Jon Greene’s Top 5 (or so) influences for Le Petit’s “The Musicians of Bremen: A Holiday Panto”

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“THE MUSICIANS OF BREMEN: A HOLIDAY PANTO”
WHAT:
Panto musical comedy written and directed by Jon Greene and starring Bob Edes Jr., AshleyRose Bailey, William Bowling, Natalie Boyd, Keith Claverie, Clint Johnson, Garrett Prejean, Michael Spara
WHERE: Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carré, St. Peter St.
WHEN: Dec. 14-21
TICKETS: $15/$35
MORE INFO: Visit the website

As Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carré launches its holiday show, “Musicians of Bremen: A Holiday Panto,” we thought it would be a good idea to have writer-director Jon Greene offer a look into his creative process for the show. After all, Greene already had presented a “Sleeping Beauty” panto version, so this was familiar territory for him.

This particular production, which opens Friday (Dec. 16), is of course based on the popular Brothers Grimm story but serves as a wacky sequel to the original, with animal musicians working to save their nightclub from a mean neighbor. In true panto style, there will be plenty of audience participation, slapstick, and a whole lot of crazy songs.

Herewith, Greene’s own Top 5:

“YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS”: “THE CLOCK” — “In the earliest years of television there, was a level of comedic freedom that would never be the same. ‘Your Show of Shows’ featured a lineup of soon-to-be comedy icons, including Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca and Carl Reiner (still with us!). With a writing staff that included the not-yet-famous Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Larry Gilbert, and Neil Simon, ‘Your show of Shows’ was critical in helping the world of Vaudeville transition so seamlessly to the world of TV. ‘The Clock’ is a personal favorite. A simple set-up that combines physical skill at dance levels and a wonderful sense of timing. This routine influenced not one but many of the physical gags in our panto.

GROUCHO MARX, “HELLO I MUST BE GOING” FROM “ANIMAL CRACKERS” — “The logical illogic says it all. I have never laughed harder as a child than at the idea of saying one thing but meaning and doing the complete opposite. Stick around and you’ll get a special singing treat in our panto.”

HEDLEY LAMARR AND TAGGERT FROM “BLAZING SADDLES” — “No one helped American audiences bridge the comedic gap more than Mel Brooks. He has always understood the universal nature of archetypes, especially when he writes and directs his villains. Equal parts menacing and foolish, the brilliant Harvey Korman’s Hedley Lammar and his daft sidekick (played by Slim Pickens) are classic panto stock characters and share a lot of similar behaviors with our Baddie and #2.”

THE CHASES FROM “BENNY HILL” AND “WHAT’S UP, DOC?” — “If you ever saw even one Wile E. Coyote cartoon, then you’ve seen a chase. But before there were cartoons, ‘The Chase’ was already a part of comedic history. Whole movies have been written around a chase — ‘The Great Race,’ ‘Cannonball Run’ and ‘It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World’ come to mind. But the best chases I know were how Benny Hill ended his show every week. And this American version from the 1960s classic ‘What’s Up, Doc?’ isn’t so bad, either. Either way, you will definitely find an outsized chase in our panto.’

THE OPENING SEQUENCE OF “BANANAS” — “Woody Allen’s slapstick comedy ‘Bananas’ is about a small Latin American country going through a military coup. But Allen does more than just make merriment; he always adds a level of intelligence to even his silliest work. Take the opening of ‘Bananas,’ in which the assassination of a country’s dictator is broadcast as if on ‘The Wide World of Sports.’ Pointed, poignant and absolutely absurd. Moments like this have always pushed me to do the same. Comedy — and especially our panto — doesn’t shy away from issues or big ideas; it skews them better than anyone.

BONUS: “VITAMEATAVEGAMIN” — “Nobody does comedy better than Lucille ball. And there are too many amazing and hilarious routines to mention but when it comes to homophones, mixed up words, and word play in general this routine takes the cake. Our panto takes its word play very seriously, and without Ms. Ball pointing us in the right direction, I don’t know what we’d do.”

Honorable mentions: Monty Python’s Flying Circus (“The Cheese Shop/Ministry of Silly Walks”), “A Bit of Fry and Laurie” (“The Duel”),“The Carol Burnett Show” (“The Dentist”)

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