Part of the fun of imaginary beasts’ 2015 Winter Panto, “Kerplop! The Tale of the Frog Prince,” is that the actors are enjoying themselves at least as much as the audience.
Panto is a British theatrical tradition that hails from the Victorian-era. Designed to beat the winter doldrums, a panto is a playful adaptation of a traditional fairytale that includes stock characters, contemporary references, singing, dancing and, most importantly, audience participation.
A panto should by its very nature be high-spirited, silly fun that encourages audience participation as it brings the story to a requisite happy ending. The ‘beasts’ pay great homage to the Victorian-era art form with a delightful production rife with opportunities for kids of all ages to boo and hiss the bad guys, cheer loudly for the good guys and generally behave in ways that are considered inappropriate in most theaters.
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Along the way they enjoy references to local hot topics like the traffic-stopping protests and the possibility of Boston hosting the 2024 Olympics; all the while hearing messages about good triumphing over evil and the importance of substance over flash.
The story, a revised take on the frog prince, takes place in the Kingdom of Little Puddle, which is doomed unless Princess Aurelia marries before the total eclipse of the sun. While on his way to save the day by marrying the lovely princess, Prince Friedrich (Elizabeth Pearson) is turned into a frog by the evil Aquanetta (Michael Woods), her slimy accomplice Leech (Michael Chodos) and dim-witted son Wart the Water Troll (William Schuller). The dastardly trio's plan to poison the kingdom's water supply is thwarted when the frog retrieves Aurelia's magic golden ball from the well, earning him an invitation to the palace where he gets the kiss that returns him to his former self, the Prince.
Cross-dressing is an important part of any true panto and “Kerplop!” does not disappoint. Matthew Woods masters the art of cartoonish evil in his turn as Aquanetta, while Elizabeth Pearson shines as his antithesis, the charming Prince Friedrich.
Though not pretty, Joey Pelletier proves he’s got the pumps to be Her Majesty, the Queen, doling out some of the performance’s funniest impromptu quips, much to the delight of the audience.
Local favorite Kiki Samko takes on the role of the grandmotherly narrator Old Mother Schnell in a sweet performance that drives the storyline.
Noah Simes does delightful double-duty as the Oracle and Jeremiah (the bullfrog), while Cameron Cronin earns the plethora of laughs he gets as Le Grand Moustache.
Candido Clemente Soares’ set is the perfect backdrop for this fairy tale and Deirdre Benson’s sound is, as always, flawlessly executed.
If you’re going to see “Kerplop!,” and you should, note that it’s general seating. Arrive early to give your kids the best seats.
If you go
”Kerplop! The Tale of the Frog Prince”
Through Feb. 7
BCA Black Box Theatre
539 Tremont St., Boston
$24 - $10