Review: Five stars for Snow White in St Albans
- Credit: Pamela Raith
Hi-hooooooo... It's show time and it's Christmas which means it's off to 'work' I go on a Sunday for the Alban Arena's annual pantomime, returning after a year off due to the pandemic with seminal classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Any reservations about whether the show could go on in a post-Covid world were swiftly erased and I'm pleased to say that not only was it a superb performance, but spending a few hours shouting at a stage definitely didn't feel like work at all, even wearing a facemask!
With a fantastically catchy opening number which will be in my head for weeks (It's not Baby Shark, don't worry...) and boundless energy leaping out from the stage and flowing from within the audience which will perhaps never be rivalled, it might well be one of the best Arena shows I've ever seen.
The dancing, singing and acting are all top notch with many stand-out moments that would give Andrew Lloyd Webber a run for his money. Pantomime is back! Oh YES it is!
The super-professional Snow White (Natasha Hoeberigs) played the role just perfectly, with an innocence that never veered into saccharin. Though she would have done this show two times already yesterday, she looked as fresh as a daisy and as if bluebirds really do fly around her head when she wakes up.
In fact, the whole two hours plus had a significantly fresh feel to it, and as someone who has been going for decades, I was slightly concerned about whether there would be a noticeable impact following the departure of Bob Golding after nine years.
But the lack of a dame made the transition easier to swallow and without doubt the crown of panto legend has now been successfully passed over to Ian Kirkby. Long may he reign!
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I particularly loved Daniel Breakwell as Prince Charming, giving a goosebump-inducing rendition of 'I'm a Believer' and actually teared up at the line "I thought love was only true in fairytales". His stunning duet with Natasha on Your Song was incredibly moving and poignant - something very unexpected in a pantomime.
It has been a tough couple of years and as one of the numbers said we definitely didn't need permission to dance, despite everyone masking up. There was very much a feeling of togetherness and joy throughout the Arena, which was much needed after the past 18 months.
The auditorium was full of gleeful, engaged children releasing their ice-cream and Haribo energy by booing and cheering out lines like "He's behind you!".
Chizzy Akudolu was strictly fabulous, embodying a wicked witch with a cackle that would scare any child or grown up. A glorious baddie, you would never know it was her very first pantomime, and she deserves to strut the boards on an annual basis.
Perfectly paced and packed with powerful movement throughout, the show is beautifully choreographed by Aaran Anzani-Jones, and the gripping dance when Snow White was in the woods made me truly emosh.
The band and musical direction by Alex Turney was exceptional - every cymbal and creeping footstep adding drama or humour and warmth in equal measure.
Muddles, played by Jonny Weldon, is a natural comedian and honoured lots of group visitors with a shout-out, and Jimmy Vee triumphantly led "The Seven" through the audience to an enthralling entrance.
You can expect some of the Arena classics such as the bench scene and the cart routine which was swiftly and brilliantly delivered by panto legend Ian Kirkby (Told you!!), so it's not all unfamiliar territory, and of course there were plenty of jokes about neighbouring Luton and Stevenage.
There is snow doubt this will be a massive hit with St Albans audiences, and comments afterwards included: "Superb!", "Singing was exceptional" and "Ten times better than the High Wycombe panto!"