The holiday tradition of Lythgoe Family Panto, in association with Pasadena Playhouse, opens Beauty and The Beast – A Christmas Rose on Wednesday December 13. For the past several years, the show has been held at the Playhouse but having outgrown the space, they will be having a limited engagement of 14 performances at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. However, all the festive holiday cheer we’ve come to expect from these Panto shows will be there in abundance, including a “Winter Wonderland” event in the lobby of the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, complete with crafts, activities, games, Santa Claus (on selected dates) photo opportunities and snow!
The cast is a who’s who from stage and screen including Kelli Berglund as Belle, Jonah Platt as The Beast, Gedde Watanabe as Maurice, James Snyder as “Gus”, Jared Gertner as “Pierre” and John Tartaglia as “Bistro”.
Having seen some of the past Lythgoe Pantos, Kelli Berglund is thrilled to be playing Belle and says, “my first love is dance and I love to sing but my career has taken me down the film and television path, so this is so much fun! I get to work alongside amazing actors who have done Broadway which has been so inspiring. It was a little intimidating at first, stepping into a new environment, but rehearsals have been nothing but amazing.”
The long rehearsal days began at the beginning of December and Bergland has been surprised at how fast it has all naturally come together and tells us, “I’m really excited to get back on a stage again especially because there is dance involved; to feel that adrenaline of a live audience will be so exciting. I know people of all ages are really going to love it. We involve the audience quite a bit and it’s really funny!”
Berglund is having fun with “her Beast”, Broadway veteran, Jonah Platt, telling us, “Jonah is amazing. He’s a fantastic actor and singer and props to him because he’s wearing the Beast outfit for most of the show and he’s just doing great. We work very well together.” For his part Platt says, “I like playing characters with an arc and I get to start out closed off and angry, which is very fun to play, but then learn and grow and become a different person by the end. I’m glad to be a part of the Panto family.”
“Pierre” who is the fun and loyal sidekick of “Gus” (the Gaston character), is played by Broadway actor Jared Gertner who tells us, “I’m responsible for a lot of revving up of the crowd and I’m very excited about that.” Having lived in London for two years, Gertner is very familiar and fond of the Panto tradition and says, “everyone in England does Panto from November to January; it’s such a part of their culture. To be able to bring it here is really cool and to be a part of the Panto community from afar is a cool thing; all of my UK friends are stoked!”
The show is an updated version of the classic tale, in the style of a traditional British family Panto where there is a lot of audience interaction, jokes for all ages, along with modern day humor, music and lots of dancing.
Director Sheldon Epps says, “This great group of actor/singers are a joy to work with and all of them bring explosive verve and energy to the Civic for Panto in Pasadena this year! Very exciting! Special thanks to Becky for guiding the long haul in the casting process with great results!”
“Becky” would be casting director Becky Lythgoe who, along with Executive Director, Bonnie Lythgoe, and writer Kris Lythgoe, are responsible for all things Lythgoe Family Panto.
Choreographer Mandy Moore says, “I am so excited to be choreographing my first Panto with the Lythgoes. Kelli Berglund has such a strong dance background and along with our talented dancers, we are putting dance at the forefront of this spectacular holiday production.”
The always fantastic and crowd favorite, Gedde Watanabe, stars as Belle’s father. He was last seen in Pasadena Playhouse’s beautiful production of The Fantasticks and is thrilled to tackle another beloved father figure and to be on stage in Pasadena. Sean Tartaglia is the French butler, “Bistro”, and says, “this feels amazing because I feel so lucky to get to do this; to become a part of this special tradition and select group of people.” Tartaglia played the Lumiere character on Broadway and is excited to add this new twist of talking to the audience saying, “it’s going to be fun. I’ve never done that before.”
Says Kris Lythgoe, “we are really proud to be doing Beauty and The Beast here in Pasadena and we are so happy to partner with Give Kids Panto, bringing thousands of students the experience of live theatre, many for the first time in their lives.”
Echoing that sentiment was Bonnie Lythgoe exclaiming, “this is our 6th season here in Pasadena which is the epicenter of Panto in America! We’re so honored to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Pasadena Playhouse and 100th year of the Rose Parade. We are tying in the ancestry and the symbolism of the rose in the world with this iconic story that is centered around a rose.”
Beauty and The Beast – A Christmas Rose promises to be a memorable, festive evening for the whole family to enjoy together.
UPDATE! 25% off special offer! Final week!
December 13-24 ONLY. Tickets start at $29 and can be purchased online at Ticketmaster.com/PantoPasadena at The Pasadena Civic Auditorium or by calling 626-449-7360. Golden Tickets, which allow the ticketholder (children ages 4 – 12 only) a special on-stage experience during the production, are available for an additional $60.00 each.