Cinderella a triumph at Alban Arena

Arena panto pix

Arena panto pix - Credit: Archant

It was a dazzling night of pumpkins, ponies and pop stars for the Alban Arena’s polished production of Cinderella.

We were promised “our best panto ever” and yes, they have delivered. From the moment the ushers started dancing in the aisles the show had the sell-out audience laughing and joining in.

Each year the talented Evolution team mix up the panto formula, adapting the classic stories to make the most of their stars. With former chorister, Pop Idol finalist, singer of five number 1 singles and star of many West End musicals Gareth Gates as Prince Charming, we were treated to amazing songs this year.

Gareth delivered three knock-out numbers and his wonderful singing and effortless stage presence is worth the ticket price alone.

The servant Dandini who switches place with Prince Charming was played by CBeebies favourite Andy Day. The younger children in the audience loved him and found him a calm, funny presence in the very lively show.

Gareth and Andy together were a lovely combination and had an easy, very watchable camaraderie.

Cinderella was played by Jemma Carlisle, returning to St Albans after her success last year as the leading lady. Although still very young her fabulous voice and confident stage presence means that she more than holds her own in the strong cast.

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Laura Jane Matthewson played a young, funky Fairy Godmother with some very funny lines. A graduate of The Royal Academy of Music, she has performed with Elton John – we get all the talent in St Albans!

This production of Cinderella has something for everyone in the family. The music, including songs adapted from Hairspray and One Direction, meant that people of every generation were humming along at some point.

The dancers of all ages are very slick, and I thought the Strictly Come Dancing version of the Palace Ball was such a clever idea and a chance to showcase the talented team. It is lovely to see our young local talent chosen to play the young villagers – great smiles everyone.

And of course, as we have come to expect from the St Albans pantomime, the comedy elements were terrific. Local favourite Bob Golding was in his element as Buttons. Cheeky, silly and at times very rude, Bob has huge appeal and oodles of talent.

Our 11 year old was delighted to see Ian Kirkby as Baron Hardup as she loves the BBC show The Slammer that he appears in. Ian is pretty horrible in that, but was silly and charming in panto, with some interesting dance moves.

The Ugly Sisters played by returning favourite Sam Rabone and Gareth’s best friend Matthew Daines were fabulous. Playing the Ugly Sisters is an art form and these two actors are at the top of their game. I will just warn any Dads sitting in the front row – you might be in for a tough time!

The panto runs until January 5 this year and there is still some ticket availability.