The Love for Three Oranges "Panto" Review - Outrageously Funny

Seeing the Piccolo Theatre’s annual Holiday Panto, “The Love for Three Oranges,” I am certain that theatre in Chicagoland is alive and well. Magic emanated from the small Piccolo Theatre stage as this Italian fairy tale, by Carlo Gozzi took shape as an outrageously funny, charming, sometimes bawdy, and very engaging panto.  (Interestingly, the opera “The love for Three oranges” by Sergei Prokofiev premiered at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, Illinois, on 30 December 1921.)  This was definitely a wonderful antidote for difficult times and very cold weather.


The Piccolo Theatre Ensemble combines Commedia dell'arte and Panto traditions as it reworks this classic Italian fairy tale about a boy who needs to laugh and love. An evil witch curses the miserable Prince Tartaglia to go on a quest for three giant oranges. The once-lonely prince encounters wizards, trickery, talking animals, and monarchs, finding friendship and love in the most unexpected of places. The audience is very involved, booing and hissing the bad guys and cheering the good guys – and it is great fun.

The Piccolo Theatre building is fascinating. Built in 1909 as a depot, it was virtually abandoned after a fire badly damaged it in the mid-1950's. The Piccolo Theatre website states, “its new function as a cultural center, a 50-seat theater, studio/classroom space, and set construction area replaced the old baggage room, coal room and fire-damaged upper room. Piccolo Theatre, Inc. established the Piccolo Theatre in 1999 with an eye toward the completion of its new home in the depot.” John Szostek was instrumental in the theatre opening ten years ago.


I spoke with Faith Block, a member of the Saints, (Saints website) who has the job of providing ushers for both the Piccolo Theatre and Music Institute of Chicago. She told me her story of first seeing this theatre as it was being built and needing to wear a hard hat. It was hard to envision what this theater has become.  She also expressed her delight in observing the maturation of this company.  She also said this panto was very different than earlier one.


It was a wonderful evening and terrific English panto.  We laughed for the better part of two hours and the wonderful “Dame Celia” narrated and guided the story.  I marvel at the creativity of this group, the fabulous sets, costumes, lighting and special effects, given the small space and limited facilities.  And the performers are all very talented and engaging.  It is wonderful entertainment for this time of year, especially.  Don’t miss it.

The Love of Three Oranges was written by Carlo Gozzi, adapted by Hillary DePiano, directed and adapted as a Panto by Molly Lyons, with new music and lyrics by Rich Maisel, and choreographed by Claire Hart.


Cast includes Joshua D. Allard, Heather Chrisler, John Ham, Max Hinders, Grayson Heyl, Ben Isabel, Amelia Lorenz, Angela Sandall, Fiona Stephens, Julian Stroop, Karen Vance, Watson Swift, Sean Wesslund, and Jonah Winston. Creative Team includes Tabbi Koller (Production Manager), Elyse Estes (Stage Manager), Albert Trefts (Assistant Stage Manager), Genesee Spridco (Costumes), Sarah Lewis (Scenic), Lee Moore (Properties), Aaron Quick (Sound), Aimee Warshall (Lighting).

Performances run November 14 - December 20; all performances are Friday at 7:30PM, Saturday at 3PM and 7:30PM, and Sunday at 3PM.

Ticket prices include $70 (family of 4), $27 (adults), $23 (seniors), $15 (students and industry), $11 (Children 10 and younger). Group discounts are available for all performances. For tickets and more information, call the Box Office at (847) 424-0089 Tuesday-Friday from 10AM-5PM, or visit the Piccolo Theatre website 

600 Main St, Evanston, IL 60202



Photos: Robert Erving Potter III






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