Here at ACT Scotland, pantomime preparation is well underway! But how did our Christmas Panto come to be? From brain to stage, read on to learn about how we turned our ambition of staging a full scale Christmas pantomime into a reality!
‘If you can dream it, you can do it.’ – Walt Disney
Last Christmas, ACT Scotland presented ‘Christmas In Front Of The Telly’, a Christmas showcase that showed off our students at the time. It was staged at the Elim Church, and had a loose story that connected songs and scenes together and allowed each class a chance to shine. Staging a show at Christmas was so much fun that we thought, well, we’ll have to do it again then, won’t we!?
Our student numbers have doubled in the past year, so we knew that this Christmas we wanted to go bigger, better, and bolder! And at Christmas, what’s bigger, better and bolder than a full scale pantomime?
We knew it was a huge step up from last year, but we trusted in the ability of our students, so we decided to turn our dream into a reality! We started putting the first steps into motion, getting ready to create ACT Scotland’s first ever Christmas panto!
‘Every story I create, creates me.’ – Octavia E. Butler
So it’s decided, we’re doing a panto! But, which one?
Every good panto needs a good story, but there are so many stories to choose from. We knew that with all of our talented students, we needed a story with plenty of roles so that every student could have a chance to shine. So a story with plenty of crazy characters, a big ensemble with lots of fun parts, and iconic songs and dances…
Anything come to mind?
‘All you need is confidence in yourself.’ – L. Frank Baum, The Wizard Of Oz
After we decided on a story, I went ahead and started adapting the story to make it fit the students of ACT Scotland. There was lots of source material to draw inspiration from, including the original book by L. Frank Baum, the iconic 1939 film, the musical, as well as the iconic retelling, Wicked. I also drew inspiration from the many other pantomimes that I have both seen and been involved in.
I knew that in our version of the story, I wanted to make sure that Dorothy was a character with a journey to travel, not just in distance, but in development too! I wanted to make sure that Dorothy helped to drive the plot forward, and wasn’t just a character that things happened to.
I also wanted to add all of the classic pantomime tropes, so I decided that we needed a ‘Buttons’ type character, and also a classic pantomime dame. These appear in our script as Bobbles, Dorothy’s next door neighbour, and Auntie Em, Dorothy’s well-meaning, sassy auntie! And there are plenty of other characters in the show that take part in all the classic pantomime tropes. Oh yes they do!
The other challenge of this adaptation was making sure that there was plenty for every student to do, not just the principal characters. I started combing through versions of the story for inspiration for ensemble characters. Of course, there are the iconic Flying Monkeys, the Munchkins, the residents of the Emerald City, but with 110 students, we had to come up with something for every class to do that could be rehearsed during class time. So in our version of the story, you will find plenty of talking animals, poppies, jitterbugs, and many more kooky characters brought to life by the talented students of ACT Scotland.
‘Where words fail, music speaks.’ – Hans Christian Andersen
Now we have our story and our characters, but we aren’t staging a play, we’re staging panto! So the next step was choosing a great selection of songs. Every good panto has songs that the kids will know and love, but also songs the parents will know and love, and songs that help to move the story forward. I knew that the audience would expect the classic Somewhere Over The Rainbow, but there are also some other great pop songs that fit brilliantly into the world of Oz. In this version of the story, you’ll hear songs from the last few years, and also songs from the 70s, 80s and 90s. So keep your ears out, because our version of Oz is alive with tunes you’ll recognise!
So, our version of Oz will be brought to life by the talented students of ACT Scotland, playing an array of kooky characters, using songs you will know and love to tell the story of Dorothy, a headstrong, intelligent girl who learns to be true to herself and others. Sounds like a recipe for a magical Christmas panto!
See you in Oz this Christmas!