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For the Fun of It

Along with the program for a panto (a second lick of something Brit creeping into New England, the first being the annual Ghent panto) Sherman Playhouse staff hands out a song sheet and an invitation to a christening. And so “Sleeping Beauty,” a pantomime with all the trimmings — men in drag, women in drag, the wicked witch, a fairy queen, a boy and a girl (both girls in this case) a few cracks about local politics, a dose of burlesque whenever possible and plenty of audience participation ­— has settled into the holiday landscape. Prim by some standards, this panto injects its sweetness with traces of music hall comedy as Nurse Nellie, played by John Taylor, pushes up her ample breasts, saying, “I’m quite big in these parts.” Kaboom! Of course, since this is a fairy tale we have a prince: Rupert, Crown Prince of Tax-Havenberg, played by Elizabeth Hawley, a gorgeous, leggy coloratura in a short jacket and long, high-heeled black boots. We have a princess, too, Abigail Heydenburg, a reed of a girl in pink with fluffy curls and braces. And we have magic spells: one putting the princess and her court into a lengthy coma, the second bringing the whole gang back. And we have songs Americans cannot sing without the words: “Let’s all sing like the birdies sing,” and “Why am I always the bridesmaid.” Everybody sang. The most amusing aspect of all this is seeing the fun the cast is having, with Katherine Almquist playing a benevolent fairy in white satin, gauzy wings and a sparkly wand, and Barbara Henley as an over-the-top wicked witch in sparkly black and a hairy chin. And then there is Mattelyn Williams who appears “at some performances” as the infant princess, soberly eying the audience and her fellow actors before leaving the stage for her afternoon nap. You can never be too young for your stage debut. “Sleeping Beauty,” directed by John Taylor, runs at The Sherman Playhouse, Sherman, CT, through Jan. 1. Tickets: 860-354-3622, or go to www.shermanplayers.org.

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