REVIEW: No bad apples in this excellent cast as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs charms the Alban Arena audience
Get your dose of laughter this festive season at the St Albans venue
Panto is back (oh yes it is) at the Alban Arena after an enforced lay-off due to the pandemic - and let's face it we all deserve a good laugh after the turmoil caused by Covid.
Masked up and eager to be entertained I took my family along to St Albans for Evolution Productions' version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs on Sunday evening.
There's no Bob Golding this time around - the local legend who more often than not in the past decade has stolen the show as the panto dame - but his good friend and panto sidekick in recent years, Ian Kirkby, remains in the cast as Baron Von Badapple and declares early on "we don't need Golding!"
A bold statement to make given Bob's popularity, but it's time to move on and although his larger-than-life presence was bound to be missed, Snow White still has plenty to offer.
Chizzy Akudolu (Holby, Strictly, EastEnders) is the Wicked Queen who enters and exits the stage to music with a Strictly twist. She has revealed that she's a close friend of Rita Simons who has performed evil roles with great aplomb at the Alban Arena before. Perhaps Rita gave her some useful tips as it was Chizzy's first panto and she was excellent with that piercing cackle of hers.
Social media sensation Jonny Weldon quickly won me over as Muddles. He engages with the audience expertly to keep the action moving along at a great pace, while seeking sympathy for the fact that although he loves Snow White she's destined to fall for Prince Charming.
Daniel Breakwell gives a convincing performance as the Prince, including an impressive rendition of the Monkees' hit I'm A Believer. When he first meets Snow White it hilariously puts Von Badapple into (or maybe that should be, out of, given the routine) the comedy spotlight.
A lot of the best gags are delivered in by Von Badapple. There's a Craig David joke that hit the spot, and as he looks to escape from the Queen up the stairs (which are merely part of the background scenery) he remarks... "they're not real... what sort of sick world is this?"
A mention should also go to Natasha Hoeberigs who impresses as Snow White throughout. While cleaning the cottage she does a great version of Taylor Swift's Shake It Off (or Shake 'n' Vac in this case).
The seven dwarfs include one seriously grumpy individual called Jimmy - Jimmy Vee, who played R2D2 in Star Wars (although he doesn't like to talk about it!). But even his heart is melted by Snow White eventually. And when our heroine slumps to the floor after biting the poisonous apple look out for a great line from him!
The return of a number of the regular Arena set-pieces include Von Badapple and Muddles performing the always popular wheelbarrow pun routine, this time with a cosmetics theme. There was also the ghost bench in the scary woods - you know what's going to happen but it's still a great laugh.
All in all it was great family escapism from the Covid crisis, which only got referenced once in the gags if my memory serves me right. That was when Muddles asks the cast and audience to lean in closer so he can reveal his secret love of Snow White, but then abruptly demands two metres social distancing.
Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs runs until Monday, January 3. For tickets and information, phone 01727 844488 or head to www.alban-arena.co.uk