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Piccolo Theater’s holiday panto, “Clara and the Nutcracker,” presents a sparkly, colorful, sword-fighting, and hilarious onstage treat for Evanstonians.

“Pantomime, or Panto, is a British tradition derived from Commedia dell’arte, and always takes a well-known story or fairy tale, shakes it up, adds music, and dancing, and pop culture references, and rolls it out in a comedic version of the original,” explains Joshua Allard, ensemble member at Piccolo. “Pantos are entirely for the audience – young and old – and allow audience members to interact with the performers, helping them tell the story!”

“The fact that the style has persisted for so long as a holiday tradition in Britain makes complete sense, because there really is something for everyone,” says Annemarie Fredo, actor playing Princess Marie.

Many are familiar with “The Nutracker” story, but Allard says, “This adaptation is first and foremost a world premiere…There’s sword fighting and mixing world legends in with the Nutcracker story, because why not?”

“Clara and the Nutcracker” is the fifth collaboration between Piccolo and Jessica Puller, adapter.

Performers in rehearsal for “Clara and the Nutcracker.”

Allard is playing “the Dame” in this year’s Panto, which happens to be the Sugar Plum Fairy. “My costume is equal parts ridiculous and delicious. I’m wearing a turban – A TURBAN – you know, ’cause I’m magic.”

Costume design is certainly a big aspect of the panto, and both actors are proud of their wardrobe.

“I’m wearing a pretty, sparkly dress befitting a storybook ballerina princess, complete with tiny top hat and tiara!” says Fredo.

“… so maybe we jumped the gun way back in March about the ‘no tutus,’ Allard states. “It was well before the concept was in development.  Let’s call them long fluffy skirts.”

“But this isn’t about drag or female impersonation – this is about playing a character who happens to be a magical female fairy, who also happens to just be hysterical to look at.”

Allard’s enthusiasm for the production soaks through his words. Just like Piccolo’s mission to make the audience laugh, Allard is full of mirth and smiles. “A day without laughter is a day wasted,” he says – which, for Piccolo, there can be no greater truth.

For tickets and more information, call the Box Office at (847) 424-0089 Tuesday-Friday from 10 AM-5 PM, or visit piccolotheatre.com.

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