There’s something special about a panto at the Alban Arena which seems to make everyone keep wanting to come back for more.
Evolution Productions are in their tenth season at the St Albans venue and Sleeping Beauty deserves to be another fairytale success story judging by Sunday’s press night.
This year’s show sees Rita Simons (best known as Roxy from EastEnders) return after starring in Snow White three years ago. And after excelling as the Wicked Queen last time out, it was obvious within moments of her entering the fray this was going to be another hugely impressive performance.
Playing the role of evil fairy Carabosse, the boos rang out as she began plotting the downfall of Princess Aurora - another welcome returnee in Jemma Carlisle.
In fact most of the key cast were back for more. Luton-born Andy Day (Jangles) of CBeebies fame appeared in Cinderalla six years ago, and of course an Alban Arena panto wouldn’t be the same without Bob Golding (Nurse Nellie) and Ian Kirkby (the King). In fact, every year the cast is announced my daughter’s first keenly-asked question is always “is Bob in it again?”.
There’s obviously a magical formula at work, which not only entices the actors back, but has the audiences spellbound each year and ready to lap up those old panto gags (and a few new ones) delivered with such aplomb.
Yes, we had the usual digs at Luton, Hemel, Watford and the Stevenage panto; the fabulous comedy cart routine with fruit, veg and herbs puns this time; the audience member near the front picked on to be the love interest of Bob’s character; and of course we’ll have to chuck in a ghost/ghoul bench routine again won’t we? But as well as the old favourites, there was plenty of refreshing new material, plus great song and dance routines to get your toes tapping.
Without giving too much away, watch out for the bathroom scene in part two featuring Nurse Nellie and the King. The slapstick action had the public in floods of laughter and the humour certainly wasn’t being watered down!
Phillip Ryan got a big “hurrah” for his role as Prince Charming, and a special mention too for Lisa Davina Phillip who gave her Fairy Moonbeam character such great energy.
This panto certainly won’t send you to sleep. It runs until January 5 and is perfect family festive fun.
For more details see https://www.alban-arena.co.uk