If you haven't experienced the wacky tradition of the holiday season English "panto," get yourself to Theatre Britain's production of Jackie Mellor-Guin's Dick Whittington, currently onstage at Plano's Cox Building Playhouse. It's broad comedy on two levels: a fun fairytale for the kiddies, some mildly bawdy double entendres for the grown-ups. With "Dick" in the title, you can see where that can go.
In the "dame" role (always played by a man in big drag) is Dallas actor James Chandler, playing "Dame Overeasy," a flirty pastry chef given to sidling up to men in the audience and asking, "Fancy a large tart?" He's hilarious, swishing around in a huge dress decorated with a strategically placed pair of fried-egg appliqués.
In the title role, playing the "trouser role" (always a young girl in short pants and boots), is super cute Jad B. Saxton. Her character is the plucky boy seeking his fortune in London. He almost finds it, only to be thwarted by a gang of evil wharf rats, led by their queen, played by Kate Rutledge. Dick's sly puss (played by Jean-Luc Hester) saves the day.
All the ingredients of a panto are put into play by director Sue Birch, including the cheery audience singalong, the sighting of a scary ghost ("No! He's over there!") and, of course, the happy ending.
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Theatre Britain also tosses in some glow-in-the-dark puppets and makes smart use of every inch of Darryl Clement's pastel storybook set made of wooden crates, funny flags and signs (the coffee shop is titled "Barstucks").
Go on and go with it. And check out the offerings at intermission. If you've never tried an English Crunchy bar or a bag of roasted chicken-flavored "crisps," they're well worth the $2 investment for a little bite of Old Blighty.
Dick Whittington continues at the Cox Building Playhouse in Plano through December 28, with lots of afternoon matinees and early evening performances. Box office, 972-490-4202.