Explore THE THREE MUSKETEERS (THE LATER YEARS): A Musical Panto
What is a Panto?
Themes of the play
Why did People’s Light choose this play?
What is a Panto?
By Lee Devin and Gina Pisasale
“I’ve always thought it a wonderful form, because it can include anything the theatre is able to give a welcome to.” ~Ian McKellen on Pantos
Coming out of the commedia dell’arte, the Twelfth Night holiday (which has reversal of roles as a tradition), the Festival of Fools and Epiphany, the Christmas Panto is today the most popular theatre form in Great Britain. In a single year, 19 pantos played in London and 187 in the rest of the country.
Traditionally, pantos typically take a well-known fairy tales or other favorite children’s story and turn it on its ear. Favorite stories, which have inspired countless different Pantos, are Aladdin, Robin Hood, Cinderella, Dick Wittington, Jack and the Beanstalk, Mother Goose, Puss in Boots, Sleeping Beauty, Goldilocks and Snow White. These familiar stories form the basis for exaggeration, variation and topical social commentary, as well as outrageous jokes, humorous songs, sprightly dances and, sometimes, a strangely affecting love story.
The tradition has developed some fairly rigid conventions of plotting, casting and story. Here are some of the familiar elements that audiences at People’s Light have come to relish:
- The Dame: a boisterous yet benevolent matriarch played by a man in drag
- A hero (sometimes played by a woman); a heroine; and a stock villain
- “Skin roles,” animal pals who help our hero in his or her adventures
- A comic duo
- A basic story that explores themes of love, friendship, and good vs. evil
- Music, dance, and slapstick
- Audience participation: boo, cheer, even argue with the characters onstage
- Satire of local events, government policies, and famous people
- A “slosh scene” or “messy bit”: a slapstick routine with something wet, gooey, and/or slippery
- A “candy bit”: the actors throw candy into the audience, sometimes by the villain’s lackeys to get information about the hero
- Silly songs that the audience joins in singing
Since the 18th century, audiences have gathered in droves to enjoy the songs, jokes, costumes and treats of this Christmas celebration. At People’s Light, we’re having great fun joining this tradition, adjusting it to our culture and aesthetic, bringing it to our time and place. We don’t want to get all solemn, but these stories live in the hearts of us all, and beneath the fun and foolery they touch us in fundamental ways. We want to place these deep stories on out stage without losing the madcap, All Fools’ Day impulse that invented the panto back then and keeps it alive today.
THEMES OF THE PLAY
- Honor and heroism do not just belong to the strongest and bravest among us, but to the dedicated, loyal, and determined.
- You can accomplish great things and defeat a powerful villain when you band together with others.
- A lot of meaningful things happen beyond our digital devices.
WHY DID PEOPLE’S LIGHT CHOOSE THIS PLAY?
“We love the Panto! This will be a revival, with some retooling, of a very successful panto, offering acting opportunities for our company artists and frequent guest artists. This is a signature element of our season for the past 12 years, and an all-ages way to celebrate the holidays at People’s Light.”
—Producing Director Zak Berkman
Director’s Statement by Pete Pryor
The Three Musketeers (The Later Years) is a panto journey into the kingdom of Malveria. We follow our beloved Queen Agnes aka The Dame, Horace the hound, a chicken and a beautiful young damsel as they search high and low for Porthos, Athos and Artemis to come out of hiding and rescue King Hughey from the evil Lord Mazzarotti and his treacherous henchbirds. What happens when our heroes become older? Who can you really trust? Who is that mystery man that lives under the bridge? Where can you get the best haircut? The Musketeers is a tale of loyalty, responsibility and courage and is an interactive romp for the whole family. Our regular panto creative team will once again (Arthur and the Tale of the Red Dragon) be complimented by award winning puppet designer and Guggenheim fellow, Robert Smythe. The Three Musketeers is all for fun and fun for all!
Time: The middle of the 17th Century (around 1649) and in Panto time
Place: The Kingdom of Malveria
Queen Agnes of Malvaria has just returned from Moscovia, where she was looking for a suitable bride for her young son, King Hughy XIV. While she’s been away, the dastardly Lord Mazarotti has exiled the Musketeers, manipulated and subdued Hughy, and seized control of the kingdom of Malveria. The Queen commands Horace, King Hughy’s loyal dog, to find the lost Musketeers and save the kingdom from Mazarotti.
Horace discovers the original three Musketeers – Aramis, Porthos, and Athos – in disguise. But Lord Mazarotti’s henchmen, the Four Royal Falcons, snatch up our would-be-heroes, forcing Horace to flee for his life. While hiding, he meets Colette, Musketeer protégé D’Artagnan’s betrothed, and Hennie, Aramis’ chicken housekeeper. With the aid of a mad and blind beggar, they form a new Musketeer squad and devise a way to save the kingdom.
They return to the castle in disguise and a three-part battle ensues revealing not only the successful return of Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, but also the beggar to be none other than D’Artagnan! With all the heroes together, Mazarotti and his Falcons are vanquished. King Hughy, now restored to his throne, oversees the happy reunion of Musketeers and begins a new age of peace and joy in the kingdom.
Queen Agnes of Malvaria
Mother of the King. Maternal, protective, and the Dame of our Panto.
Lord Guido Mazarotti
Advisor to the King. A power-hungry and egotistical tyrant. Also called the Falconer.
King Hughy XIV
The Boy King. 14 years old. Means well, but has a lot to learn.
one of the Four Royal Falcons. The dominant one.
one of the Four Royal Falcons. The most inexperienced and impressionable one.
one of the Four Royal Falcons. Proud.
one of the Four Royal Falcons. Eager.
disguised as a blind, crippled beggar
disguised as a 17th Century barber
disguised as a 17th Century Barber
disguised as a Monk
The New Musketeers
Principal Girl. D’Artagnan’s beloved and currently a barmaid at the Fox and Hound. Kind, generous, ardent, and beautiful.
Horace the Hound
Principal Dog. King Hughy’s loyal companion, willing and dependable.
Henrietta the Chicken
Aramis’ plucky Housekeeper and confidante. A rule-follower and a little anxious, but dedicated to doing the right thing.
Kathryn Petersen has been a People’s Light Company Member since 1986. She is a playwright, actress, and teacher residing in the Philadelphia region. A member of the Dramatist Guild, she’s had ten plays produced professionally and has penned eight of the eleven pantos produced at People’s Light. Cinderella: A Musical Panto garnered 13 Barrymore Award nominations including Best New Play when it premiered in 2008. Arthur’s Stone, Merlyn’s Fire, published by Dramatic Publishing Company, has been produced by schools and theaters around the country. Kathryn is a member of the Actor’s Equity Association and has performed in over sixty productions regionally. She is an Assistant Professor of Theater at Arcadia University in Glenside, PA.