Panto goes to Bollywood
A singing, dancing French cat in India. Why not? Audiences of Puss in Boots — Bollywood Style should expect “lots of energy, lots of fun, lots of dancing” in this year’s Christmas pantomime, penned by Carol Birch.
Katrina Kawaley-Lathan and her brother, Zachary Kawaley-Lathan, are the show’s principals, the bipedal pet and his low-born master.
Jada Simmons-Trott will join them as Princess Merunessa, the object of his affection.
The story is set to original music with a Bollywood sound by former resident James Burn. He and writer-director Ms Birch have collaborated on pantos before — Sleeping Beauty, Ali Baba And The 14 Thieves, Snow White And The Seven Sisters and The Firebird are all on their résumé.
“I’m biased, I only do the Carol Birch ones,” said Mr Kawaley Lathan, who played a penguin in Snow White, his first pantomime in 2008.
His sister has done more than she can remember.
At 12 she performed in Old Mother Hubbard In The Wild West; this is her first in a principal role.
“I’m Jacques, a French cat in India, as you would expect,” laughed Ms Kawaley-Lathan.
She and her brother grew up in the theatre — their parents, Rich Lathan and Kathy Kawaley are heavily involved in the island’s stage.
Mr Lathan will work behind the scenes at City Hall for the BMDS show.
Puss In Boots is Jada’s first panto. The 17-year-old said she almost missed the auditions.
“I stalled. My friend had to drag me there. I was just so nervous,” she said.
“I was so shocked and honoured that they chose me.”
Ms Simmons-Trott graduated from CedarBridge Academy this summer.
Roles in The Little Mermaid, To Kill a Mockingbird, and the Lion King musical, put on by the Makeda Trust theatre company, solidified her hopes to study performing arts.
“You can come every night and there will be something different,” she said of the show.
Ms Birch’s trademark scene, The 12 Days of Christmas, should thrill loyal pantomime goers. “You’re told not to anticipate anything,” said Mr Kawaley-Lathan.
“It’s always pandemonium, which I think is what makes it stand out. You can’t script what’s going to happen.”
The writers called on family to get the right tone: Ms Birch chose Merunessa, the name of her Indian daughter-in-law’s mother, for the princess; Mr Burn’s husband is also Indian.
“There’s a lot of Carol in the scripts that she writes and she certainly knows how to craft a pantomime,” said Jennifer Campbell, who is playing an Evil Supreme.
“She’s also very funny.”
The cast of 40 includes Elaine Pearce, who plays Minor to “great comedic effect”; Shawn Angiers plays the villain Vizier; Stephen Notman plays the dame.
“He’s so funny,” said Ms Kawaley-Lathan. “I could never play that part. I’m not that quick with the wit but he’s so good at ad-libbing and improvising.”
Ms Simmons-Trott finds it hard to keep a straight face in rehearsals. “I can’t help but laugh. We’re trying to have a serious scene and we just break out in laughter. I can’t help it. He’s hilarious.”
The choreographer, Charlotte Morrell, is a teacher at Somerset School of Dancing.
“Pantomime is all about having fun and that community atmosphere, [without] pressure,” said Mr Kawaley-Lathan.
“You’re able to come in with your own interpretation, which makes it more fun than other plays you have to take seriously.”
• Puss in Boots — Bollywood Style runs December 7-16 at the Earl Cameron Theatre at 7pm. There is no evening performance on December 10. Matinees: December, 8, 10 and 16 at 2pm. Tickets $35 at ptix.bm
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