It’s that time of the year – oh, yes it is – when I had the pleasure to sit and be entertained by a very talented group of merry fellas, and one devilishly evil queen, as the ASDS pantomime opened last night. I was delighted to see the excellent Adam Tuffrey, musical director, and his band out front, where the audience can see and hear the fabulous music they perform.
From the opening scene, the Queen Malevolent, Debbie Burton, instils fear and loathing into the audience old and young, possessing one of the most spine-chilling cackles that could curdle the blood in your veins at fifty paces. Nobody is left in any doubt as to the honour (or otherwise) of her actions and in her first villainous role, Debbie embraces every evil aspect of her character. Audience participation, always slow to begin the evening, soon gets going as the characters are introduced , the lively and so likeable Chris Meineck as Handy Andy whipping up enthusiasm through his clear enjoyment of playing the comic character. The Lord Chamberlain (Phil Vivian) has some wonderful lines and delivers them well, too.
As Snow White herself, Rachel Fordslike is everything a heroine should be: a delightfully whimsical princess with beautiful songs, especially her sensitive rendition of ‘On my own’ from Les Misérables. Dame Doitall (James Webb) has the role all sewn up with elaborate costumes and amazing eyelashes – well done for performing with those lashes.
But no ASDS panto would be complete without the appearance of Rosie Hodgkinson, this time as Prince Rupert, bringing her consummate professionalism and presence, along of course with a fabulous voice. May I also welcome Tim Calvert, playing the Huntsman, to both ASDS and the south, although I’m not sure when he will need to deploy his hunting and deception skills again in the near future!
‘What about the little people?’ I hear you shout. Well, the cutest woodland creatures who aid Snow White and the perfectly cast Seven Dwarfs are so engaging and mesmerising that to single anyone out would be so unfair and unjust. Suffice to say they are magnificent.
The glue that holds a production of this quality together is the chorus and the dancers, providing beautiful musical interludes and seamless scene transitions and the opportunity for a great singalong.
A magnificent team of John Sivewright (director), Brian Foley (producer), Victoria Liechti (assistant director) and Lauren Turner (choreographer) have produced yet another memorable success. Well done, everyone. I just need to congratulate wardrobe on such colourful and lovely costumes and I think my work here is done. I left the theatre wondering, ‘What is my fight song?’
Future performances: 6 January at 2.30 and 7.30, 7 January at 2.30, 12 January at 7.30 and 13 January at 2.30 and 7.30.