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'Puss in Boots': A traditional pantomime for the holidays

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Entertainment,Christine Stutz

The word "pantomime" might conjure up images of a game of charades. But in the British theatrical tradition, "Panto," or pantomime, is a traditional musical entertainment for the whole family, often performed around the Christmas holidays and based on fairy tales.

The Pantolites' 'Puss in Boots'

»  Venue: Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St., Baltimore

»  Time: 7 p.m. Dec. 26 to 30 and Jan. 2 to 4, 2 p.m. Dec. 27, 28, 31 and Jan. 3 and 4.

»  Tickets: $12 to $25

»  Info: 410-752-8558; www.theatreproject.org

Baltimore's Theatre Project is presenting "Puss in Boots" by a local company, The Pantolites. Roger Brunyate, artistic director of the Peabody Opera Theatre, wrote and directed the production.

"It's a play which is partly in verse, partly in prose," said Brunyate, who hails from the British Isles and grew up attending pantomimes. Pantomimes feature certain basic elements: a good fairy, a princess, a boy hero, a human dressed as an animal, and one or two cross-dressing characters. There are often slapstick comedy, singing and dancing as well.

"One of the skills is to present humor and music so the adults can enjoy it on one level, while the children enjoy it on another level." said Brunyate.

"I think what's so fun and unique about the show is the way that it captures the style of a British Panto," said Anne Fulwiler, producing director of Theatre Project. "Lots of music and dancing, and light-hearted comedy that can appeal to children and adults alike."

Audience participation is a key element, Brunyate said. Youngsters are encouraged to warn good characters when evildoers approach, and performers interact with the audience -- in one scene, tossing dumplings from the stage.

"It can be quite wonderfully raucous and involving," Brunyate said.

The musical score was written by Mark Hanson Williams. Costumes by Mary Bova and Carol Bartlett are "over the top" and "very extravagant," Brunyate said.

Brunyate said he is currently working on an adaptation of "Jack and the Beanstalk" for a future Pantolites production.

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