The Elves and the Shoemaker is a wonderful introduction for kids to live theater but has enough innuendo for the grown-ups to stay entertained too. In 2012, Dr. Julie Lyn Barber was awarded an Individual Artist Grant by the Indiana Arts Commission for “The Panto Project,” and The Elves and the Shoemaker took form. In the traditional British comedic style known as “pantomime” (panto), which is popular during the holidays, the Royal Panto Players present family-friendly, well-known stories that feature slapstick comedy, audience interaction, and cross-dressing actors.
The cast includes Katherine Ruegger as The Good Fairy, John Vessels as The Bad Landlord, Carrie Morgan as The Shoemaker, Craig Underwood as The Shoemaker’s Wife, and Ryan Powell and Kasey Cummins as The Comedians (who double role for various auxiliary characters) under the direction of Barber. The entire cast commits to the silliness 100 percent. No one shirks from the task of overacting; no self-consciousness dampens the fun in this intimate theater.
Everyone gets to hiss at the villain and help The Fairy with her lines. After a little hesitation, my 6-year-old gleefully joined in, giggling nonstop through the production, and afterward proclaimed, “That was fun!” The ultimate compliment. But I too found myself enthusiastically laughing and caterwauling with the kids.