The cast of "Robin Hood." Courtesy of Centerstage Theatre
The bottom line
Panto, short for pantomime (though not to confused with silent miming) is a British holiday theater tradition in which fairy tales are retold as comedies — complete with silly songs, slapstick humor, puns and plenty of audience participation. With all this fun stuff, “Robin Hood” is perfect for kids 5 and older, and the rest of the family, too.
The show begins with character Alana Dale setting up the story and instructing the audience on just when they should boo and cheer. Kids get into it right from the start. The story, written and directed by Vince Brady, follows daring Robin Hood as he steals from the rich and gives to the poor. Along with his band of “merry people,” they're always on the run from the bumbling Sheriff of Nottingham.
Unfortunately, in this telling, Robin Hood isn’t very good at stealing and needs lots of practice. When Maid Marion and her nanny (played hilariously by Brad Cerenzia in drag) show up, romance between Robin Hood and Maid Marion blossoms. The stakes are raised when the Sheriff decides to marry Maid Marion himself and cut down Sherwood Forest in order to put up a building with his own name on it.
Sprinkled throughout the play are song-and-dance numbers performed to pop songs with the lyrics changed to fit the story. One especially memorable scene features funny, messy cooking and actors running through the audience as they try to prevent the Sheriff from catching Robin.
There is no “fourth wall” in this production — the fourth wall is the concept that there is separation between theater performers and their audience. The Dame picks a man in the audience and keeps up a running joke with him throughout the show, and kids are chosen from the audience to hold signs during a sing-a-long.
During a rendition of the “Ghostbusters” theme song, the audience helps the actors by telling them where the ghosts are. If your kid is the type who loves to volunteer to be on stage, sit near the front for better odds of being chosen to participate. The three tween boys I brought to the show really enjoyed it, and elementary-age kids I saw in the audience seemed to relish booing and cheering on the actors.
Parents should know
The show is fairly long at two hours, including an intermission. Although it is action-packed and engaging, some younger children might not be able to sit that long. Children with sensory sensitivities might have a tough time, as the show is loud and the actors run through the audience and throw candy at one point as well. There is a sensory-friendly performance Sunday, Dec. 8 at 2 p.m. Buy tickets for this performance online and note that it's not marked on the site as the sensory-friendly performance.
If you go...
Where: Find the theater at 3200 S.W. Dash Point Rd. in Federal Way. Note: The theater is in a wooded area. After leaving the main arterial, you will drive down a long, curving road. As the box office told me, “You will think you are lost, but you’re not!” They also recommend, if using GPS, entering the whole street name, and not abbreviating “Point” or “Road.” I had no trouble finding it.
Ticket prices: Adult tickets are $35; seniors and military $30; students ages 18–23 with I.D. $15; youth ages 17 and under $12. Note that there's a $3 fee on top of ticket prices. Buy online.
Seating: Seating is general admission so arrive extra early if you fancy front-section seats with the best view and best chance of being picked for on-stage participation.
Age recommendation: Recommended for ages 5 and older and those who have the stamina for a two-hour show.
Sensory-friendly performance: Sunday, Dec. 8, 2 p.m. (Note that this performance is not marked as sensory-friendly on the website ticket page, but the theater assures us this is the one.)