Have you ever wondered what your favorite childhood story would be like sprinkled with some holiday magic and reimagined for a modern audience?
Well, Kris and Becky Lythgoe did. And for the past decade, Lythgoe Family Panto has been revamping the age-old classics with a contemporary twist of comedy, dance and pop songs interwoven into the scripts.
This year’s holiday panto Aladdin and His Winter Wish, which runs at TPAC’s Polk Theater Dec. 12-22, intentionally blends big names with up-and-coming local talent.
The production features recording artist Kira Kosarin (who starred as Phoebe in Nickelodeon’s The Thundermans) as the Princess, , Damon J. Gillespie (Broadway’s Newsies, Aladdin, NBC’s Rise) as Aladdin, Richard Karn (Al Borland in the ’90s sitcom Home Improvement) as the hypnotism-prone Sultan, Bruce Vilanch (Emmy Award-winning TV comedy writer and actor of Hairspray, Hollywood Squares) as Widow Twanky, Josh Adamson (ABC Family’s First Landing) as Abanazar, Jonathan Meza (The Familiar of Zero, Nickelodeon’s The Jumpitz) as Wishee Washee and just-announced star Mykal Kilgore (Broadway’s Songs for a New World, NBC’s Jesus Christ Superstar Live) as the Genie.
“We are so excited to be returning to Nashville with this diverse, multi-generational cast as we continue to make this the new family tradition at the holidays with TPAC,” say producers Becky and Kris Lythgoe. “From Television to Broadway, these stars will have you laughing out loud, dancing in the aisles and singing along to songs you know and love!”
Known for their creativity and involvement in television hits American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance, the Lythgoe family prides themselves in bringing the British panto tradition across the pond, offering affordable and interactive theater to families across America.
Part of what makes Lythgoe Family Panto productions so special is how each is localized for the city it performs in. Not only do the scripts have regional, fourth wall-breaking references, but the ensemble features up-and-coming local talent.
Another magical addition to the Lythgoe Family Give Kids Panto team is choreographer Chase Benz, who has come full circle growing up in Nashville (even auditioning at the Cool Springs Galleria himself) to working with names like Britney Spears and – most recently – Carrie Underwood.
Open auditions for local youth and adult dancers were held at Cool Springs Galleria, where judges Benz, Ernie Nolan (director), Becky Lythgoe (producer) joined TPAC’s Christi Dortch in leading over 100 dancers through this educational process in order to make their winter wishes come true.
The local ensemble will feature Chelsea Hough, Daniel Thomas and Albanus Thierry, as well as youth dancers Reese Benton (Grassland Elementary), Christopher Burns (Roots Dance), Kinsey Burchett (Davidson Academy), Dayton Winker (Heritage Middle), Leila Winker (MDC), Mollie ter Kuile (Poplar Grove), Claire Green (CTG), Indya Sowell (Mt Juliet), Kiara Cabriana (American Academy), Nikolas Ware (Mt Juliet), Chloe Wiest (Hermitage) and Valeria Romero (Millennium Dance).
For brother and sister dance duo Drayton and Leila Winker (12 and 10-years-old), the audition process at Cool Springs Galleria was “tiring and a little nerve-racking, but tons of fun.”
Like many of these talented local kids, Drayton has been dancing and performing for the majority of his life.
“I’ve been dancing for about seven years,” he says. “My sister and I have gone to a lot of competitions, so we think we’re ready and we’re so excited!”
In addition to Benz, Dortch, Lythgoe, Lythgoe and Nolan, the creative team includes musical director Michael Sobie (Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience, A Wrinkle in Time) and musical supervisor and arranger Michael Orland (American Idol).
“The cast is a fantastic mix of seasoned entertainers and local fresh faces. Nashville isn’t just ‘Music City,’ it’s a vibrant arts town,” says Nolan. “I can’t wait until audiences will be able to see some of the best dancers and performers around.”
But when it comes to what musical theater is all about — making that human connection — young Drayton Winker sums it up best.
“I just love performing because it makes people feel what I feel.”
Connect with Michael Aldrich on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter @michaelwaldrich.
Lythgoe Family Panto produces fun musical theatre the whole family can enjoy. Known for their creativity and involvement in television hits “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance,” the Lythgoes are dedicated to bringing affordable theatre to families across America. Based on the Grimm fairytales and others, each story has been modernized with topical scripts for parents and well-known pop songs for kids. The Lythgoes pride themselves on creating a memorable experience a family can share together.
GiveKidsPanto is a California based non-profit company that pays for school children to experience live theatre for the very first time. Buses are paid for and tickets are subsidized, as we introduce young kids to the Arts. In 2017, over 6,000 Title I students were introduced by the Lythgoes to live theatre, through the medium of Panto. For more information, visit GiveKidsPanto.com