Panda! uses Chinese performance artists skilled in such traditional arts as kung fu, acrobatics and bian lian (“face changing”) to tell the story of LongLong, a panda whose bride, the Peacock Princess, is stolen from him on their wedding day.
In the story LongLong is helped by the Immortal Old Man, to rescue his bride from the Demon Vulture and his minions.
Much of the production showcases ancient Chinese performance arts, such as ribbon dancing, acrobatic hoop diving and pole climbing, traditional-style conjuring that features an illusionist producing bowl after bowl filled with water and live fish from his oversized robe and Chinese martial arts styles including Shaolin style wushu, monkey kung fu and drunken boxing.
The performances are steeped in Chinese tradition and historical references, including a visually impressive scene featuring the Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang.
Performers donning plush panda suits make frequent appearances – either as the main character, LongLong, or as extras. Although many of the performances are impressive, the interjection of a skilled athlete in a panda suit may be off-putting for some in the audience. While the costumes of the other characters, including the Peacock Princess, the troop of juggling and acrobatic monkeys, the kung fu Buddhas, the Demon Vulture and his minions, and the dancers are elaborate, colorful and pay homage to the Chinese culture the Panda costumes resemble what you might encounter at a theme park.
The stage’s setting and backdrop is impressive, at times appearing three-dimensional, taking the audience to settings like the Shaolin Temple and the Great Wall of China.
The show’s acrobatics are performed by artists from the China National Acrobatic Troupe; kung fu by masters from the Shaolin Monastery Kung Fu Monks Troupe; and beautiful dances performed to music that transports audiences to a mythical realm of Far Eastern folklore.