It’s only April - but Snow White tickets for Alban Arena panto are already selling fast!
- Credit: Archant
It may seem like only five minutes ago that the pantomime was filling seats at the Alban Arena but the theatre is not letting the grass grow under its feet.
The Arena has revealed that this December’s pantomime will be Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs with EastEnders’ Rita Simons, who plays Roxy Mitchell in the BBC soap, taking on the role of the Wicked Queen.
This will be the second time Rita has appeared as the Wicked Queen in Snow White – she fulfilled the same role in Canterbury last year with panto production company Evolution.
And she will be joined on stage by real dwarves.
While some might question the ethical appropriateness of employing them, Arena deputy general manager Chris Baker was quick to defend the choice.
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He said: “If you use children, they do tend to get a bit angry. It’s not Snow White and the Seven Children or Snow White and the Seven Little People – it’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
“Casting is generally done according to a variety of features including height. I am six foot four and quite big built – I am never going to get picked for Romeo. Although we employ dwarves, we don’t just want them for their height. We want them for their talent too. They have to be able to sing, dance and act and they all can.
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“Paul Hendy [the producer] has put on this show before but he’s not got a job lot of stock dwarves. He doesn’t ring somewhere up and say ‘Just send me small people!’ They have to be up to the job. He’s quite picky and he headhunts actors from other pantos too. If he sees one he likes, he will ask them to come and join us.”
Alhough Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was performed six years ago at the Arena, thre 2016 version will be completely different although once again featuring Bob Golding.
Chris quipped: “When we did Snow White before, it was Bob’s first. He played a henchman and we’ve not been able to get rid of him since! He keeps coming back - he’s paying us now!
“It does rub off on you. It is absolutely different every year and Paul writes it differently with a lot of current affairs jokes. And if you have someone like Bob on the team, you’d never get away with doing the same again.”
Bob Golding’s massive biography includes roles on household name television shows, such as BBC’s Tweenies, ITV’s Mr Selfridge and Thomas and Friends (Channel 5). He also enjoyed a stint in EastEnders.
But he is best known now as The Singing Bard, in the much-talked about catchy Hive advert for British Gas’s remote heating and hot water system. He plays guitar and wanders through different environments in a red jacket, singing (“with Hive you control your home from your phone”).
His panto character is as yet unnamed but he will be a dame, acting as Snow White’s nanny. He’s expected to have a comedy duo accomplice who will be the henchman.
Rita Simons follows EastEnders’ Larry Lamb, Shaun Williamson, Steve McFadden and Jake Wood, who have all made the journey from Albert Square to St Albans.
Chris said: “When Larry Lamb came, it was his first time in panto. He loved the atmosphere and put us in touch with his friends. They’re icons, the EastEnders cast. They’re local to the area so they come to see it.
“Babs [Dame Barbara Windsor] came to see Steve McFadden in Jack and the Beanstalk and the minute he started his Les Mis song, she let rip with a full-on Carry On style cackle and the whole theatre joined in.”
Last year the pantomime achieved 98 per cent capacity and annually beats it own record. This year is set to follow trend with ticket sales already 13 weeks ahead and the show might be fully sold out before it even begins. Unsurprisingly, the Arena reckons this will be the biggest and best yet.
Chris said: “Last year, they did 55 shows, this year there are 58. When you’re doing that many, it’s often only Dr Theatre that gets you on - the crowd that gets you through.
“We have amazing loud crowds and everyone seems to really enjoy it. Seeing everybody happy - that’s what panto is all about. The big happy celebration and as long as you’ve got a great one, which we have, it’s fantastic.”
Snow White runs until January 8. For tickets see www.alban-arena.co.uk or call the box office on 01727 844488.