Kids' Theater Review: The Fremont Players' 'Peter Pan: A British Panto'
By Alison Landeros
In Peter Pan: A British Panto, The Fremont Players deliver a rowdy and playfully irreverent version of a beloved classic that’s highly entertaining — and affordable – fun for kids and parents alike.
A British pantomime or “panto” is a musical-comedy theatrical production usually performed during the Christmas season. During the show the audience is encouraged to participate – vigorously – by talking back to the actors on stage, booing and hissing at the villains or joyfully crowing along with Peter Pan. Children are invited to sit on a carpet right up front, or they can sit with their grown-ups in the rows of chairs provided.
Housed within Hale’s Palladium, a large warehouse in Fremont (yes, it's part of Hale's Ales), the set is sparse and simple with an imaginative scrolling backdrop that changes from scene to scene. Music is written and performed by the Fremont Philharmonic Orchestra, and offers the gypsy swagger appropriate to a play studded with pirates, lost boys and a touch of gender-bending. Lyrics to the songs are written by the cast of the play.
While the audience ranged from babes in arms to octogenarians, this show seems to appeal particularly to the 3-9 set. Younger children shrieked with amusement as they warned Captain Hook to “LOOK BEHIND YOU!” while the crocodile sneaked up behind him. They clapped and sang during a “revival” to save poor poisoned Tinker Bell, and laughed delightedly at slapstick humor throughout.
One small downside: Due to the scale of the Palladium and its acoustic challenges, it was often difficult to hear the vocal part of the musical numbers over the orchestra. It was sometimes a challenge even to understand the actors’ lines as they were performed. This difficulty might be avoided if you snag seating closer to the front (and further from the popcorn popper).
The venue offers a concessions stand with fresh popcorn, hotdogs, brats and candy with the added adult perks of wine and Hale's beer on tap. Be prepared with cash in hand as they do not accept plastic.
Helpful hint: Come prepared for weather. Doors open a half hour before the show, and the line to enter forms outside of the warehouse in an uncovered area exposed to the elements.
If You Go . . .
Peter Pan runs on Saturdays Jan. 7 and 14 at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sundays on Jan. 8 and 15 at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Tickets are available for $6-12; and they are expected to sell out so be sure to order ahead of time.