Tucked away in one corner of the musical theater's long history is a British subgenre known as the Christmas panto. Born out of 18th-century harlequinades, initially performed by actors imported from Italy, who conveyed with their bodies what they didn't yet know how to say in English (hence "pantomime" or "panto"), its baggy shape enwraps a whole absurd but rigorous set of conventions: a familiar fairy or folk tale told in a topsy-turvy way, with topical jokes, interpolated songs, a little gender-reversed casting, and a lot of tomfoolery. Reformatted and updated every year, it's taken far more seriously as a tradition than as an art form: Its essence is just silly fun for a holiday treat, with about the same degree of cultural significance as your... More >>>