Christmas panto fun for whole family

This year’s production tells the story of Ali Baba, a poor Persian boy who falls in love with Safiya, his brother’s slave.

The Ladysmith Little Theatre is setting the stage to steal not only gold but hearts with this year’s Christmas pantomime production, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.

Director Alan Watt said audiences can expect the same British tongue-in-cheek humour, double entendre, outlandish characters and toe-tapping music of past panto productions.

“It’s going to steal their hearts and tickle their funny bone,” he said. “It’s very over the top … everything’s big and high energy and meant to be fun for the entire family.”

This year’s production tells the story of Ali Baba, a poor Persian boy who falls in love with Safiya, his brother’s slave.

“He is trying to buy her freedom so he can marry her,” said Watt.

He soon learns, however, that Safiya’s sister Huma is also a slave, and he must find a way to free them both.

Fortune seems to smile on Ali when he discovers a secret cave holding the treasure of the show’s villain Mustafa Leikh, but it doesn’t last long.

“He’s found the treasure, he still can’t seem to buy his girlfriend, and the thieves are now coming after him … and that’s just act one,” Watt said.

A few young fresh faces have joined the Ladysmith Little Theatre for the production. They include Hailey Primrose in the role of Ali Baba, Gracie Laboucan in the role of Huma, and Hannah Copp as Safiya. Veteran performers will include Inge Cathers, Mike Cooper, Ken Hiebert and Charles Harmon.

The pantomime has become a Christmas tradition in Ladysmith since the 2005 production of The Tinder Box. Since then, they have generally sold out each year there has been a production, and Watt expects this year to be no different.

Pantomimes generally take a nursery rhyme or fairy tale and recreate it on a grander scale with music, topical jokes and slapstick comedy.

The formula usually dictates there be a principle couple played by two female leads and an outrageous dame (usually the mother of the protagonist) played by a male lead.

“It’s absolutely hilarious when you have a gentleman dressed up as a woman coming on stage trying to be sexy,” said Watt.

Playing the role of Mum Baba is the talented and herculean Torry Clark.

“Anybody that knows Torry Clark knows that he is as far as you can get from a womanly figure,” said Watt. “He’s big, and he has a very deep voice.”

The key thing with pantomimes is that spectators are encouraged to cheer on the hero and boo the villain, and audience interaction is both typical and expected, explained Watt.

“The actors themselves have a little leeway to improvise with the audience,” he said. “If they see an opportunity, they’ll take it.”

Music featured in Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves will appeal to all ages, with numbers such as “Sisters” from the movie White Christmas, “Love is an Open Door” from Frozen, Petula Clark’s “Downtown” (with substituted lyrics “Baghdad”) and “Consider Yourself” from Oliver Twist. There will even be a throw-back tribute to 2012’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum with the adapted “Tragedy Tomorrow, Puppet Show Tonight.”

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves premieres Friday, Dec. 19 to a sold-out show, and will run at 7 p.m. on Dec. 26, 29 and 30. Matinees begin at 1 p.m. and will run Dec. 20 (sold out), 21, 27 and 28.

A special New Year’s Eve show and celebration will take place Dec. 31. The show will run from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. with appies being served during intermission. Cast members will join the audience following the show for a late-night meal and to help ring in 2015. Tickets for the celebration are $40 each.

Tickets for all other performances are $15 each and are available at the Ladysmith Little Theatre Box Office, by calling 250-924-0658  or online through www.ladysmiththeatre.com.