse “pantomime” with “mime”. They are not the same thing. The word “pantomime” derives from a Greek construction composed of “pantos” (“every”, or “all”) and “mimos” (“actor” or “imitator”). The Pantomimos, then, was the “imitator of all” (or, actually, generally troupes of actors who would perform often accompanied by song). The word “mime” comes from that same Greek word “mimos”, but that’s where the similarities end. These forms are two very different ducks.
The Beasts adhere to all the old traditions (cross-dressing, modern references, contemporary song, audience participation, and slapstick abound) and, through this, present a rollicking good time made better by the presence of children in the audience. If you’re willing to bring your own inner child to come play with the Beasts, you will definitely thank yourself for it.
The Beasts also embrace the age-old, time-tested tradition of high comedy: cross-dressing is funny. I simply couldn’t stop laughing as Joey Pelletier performed a rendition of “Tiptoe through the Tulips” in full Victorian drag. Nor could I find it in myself to deny this charmer anything he wanted (including a loud “va va va voom!” upon his entrance into any room, as per his request to the audience). In case you were concerned that this whole “cross-dressing is funny” bit was getting a little one-sided, Jill Ragati proves to be the Ichabod Crane with the most shapely legs I’ve ever seen (and yet, still somehow androgynous… I really can’t explain that one).
I might be biased, but I found the antics of Amy Meyer as Widow Pinchpurse to be miserly hilarious. In case you never thought you’d laugh at the old “Don’t hit me!” “what?” “HIT ME!” “OKAY!” joke again, you may want to take this opportunity to re-instill yourself with some measure of classic humanity.
As a parting thought I’ll give the Beasts this: they utilized the Scissor Sisters to much greater effect than Glee did.
So do yourself a favor: find a child (or be ready to amp up your inner eight-year-old), and go laugh a little. It’s a dark gray winter, we can all use some time in the sun. Ticket and show info can be found here.