My uncle took me to my first proper pantomime, Peter Pan, last night at the Richmond Theatre. I may or may not have chosen (read: I 100% did choose) Peter Pan because the one and only Henry Winkler was cast as the "baddy" Captain Hook. Would I normally get that excited to see The Fonz live on stage? Probably. But it is definitely fair to say that the chance to see an American sitcom icon made this Texas girl insanely happy, and significantly increased my anticipation.
The auntie is not a fan of the British pantomime tradition, so she was happy to send me along with the uncle. I had been prepped/warned/generally made aware of the uniqueness that is a "panto," by those who both enjoy and could do without them. As I stood in the front lobby waiting for the uncle to park the car, swarms of young children made their way through the doors and into the theatre. We found our seats situated between a 3-year-old on the right, a few more tots on the left, and three grown men* seated in front of us. This mixed and confusing crowd allowed me to enter into the panto magic more or less objectively.
A few actors came on stage and sang some, apparently traditional, pantomime tunes. Then Peter Pan flew and I freaked. Gets me every time. (Yes, I am a child.) Smee was perfectly old and adorable, and there was even a (traditional for pantomimes) gay pirate - Jolly Roger!
THEN THE FONZ CAME OUT AND TEARS WELLED UP IN MY EYES. Completely unexpected reaction, but it happened. I couldn't stop smiling.
I quickly caught on the to appropriate booing and jeering practices the audience is expected to take part in, and was seriously impressed by some of the female vocals.
Another aspect of the pantomime tradition is that they tie modern music in with the old story lines. There was a perfect mix of Katy Perry, One Direction and Guns N' Roses to please all possible panto-goers. Then they sang Happy Days. And the tears came back. This time full force.
I have been reminded more and more of my feelings lately, as I mentioned before, but the thrill and magic of music and performance is something that gets me no matter my current emotional state. A beautiful harmony, honest monologue, hilariously perfect joke and yes even an old guy playing Captain Hook have all been known to bring tears to my eyes. It's seriously involuntary at this point.
I told the auntie about the tweet and she asked "so is that the modern day equivalent of an autograph?" Why yes, now that you mention it, I am totally counting it.
*Just in case you were wondering, the three grown men sitting in front of us seemed to be having more fun than the rest of the theatre combined. These people take their panto seriously.