Every year as the holidays approach, the inevitable panic sets in. As sure as my neighbour's 37 light-up inflatable snow globes will be shining in my bedroom window at midnight, I'll also find myself frozen in fear at the thought out "getting it all done." And surely "getting it all done" is not the spirit or point of the season, no matter which holiday you enjoy/endure with your family.
I lay awake somewhere mid-month and wonder if I will have the time (and money) for the many traditions I’ve started (and stopped, and then restarted again) over the years. Can I fit in all the baking and gift-exchanges? Do I have enough time and money to give to charitable causes between my party hosting duties and even more baking? Can I get it all done without standing in a three-hour line at the liquor store crying into an empty wallet?
It often feels like too much, but somehow it still feels like it's never enough. It’s time to reexamine the what and why of the season, so I asked my kids and partner what they enjoy most about the holidays, and my wallet and I were pleasantly surprised. High on the list for must do’s were our annual Christmas get-together with friends, donating to our chosen charities, and spending time doing something together. Since all of these activities appeal to my no-malls in December philosophy, I was on board. When we were invited again this year to see a Ross Petty Production of his annual holiday pantomime show, we were in with a hard yes, and I think this year's production of Sleeping Beauty ranks near best yet. Pantomime theatrical tradition means a break with the "fourth wall" between audience and performers, and the interaction was so fun to watch in this year’s musical, especially given the much-appreciated feminist twist on Sleeping Beauty (spoiler: this is no damsel in distress story, which my 17 year-old fabulous and fierce daughter loudly applauded.) It’s layered and nuanced and that’s what pantomime is all about - each member of my family was able to enjoy the same show but in a personalized way.
I’ve been baking mediocre holiday cookies every year for a few years, but Ross Petty has been producing amazing musical shows since 1986. He's been writing, producing, and starring (sometimes all three at once!) and bringing fun to families and theatre-goers for three decades. Petty knows what works - and the hilarious bending of traditional fairy tales in each annual performance more than hits the mark. My partner and I loved the on-point Canadiana and topical humour, and the kids loved the fact that not only is singing and loud booing at the show's villain tolerated, it is outright encouraged. No worries about keeping squirmy bums quiet in seats here; this is the perfect place for an introduction to theatre and one where children's presence is honoured. Every time we’ve come to the annual pantomime, before we’ve even exited the aisle, my son turns to me and exclaims, “I wonder what they’ll do next year!”
You also have the opportunity to give back by attending; this year you are invited to bring a gently used winter coat for donation to Sleep Country Canada’s “Give a Kid a Coat” campaign at the theatre. Keeping kids warm by providing coats for those who need them this season is a great expression of charitable spirit, so check your closets!
Sleeping Beauty runs at Toronto's Elgin Theatre from November 25 until January 7, 2017, and because it's theatre, you can actually sit down. Almost all of my favourite activities are done from a seated position, and any chance you get to sit for a few hours during December should be welcomed.
Disclosure: My family and I were provided with tickets to see Ross Petty Production's Sleeping Beauty at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto. It's a don't miss for families, and that opinion gets a resounding "preach!" from all members of my family. You should go. And here; We'll make it easy for you: Readers get a discount, and you can purchase tickets for only $59 by using the online code FANTASY.