Panto review: Mayhem, merriment and Madness at the Alban Arena with Sleeping Beauty

It's back to school for the cast of St Albans pantomime Sleeping Beauty at The Alban Arena. Picture:

It's back to school for the cast of St Albans pantomime Sleeping Beauty at The Alban Arena. Picture: Pamela Raith - Credit: Pamela Raith

Have you seen the Alban Arena’s panto of Sleeping Beauty yet? Caroline Thain has and she loved it!

Bob Golding and his exceptional cast including EastEnder Rita Simons smashed it out of the park with Sleeping Beauty consistently delivering from opening to curtain fall.

Weirdly relieved to see director Golding, who also plays Nurse Nellie, in a dress, a joy-filled audience delighted in the hilarious gags, show-stopping songs and clever costumes that make it so well-loved annually.

The comedy between Bob and Ian Kirkby (King Larry of Letchworth) is absolutely genius and multi-dimensional with something inappropriate for everyone - especially one unsuspecting dad per show.

Highlights are the bathroom scene, which is made of complex real waterworks that keep soaking them both from all angles ("Ooh, that's actually quite pleasurable"). Ian sounds almost tearful as he exclaims "We have to do this TWICE a day." Then with glorious timing adds "…Three times on Saturdays."

Rita's acting is obviously impeccable as we see glimpses of Mitchell menacing. She deftly works the stage, technically perfect and quick with child heckler comebacks. Very competently, comfortably and naturally she impressively carries out her wicked duties as Carabosse. It was a real treat to see.

Award-winning Jemma Carlisle brings it every year with her sublime talent and professionalism and is as stunning, charismatic and adorable in her Princess Aurora role as she always is. If anyone can make being in a coma for 100 years glamorous, it's Jemma.

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The brilliant new band were a huge asset to the Evolution production which everyone was clearly enjoying as the energised cast danced and sang their way through Baggy Trousers by Madness.

In place of the more customary sing-along, kids' television presenter Andy Day (Jangles) taught young fans his own new song which we (um, I mean they) then sang back to him, with each half of the room competing. Andy's cheeky chappy charm makes him an ideal jester and he shines throughout.

The remarkable Lisa Davina Phillip made her debut in St Albans as Fairy Moonbeam (or "Hairy Moonbum") and her West End star quality was unmissable from her first note in Rent classic Seasons of Love.

As well as the traditional bench/ghouls scene, which thrilled all children who enthusiastically participated, there was timely humour about Brexit, family and gender diversity and fun poked at neighbouring towns.

Another familiar feature is the side-splitting pun-fest of the trolley stunt, where - this year - fruit and vegetables have never been so funny. Particularly when Andy pretended to forget his line…

With a fire-breathing animatronic dragon, spectacular special effects and singalong numbers everyone can get excited by (including catchy Wonderful Life from Angry Birds Movie and The Greatest Showman's Come Alive), Sleeping Beauty will make audiences' dreams come true this Christmas.

Props to Paul Hendy for his outstanding writing and for having the best dressed children I have ever seen.

What a way to begin Christmas. It is nearly sold out but if you are lucky enough to be able to snaffle a few of the remaining tickets, you definitely won't be disappointed.