Ben Phillips gives an uneven performance as the Narrator and Mysterious Man. He's just OK as the former, confused as the latter. And as the Baker, a major role, Jason Villareal emotes and over-gestures, and he wears the thick pancake and drawn-on wrinkles of a high school kid trying to be Willy Loman. Everyone else has little or no makeup—little is needed in this small theater, where performers are so close to the audience they can be heard without amplification.

Minus those little stumbles, this Into the Woods offers almost everything a Sondheim purist could wish for.

Theatre Britain doesn't do many shows anymore, but when they do, it's with zealous devotion to detail. The company's annual holiday "panto" this year is Puss in Boots, made into a whimsical, child-friendly musical comedy by writer-composer Jackie Mellor-Guin, directed by TB founder Sue Roberts-Birch.Actor Ivan Jones is a cool cat in the title role of a trickster who concocts a scheme to guarantee wealth and royal marriage for his master (played, as always in panto, by a girl, Sky Williams). With the help of three pert kitties (Becca Shivers, Charli Armstrong, Christina Neubrand), Puss gets it done, stopping mid-story for some audience sing-alongs (another panto tradition), a black-light trip under the river with glowing puppet fishies and an encounter with a ghost.

Meow hear this: Theatre Britain’s annual panto, Puss in Boots, is catnip for Anglophiles.
Meow hear this: Theatre Britain’s annual panto, Puss in Boots, is catnip for Anglophiles.


Into the Woods continues at Richardson Theatre Centre through December 20. Call 972-699-1130

Puss in Boots continues at KD Studio Theatre through December 20. Call 972-490-4202.

Marla Jo Kelly makes Princess Alice a sweet little cookie. And playing the naughty "dame" role as Nanny Knickers, actor Mark Shum gets plenty of laughs working a costume that turns him into a beautiful pink and white human cookie jar.

Puss in Boots is performed on a stage lined with gigantic books (exquisitely painted scenery by Darryl Clement). But here the pages turn to create illustrated backgrounds for each scene. That one-ups the similar set at Into the Woods and closes the book on scenari ex libris.

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