THE BIG BAD WOLF (AND HOW HE GOT THAT WAY) was written and originally presented in the style of English pantomime, a 300-year-old theatrical tradition (and the only theatrical innovation to originate on the English-speaking stage). Panto is best known for its recurring features, most of which occur in WOLF:

  • People impersonating animals
  • A Pantomime Dame, usually the character of a randy old woman, always played by a man
  • At least one fairy who talks exclusively in rhyme
  • Some kind of magical transformation that brings about the desired happy ending and is performed in some way by the rhyming fairy
  • A 'Big Head' character, who literally has a very big head
  • A lead character 'Principal Boy' played by a woman, which is called a "tights character" (but not in WOLF, where the Talking Animal Fairy doubles as both Fairy and the tights character)
  • Extensive audience involvement, including the audience helping out with the plot and making story decisions
  • And, perhaps most important, a basic fairy tale (or intermingling of related tales, as in WOLF) for the amusement of children, with 'adult' humor throughout so those kiddies' parents aren't bored to death--almost parallel plays going on at the same time, if you will. A famous example is the classic Panto line by a Dame, "I went for a tramp in the woods," which children hear as the Dame commenting on a walk she took, and their parents hearing as the Dame revealing a liaison with an older gentleman.

For those not familiar with Panto and its presentation, it is worthwhile to emphasize that such shows work best when there is at least an attempt to make them believable for young children. For example, adults will theoretically find humor in the male/female cross dressing, but small children should see Red's Granny as a real woman, not as a drag act--which is why no true Panto Dame ever makes "I'm really a man" jokes. And one would hope very small children would see the Wolf as a wolf, not a guy in a wolf suit.

Also, audience involvement is crucial to proper Panto. The audience is as much a character as any other player, and all the players should show an easy familiarity with the audience. In true British pantomime, performers are not above strolling out into the audience and working it for a considerable time.

Finally, for this material to work, it should be played very fast.

About this particular script: Mrs. Watkins and her son Fred were written specifically for the premiere production at the Empty Space Theatre in Seattle, because the musicians were an older woman and a drummer/trombone player in his twenties who were also both accomplished stage performers. However, because this will not always be the case, the play can also be done without a Fred and with minimal involvement by Mrs. Watkins. This format significantly affects only the intermission duet/semi-love scene. An alternate intermission song, a duet by Bo and Ramona, is included herein, should the musical accompaniment require it.