Las Vegas Sun

October 25, 2014

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The British are already here!

A new Las Vegas theater company, rather grandly titled the British National Theatre of America, put on its first show last night, a Vegas-ized version of “Cinderella,” in which the heroine meets her Prince on the golf course and drives to the Palace Casino Ball in a Lamborghini. It plays again at 7 p.m. tonight and September 10 at the Summerlin Theatre.

The new troupe was founded by four English theater professionals who met at a Vegas pub after a show -– they were all working for Cirque du Soleil on “The Beatles: LOVE” at the Mirage. Their Las Vegas mission, says co-founder Jo Cattell, is to “engage, entertain and inspire through theater with an inherently British accent.”

“Because we’re four Brits, we’re starting off with something we know, which is pantomime, or panto, which is the first experience of the theater for most English children,” says Cattell.

Pantomime, which shouldn’t be confused with mime, is a theatrical convention with strong influence from Commedia dell’arte, often performed around Christmas. It consists of song, dance, cross-dressing, slapstick, people dressed up as animals, a good fairy, villain and audience participation. Cattell compares it to the movie “Shrek,” which had humor that appealed to adults and plenty to entertain the kids.

It’s a big production for a fledgling troupe: “Cinderella” has a cast of 22 and a backstage crew of 12, most of them from various Strip shows, including five performers from “Stomp Out Loud,” assorted Cirque shows and a “Jubilee!” showgirl.

Because everyone involved is working on another show -- “Stomp,” for instance, plays seven days a week –- scheduling rehearsals and performance times was quite a juggling act, Cattell says.

“Everyone has their set of skills and their background,” says Catell, who co-wrote “Cinderella” with Richard Perkin. “We tried to get a little bit of ‘Stomp’ in, we tried to get a bit of acrobatics. It’s not a Cirque show, we can’t do anything so outstanding. More than anything, we wanted it to be fun for everyone involved, so they don’t feel like they have two jobs.”

Cattell, like many of the artists involved with “LOVE,” is from London, where an established theater community is very much a part of the city’s vitality. “I find it’s very difficult to find any sense of community in the theater community -– because there isn’t really much of a theater community,” Cattell says. “I felt that I could go to these people and start introducing them to each other and they would want to collaborate with each other again.”

Cattell says BNTA hopes to produce a panto every year, and is looking ahead to bringing different forms of international theater to the off-Strip cultural scene.

“Within Cirque alone,” she says, “there’s lots of Brazilians, there’s Chinese here, so many different people with such a rich cultural background. It seems a shame not to make use of that.”

The Summerlin Library and Performing Arts Theatre is at 1771 Inner Circle Drive, Summerlin. Tickets are $10 for children, $15 for adults. Call 497-0159 or visit www.pantolv.com.

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