Encore Michigan

Theatre Nova’s “Sugar Plum Panto” is sweet and delicious for the whole family

ReviewYouth/Family November 29, 2016 David Kiley

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Silliness. Laughter. A little cross dressing. Song parodies. And you can bring the little ones even while enjoying some of the adult humor, because the gag lines will sail right by them.

That’s the experience seeing Theatre Nova’s Sugar Plum Panto playing now through December 23rd.

According to artistic director Carla Milarch, the Panto draws its inspiration from the 1816 origin story of the ballet, “Nussknacker unt Mausekonig” by E.T.A. Hoffman. Not being familiar with the ballet, it’s hard to point out just where the story ends and the ensemble’s writing takes over. But the important thing is that the story keeps the audience laughing, commenting, clapping and humming.

The thread of the story is that Clara (Sarah Briggs) is having a dream and is given a quest to defeat the Mouse King (Sonja Marquis). Along the way, she interacts with Frankenstein, Tante Drosslemeyer and the Nutcracker (all played by Dan Morrison).

At times the scenes are so enjoyable and funny that you can almost lose the thread of the story. It’s enough to enjoy the banter between the characters, the nods to The Wizard of Oz and song parodies like one for Uptown Funk.

Through the allegories, the cast, which also collaborated on the script, addresses subjects like bullying, hero worship, personal responsibility and more. The evening I attended the show, there were a few kids under the age of 10 in the audience, and they were having as good a time as the adults as Marquis donned the mouse nose and crown, and careened all over Theatre’s Nova’s intimate acting space, and Dan Morrison ricocheted between his nutcracker outfit, the Frankenstein headgear and garb and his drag outfit, which included prominent boobs and a big blonde wig.

And there is a magician. Yes, in the middle of the show there is a soft-spoken magician who appears and delights the audience with time tested, but always smile-inducing, illusions with water, newspaper, cards, string and a dove.

Scrooge, it’s not. And thank goodness as we have enough of those around this month. There isn’t another show like it. Briggs, Marquis and Morrison work great together and their vast experience on the boards comes in handy as they keep the broad material from flying off the stage all together. Briggs’ experience with The Wild Swan Theatre for young audiences especially shines through as she engages the young the folks in the house.

Buckle up for an unusual night at the theatre, but one that will surely leave you smiling and laughing, and you don’t even have to get a sitter.

Click here for show days, times and details.

Week of 9/25/2023

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