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A beloved holiday tradition returns to People’s Light with the world premiere of Alice in Wonderland: A Musical Panto. On her first day of skiddle mool—oops, we mean middle school!—Alice Liddle stumbles upon a strange book in the library and ends up in a mysterious, magical place. Cheer the heroes, boo the bad guys, and help Alice find her way home in this panto-tastic take on Lewis Carroll’s madcap classic. Alice in Wonderland: A Musical Panto runs November 16 through January 1 on the Leonard C. Haas Stage. Single tickets start at $47, including fees. To purchase, call 610.644.3500 or visit peopleslight.org. People’s Light is located at 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, PA 19355.
As “the nation’s primary creator of such specialized tomfoolery” (Newsworks) for almost two decades, People’s Light has adapted the theatrical form of British pantomime into their own unique brand of holiday hilarity. With origins dating back to commedia dell’arte, pantomime takes a well-known children’s story and turns it on its ear. Audiences of all ages gather in droves to partake in the songs, dances, topical jokes, and jovial camaraderie of this longstanding tradition. This year, People’s Light is thrilled to welcome two Philadelphia icons to the panto family—comedy legend Jennifer Childs writes the book and award-winning drag performer Eric Jaffe is the audience’s new guide through the magical mayhem. People’s Light welcomes back Bill Fennelly, who also directed 2019’s Little Red Robin Hood, and composer/lyricist Alex Bechtel, who penned the music and lyrics for 2016’s Sleeping Beauty and has appeared as an actor in multiple past pantos.
The People’s Light panto is entertainment for the entire family, and the audience is part of the action. Playwright Jennifer Childs, co-founder of 1812 Productions—the only professional theatre company in the country dedicated to comedy—is a big fan of audience participation. “While this is my first time writing a panto, I’ve discovered a lot of similarities between the panto form and my work at 1812 Productions,” Childs says. “And I love that the panto addresses real things that kids experience, like starting a new school, in a fun and engaging way.” Her goal for the audience is “to make you laugh with abandon and cry just a little.”
When asked what he loves most about the panto, composer and lyricist Alex Bechtel says, “There’s a surprise at every turn. And at every surprising turn is joy, delight, irreverence, and play, both among the cast and with the audience. Panto forms an instant family, but it’s not a saccharine family. It’s a real family in which everyone is yelling and throwing food.”
“After the last few years of darkness, we want to bring some light,” adds director Bill Fennelly. “We’ve been away from the theater for a few years and the panto feels like the perfect way to bring the community back together.”
In addition to the role of Dinah/Cheshire Cat, award-winning Philadelphia drag performer Eric Jaffe serves as Drag/Gender Representation Consultant for the production. “This is my first experience with this theatrical form, but I feel like my everyday life is panto,” Jaffe shares. “I am really excited to be a part of this new creation—a new idea of what the panto can be. I live in a performance world that doesn’t have a fourth wall, so I am excited to bring that element of crowd work. The best thing about Wonderland is that anything goes.”
Alice in Wonderland: A Musical Panto features company members Susan McKey (A Christmas Carol, Sense and Sensibility, all the pantos) as the March Hare, Mary Elizabeth Scallen (Shakespeare in Love, Little Red Robin Hood: A Musical Panto) as Miss Hart/Queen of Hearts, and Tom Teti (A Christmas Carol, Little Red Robin Hood: A Musical Panto) as the Dormouse. Returning artists include Kim Carson (Aladdin, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella) as Stepmom/Red Queen, Eli Lynn (musical pantos Little Red Robin Hood, Aladdin, Sleeping Beauty) as Mean Flower/Tweedle, Justin Jain (Shakespeare in Love, Aladdin: A Musical Panto) as Dad/White Rabbit, and Angel Sigala (Mushroom, People’s Playback Ensemble) as Ensemble/Swing. Making their People’s Light debuts are Altamiece Carolyn Cooper as Mom/White Queen, Avery Goodname as Mean Flower/Tweedle, Patrick Halley as Bob/Caterpillar, Eric Jaffe as Dinah/Cheshire Cat, Grace Ellis Solomon as Alice, Alexis Tidwell as Hattie/Mad Hatter, and Tiara Whaley as Ensemble/Swing. Bryanna Martinez-Jimenez serves as understudy.
Jennifer Childs writes the book with Alex Bechtel as composer/arranger and lyricist. Bill Fennelly directs, assisted by Abby Weissman. Chris Haig designs the set, Rebecca Kanach designs costumes, Mike Inwood designs lighting, and Robert Kaplowitz designs sound. Abdul Hamid Royal serves as music director and plays the piano. Eli Lynn directs the fights and Melanie Cotton choreographs. Eric Jaffe serves as the production’s drag/gender representation consultant. Company Member Kate McSorley Fossner stage manages, assisted by Jess McPhillips.
Preview performances for Alice in Wonderland: A Musical Panto are November 16, 17, 18, and 19 at 7pm. The production opens with an invite-only performance on Sunday, November 20 at 2pm and runs through Sunday, January 1. Tickets start at $47, including fees. People’s Light also offers a range of ticket discounts, like 50%-off Access Nights, 25% off for educators and military, and discounted student and industry rush tickets. Learn more about available ticket discounts here. To purchase single tickets, visit peopleslight.org or call the Box Office at610.644.3500. Special rates are available for groups of 10 or more. For more information, or to purchase group tickets, call Kelly Benedict at 610.647.1900, x111, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recommended for ages 5 to 105! Run time is 2 hours and 15 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR STUDENTS
The panto is very popular with elementary and middle school students. People’s Light offers 10am performances for school groups throughout November and December. To arrange a field trip for your classroom or homeschool group, contact Group Sales Associate Kelly Benedict at email@example.com or 610.647.1900 x111.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
Masks are currently required indoors at People’s Light, regardless of vaccination status. Audience members must remain masked except when actively eating or drinking. For more information on policies at People’s Light, please visit the Health and Safety page. Recommended protocols may shift with evolving local and national guidelines, so please continue to check this page for the most up-to-date information when planning your visit.
People’s Light offers a Relaxed Performance of Alice in Wonderland: A Musical Panto on Sunday, December 11 at 2pm. Relaxed Performances offer a judgment-free environment that invites individuals with autism, ADD, ADHD, dementia, and other sensory sensitivities to enjoy theatre in a relaxed, “shush-free” zone—a great option for parents with young children, too. The Relaxed Performance also features American Sign Language interpretation provided by Hands UP Productions. Audio description, provided by Nicole Sardella, is available upon request during this performance. Tickets to Relaxed Performances are $30, including fees. For more information, contact the Box Office at 610.644.3500.
Open Caption dates for Alice in Wonderland are December 27–January 1. During every performance this week, dialogue appears on an LED screen placed near the stage to benefit patrons with hearing impairments, as well as English language learners.
Our Smart Caption Glasses offer immersive, real-time captioning for live theatre. These revolutionary glasses display a synchronized transcript of the play directly on the lenses, and are customizable for your comfort. Glasses are available to reserve for performances of Alice In Wonderland starting December 20.
Service animals are welcome at all performances at People’s Light. The Theatre offers a designated relief area and water bowl for their comfort.
People’s Light offers a range of Audio and Visual Aids freely available to patrons, including audio headsets, T-Coil “induction” loops, large sensory supports like fidgets, noise-canceling headphones, and more. These supports are available on a first come, first served basis, no reservations required. Please pick them up from the House Manager in the theatre lobbies. Learn more about Accessibility at People’s Light here.