Plano — Even in those years when Theatre Britain was out of the scene as a theatrical outfit producing full seasons, it kept its annual panto at Christmastime. Brand recognition is important, after all, as is tradition.
Now that the group is in its second season at its new home at the Cox Building Playhouse, it’s brought back another blast from the past: Old Time Music Hall, a celebration of British Music Hall, a precursor to American vaudeville and burlesque.
As with past Old Time Music Hall presentations, this one is “Devised, For You Delectation & Delight, By Sue Birch.” She’s the brains behind Theatre Britain, a group we’re glad to have back on the scene in months that aren’t November or December.
The ensemble consists of Bryan Brooks, Lauren Gao, Kyle Hancock, Francis Henry, Jessica Peterson, Matt Stephan, Jennifer Stoneking, Octavia Y. Thomas, Shannon J. Walsh, along with a Chairman (Michael Speck) and, at the piano, music director Pam Holcomb-McLain.
The collection of songs, skits and comedy sketches, notably the selection from Gilbert & Sullivan and the Gone With the Wind bit, are all delightful. Speck rattles off some the night’s best jokes with perfect deadpan, and has fun with the harmless audience ribbing. It all looks great in Tony Padden's 19th-century costumes, which allow the ladies to hustle with that bustle.
What else is there to say? It’s a terrific entertainment. Go see one of the four remaining performances on closing weekend.
Now, here’s hoping that Theatre Britain’s 2016 season (the rest of 2015 brings an Alan Ayckbourn comedy and the panto; and they had an Agatha Christie mystery earlier in the year), gives us something from a British playwright not often seen on local stages, even beyond Pinter, Orton, Coward, Stoppard or Shakespeare (all of whom are perfectly welcome, of course). Say, Caryl Churchill, Simon Gray, David Storey or Marlowe, or how about that revered 20th century British drama, John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger?
We know from Theatre Britain's history that the group is capable of doing justice to Shakespeare, Pinter and Peter Shaffer, so we can't wait to see what the future holds.