'Princesses and Pirates' Combines the Past and the Present
By Beth Lindly
Special to the Observer
Old and new worlds will collide as Lythgoe Family Productions opens its original show "Princesses and Pirates" this weekend.
True to its name, "Princesses" will showcase fairytales best known for their stories of royalty and magic. However, LFP has added a twist to the folklore we all know and love: songs from top 40 radio, while audience members can sing along in the style of traditional British "panto."
Kris Lythgoe is the president of Lythgoe Family Productions, and one of the producers of the shows. He said the idea to bring panto to America came from his experiences with his son.
"I had my son 6 years ago, and I was very blessed to grow up in the theatre world, and I really wanted my son to experience theatre," Kris Lythgoe said. "And there was nothing I could take him to that was kid-friendly. When I looked at it, I felt that I wanted to bring theatre to kids. And panto is kind of like the first experience a child has going into the theatre in the UK."
Becky Lythgoe, Kris's wife and LFP co-creator, echoed his statements, saying "Princesses" will provide children with a new sense of wonder separate from today's modern technology.
"iPads and TVs [have] lured kids away from the theatre," she said. "What panto does is it takes popular characters and actors, and they're singing songs that the kids know from the radio. It brings the magic back into children's theatre."
"Princesses and Pirates" will bring back popular characters from previous pantos like Cinderella and Snow White. The show will be an aggregate of characters singing songs from past shows.
The cast features, among others, "Glee" actress Lindsay Pearce as Snow White and Maid Marion, "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." actress Molly McCook as Cinderella, Wendy and Aurora, and Broadway actor Curt Hansen as Prince Charming and Prince Phillip.
Pearce said there are several great fairytale/pop song pairs represented in the show, but her favorites showcased what it meant to be a female and strong.
"I love when Snow White sings 'Firework' by Katy Perry," she said. "I said, 'Wouldn't it be great if I turned into a ballad and it would show how it is to be a strong girl? I also love when Cinderella sings 'Let it Go' from 'Frozen,' which the kids are going to lose their minds over. 'Firework' is so Snow White, and 'Let it Go' is so Cinderella. The message is 'even if people say I'm not good enough, I'm gonna be strong.' That's a great message for girls."
The whole show was produced in three to six months, with rehearsals taking up a mere two weeks before the show opens. Kris Lythgoe said the short rehearsal time helped the overall production of the show.
"I think a short production time is beneficial, because when you're given a deadline, you've got that point of focus," he said. "I think your brain kicks in and works a little bit harder to learn your lines and blocking."
Becky Lythgoe said it was important to expose children to the theatre due to the respect and love for each other that it engenders.
"In general, I think that theatre brings more of a respect for one another," she said. "Being involved can give you a sense of how to communicate, a sense of teamwork, an outlet to express yourself. Being involved in the arts helps with any kind of career path."
The Culver City community aided in making the show a reality, Kris Lythgoe said.
"The community has been very helpful," he said. "We've got fliers in local restaurants and table tents set up. And it's interesting, because the essence of panto is community. It stemmed from in Victorian England, when the community would come together and perform Christmas shows for the children in the town. Although [this show] is professional theatre, ultimately it stems from community."
Pearce agreed, saying the dearth of theatre in Culver City and Los Angeles at large actually helped her
"I grew up in the theatre, [and] LA's not chock full of theatre like it would be anywhere else, but it's nice to be somewhere where there's not a lot of theatre and treated like we're on Broadway," she said.
Ultimately the show boils down to bridging the gap between the past and the present, the old generations and the young.
"I think that there are so few things out there that also can bring children in and entertain them that's also entertaining to the adults as well," Becky Lithgoe said. "The parents and grandparents are going to walk away pleased as well. There are so few things that are multi-generationally entertaining."
Pearce urged those on the fence to hark back to their own days of youth.
"Think about how you felt when you were a child and your babysitter or brother or sister put in your first fairytale movie that just made you go, wow, I wish this world existed," she said. "What people don't realize is those worlds do exist, and it's theatre. Think about the first time you saw a fairytale and thought, wow. That's exactly how you feel when you watch this. There are pirates and sword fights and dancing, and it's wonderful ... You really can't help but love it."
"Princesses and Pirates" will show at the Kirk Douglas Theatre for four weekends from July 18 to Aug. 10. The Kirk Douglas Theatre is located at 9820 W Washington Blvd. Culver City, 90232. Tickets are $29.00 for children 12 and under, $39.00 for all other patrons. For more information, visit http://www.princesspirasteslive.com or call 213-972-4488.