'The Wizard of Panto-Land' returns to OCT

Oregon Cabaret Theatre is off to see the wizard for the holidays, "The Wizard of Panto-Land" that is. With book and lyrics by artistic director Jim Giancarlo and music composed by Eric Nordin, this musical is one of OCT's greatest hits with audiences and critics.

It's a wacky riff on the classic story of "The Wizard of Oz" performed in the style of the British form of theater known as pantomime, or "panto," not to be confused with the theatrical medium of mime.

Pantos are musical comedies based on fairy or folk tales — and great liberties are taken with the stories. OCT's "Panto-Land" sets the classic characters of Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion on the road of yellow brick in a way that is updated and Oregon-ized. It features encounters witches and wizards from various fairy tales as the four friends pursue their hearts' desires. Oz becomes Ozegon, and the wizard lives on Wizard Island in the center of Crater Lake.

Reprising their roles as Dorothy, Tin Man and Lion at OCT are Emilee Yaakola, Chris Carwithen and Scott Ford, respectively. Tony Kupsick returns to OCT as Scarecrow. Joining the cast is Mikey Perdue in the role of Auntie M and all of the witches and wizards.

Meagan Iverson performs piano accompaniment; costumes are designed by Kerri Lea Robbins; set design is by Mike Halderman; sound design is by Tom Freeman; and Kathleen Mahoney is stage manager.

"The Wizard of Panto-Land" previews Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 13-14, opens Friday, Nov. 15, and runs through Dec. 31 at OCT, at First and Hargadine streets in Ashland. Curtain is at 8 p.m. evenings; 1 p.m. for Saturday and Sunday matinees.

Tickets cost $19 for previews; $37 for Friday and Saturday evening shows; $28 for Sunday evenings; $33 for week nights; and $32 for Saturday and Sunday matinees.

Performance dates vary through the holidays. For a schedule of shows or to purchase tickets, see www.oregoncabaret.com, call 541-488-2902 or visit the box office at the theater.

Panto is a tradition that began more than 250 years ago when the British began to imitate the Italian commedia dell'arte — with its emphasis on comic characters such as Harlequin and Pantolone and broad physical humor. Panto's crazy quilt of styles has garnered a range of characteristics that includes elements of vaudeville, outlandish costumes and lively musical numbers, along with political cabaret, melodrama and American musical comedy. Panto is the traditional holiday entertainment enjoyed by children, parents and grandparents in England.

OCT began its own tradition of panto in 1992 when Giancarlo and Darcy Danielson wrote "Cindy Rella." There have been nine original panto productions since, and the British tradition has become an Ashland tradition.

Dinner and brunch are available by reservation. Dinner is served at 6:30 p.m.; brunch at 11:30 a.m. Appetizers, desserts and beverages are available without reservations at intermission. Food and beverages are not included in the price of tickets.

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