Definition: Panto (another name for Pantomime in the UK) is a peculiarly British tradition of winter musical comedy theater. It has nothing to do with mime - silent performers in white-face make up walking into glass or doing Marcel Marceau-type physical comedy.
British pantomime takes familiar fairy tales and children's stories - Cinderella, Aladdin, Dick Whittington and His Cat, Snow White - and injects a bit of music hall (British Vaudeville) sensibility, contemporary references and audience participation to create a raucous, noisy entertainment that's fun for everyone in the family.
British pantomime has very deep roots, drawing on the 15th and 16th century traditions of Commedia del Arte for its assortment of stock characters and conventions.
Pronunciation: PAN' toe
Examples: "We all know that panto is the favoured stamping ground (read: reliable payday) for countless British soap stars, pop rejects and reality-TV casualties. But increasingly, American talent is slopping on the slap and hogging the limelight." Posted by Chris Wiegand in the Guardian Theatre Blog, Friday 21 December 2007