My list of cherished holiday traditions is fairly short — I refuse to let the season drown me in obligations. That's not to say we don't do stuff, we do. We dress up for The Nutcracker, hit a tree-lighting ceremony, or make gingerbread houses.
The we-do-this-every-year list, however, has not changed in over ten years. Until now.
Every year the Fremont Players and the Fremont Philharmonic mix fairy tales, slapstick humor, cross-dressing and musical numbers into a holiday tradition known as British Panto. This year, their 10th, the show is Sleeping Beauty and the Pea at Hale's Palladium in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle.
The charm runs deep in this show. The quirky, cobbled-together costumes and hand-painted set are a perfect match for the open beams and rustic appeal of Hales Palladium. There is a endearing awkwardness to some of the performances and a laid-back vibe in the musicians that give the show an intimacy reminiscent of a good ol' fashioned parlor performance.
Five minutes into it you are no longer watching a show, you're experiencing something, you are a part of something. It certainly doesn't hurt that you can drink Hale's delicious beer and are encouraged to hoot, holler, boo, hiss and generally make a ruckus. (I'm a big fan of making a ruckus.)
This truly is a show for the whole family. Kids are encouraged to sit down front where they become a squirming pile of wide-eyed giggles, taking their job of ghost-spotting very seriously, pointing and screeching at the (mostly) appropriate times. The open area in the back of the theater provides parents space to bounce fussy babes or run wiggly toddlers, all while sipping their pale ale. I love Seattle.
The show runs 90 minutes with a 10-minute intermission, but even the wiggliest of the toddlers stay engaged by the lively music and shenanigans. Parents are rewarded for their attention with little nuggets of adult humor that deftly whizz over the kids' heads.
You may think you know the stories of Sleeping Beauty and The Princess and the Pea and can maybe even imagine how the two could be melded together into a super-fairy tale. What you might not envision is adding a magical cow, a wicked fairy godmother named Formica, a mustached good fairy godmother (tutu clad, of course) and a glittery talking vegetable side-kick. There is also a nouveau-riche baton-twirling queen, a slow-talking court herald, the mandatory princess in pink and a very short, um, prince. They're all fabulous.
Not only do I plan to put next year's panto performance on our must-do list, I may even grab some friends and see it again this year — it's a great opportunity for friends to get together and share some laughs. (Did I mention you can have beer?) The show runs weekends through January 13, so you have time. Don't miss it.
If you go ...
When: Sleeping Beauty and the Pea plays through Jan. 13; Saturdays at 4 and 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 1 and 4 p.m.
Where: Hale's Palladium, 4301 Leary Way N.W., Seattle
Tickets: $6 children 12 and under; $12 adults; buy at brownpapertickets.com or at the door. Festival seating, doors open 30 minutes prior to showtime.
Food and drink: A few food items such as popcorn and hot dogs, bottled water and, of course, Hale's beer. And you can buy sparkly tiaras for a donation.