In Great Britain the traditional holiday entertainment is the pantomime or, as it's more commonly called, the Panto. Panto is a unique style of theatre, derived from the Italian Commedia dell'Arte, which has evolved over the last 200 years accumulating many unique conventions such as cross-dressing, topical references, puns, audience retorts and broad physical comedy. In 1992 the Oregon Cabaret Theatre created its first Panto — "Cindy Rella" — and began their own local tradition of Pantos at the holidays.
Now the Caberet Theatre is presenting "Ali Baba."
"Ali Baba" was written and first presented in 1998. Book and lyrics are by the Cabaret's Artistic Director, Jim Giancarlo, with music by Jim Malachi and Darcy Danielson.
Ali Baba (the black sheep of the Baba family) is on a hero's quest. He is aided by our narrator, the beauteous Scheherazade, and by a wry Genie ("I prefer Eugene") and opposed by the arch-villain Pasha Poobah, who plans to subjugate the world by commandeering a certain precious dark substance. Along the way Ali meets Ruby Twankey, an ex-hippie from Brooklyn, and her lovely daughter, Pearl, who operate a Bedouin-breakfast in the desert; an English twit-and- punk pair called Fish and Chip; and a singing-dancing Camel.
All of the Panto elements are here: broad humor, puns in abundance, cross-dressing, topical references, wacky romance, wild costumes, audience retorts and an eclectic score with themes pilfered from Rimsky-Korsakov.
Ali Baba is directed and choreographed by Jim Giancarlo. In the cast are Sam Weber as Ali Baba; Jessica Price as Scheherazade and Pearl; Mark Barsekian as Ruby; Scott Ford as Pasha Poobah and Eugene, the Genie; Galen Schloming as Chip and Camel; and Dolan Wolfe-Callanta as Fish and Camel.
Jessica Price appeared earlier this season in "archy & mehitabel" and Wolfe-Callanta was seen as Luke in "Altar Boyz." Other cast members are making their Cabaret debuts.
Musical direction is by Darcy Danielson and the band features Danielson on keyboard and Jim Malachi on percussion. Set design is by Mike Halderman, lighting design is by Ben Brown, costume design by Kerri Lea Robbins and sound design by Tom Freeman. Kathleen Mahoney is the stage manager.
"Ali Baba" opens on Nov. 14 with low-priced previews on Nov. 12 and 13. Performances nightly at 8 p.m. except: Nov. 18, 24, 27; Dec. 2, 9, 16, 24 and 25. Also Sunday brunch matinees at 1 p.m.
Tickets are $19 to $31. The box office is at 1st and Hargadine in Ashland — or order by phone at 488-2902 (after 11 a.m.) — or visit the Cabaret's Web site: www.oregoncabaret.com to make an online ticket request.
It is recommended to order tickets early as Cabaret holiday productions often sell-out. Best seating options currently are for November performances.
Gourmet dinner and brunch are available with advance reservations. Appetizers, desserts and beverages are also available without reservations.