The Urban Guide to the Countryside
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The Rip-Roaring Muddy Herts Guide to Panto 2015

16 Nov 2015

Panto season is nearly upon us – oh yes it is! – and there’s an absolute shed-load of choices.  If you’re after celebs in high-priced tights or local folk treading the boards, you’re absolutely certain to find something that will have you cheering the goodies, booing the baddies and singing along to the silliest songs you’ll have heard all year.

Don’t know which one to choose?  Worry not – sit back and peruse your glittering Muddy Herts Guide to Panto.  Some big, some small, some local, some a bit further afield.  All crammed to the rafters with saucy innuendo, cheesy jokes, frock-wearing chaps, and jolly festive fun.

Jack and the Beanstalk, Rhodes Theatre, Bishop’s Stortford, 12 Dec-2 Jan

JATB15 - Jack 1

Last year’s panto at Rhodes was a thigh-slapping success, so there are high hopes for this year’s Jack and the Beanstalk.  Ooo and ahhh as daring Jack shins up to confront the biggest baddie in panto – will he rescue his Jill and save the day?  Loads of slapstick, more songs than you can shake a bag of beans at, and much more besides.

Hansel and Gretel, Hertford Theatre, 5 Dec-1 Jan

Hansel&Gretel-HertfordTheatre-LR-11

I’ve not seen Hansel and Gretel for years.  This one’s set in a frosty (dare I say, frozen?) forest – and there’s the wickedest of wicked witches, as well as the foxiest of foxes, to contend with.  The same team did last year’s Cinderella, and that was an absolute cracker.  Should be brilliant.

Dick Whittington, Palace Theatre, Watford, 4 Dec-2 Jan

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Young Dick Whittington is on the road from rags to riches at the Watford Palace.  Expect loads of audience participation, live musicians right up there on stage, slapstick, song and dance, and – I assume – a cat.  This one’s got 5 stars from the local Watford Observer, and it almost always sells out.  Book soon if you want to be sure of a seat.  Or you could book one of their Christmas Boxes for up to 4 – with ice cream served to you in your box!

Peter Pan, Alban Arena, St Albans, 4 Dec-3 Jan

alban arena

Celebs ahoy in the Alban Arena’s Peter Pan this year!  There’ll be Jake Wood (him of the snake-hips on last year’s Strictly – oh, and Eastenders), Katrina Bryan (Nina from CBeebies), St Albans’ own Bob Golding as Mrs (really?) Smee.  It’s promising to be St Albans’ biggest and most spectacular pantomime ever.  Nab your tickets before they fly away, and be sure to report any Lost Boys to the box office.  (Sorry…)

Cinderella, Court Theatre, Tring, 27 Dec – 3 Jan

Cinderella-Glass-Slipper Tring

This is the one where you’ll find me, Mr C and the littlies – cheering away, scoffing sweeties in the interval, and going home hoarse from booing.  It always sells out, so make sure you get your tickets sooner rather than later (although not before I have, obvs) as it’s only a small theatre.  It’s Cinderella this year, and I can’t wait to see those Ugly Sisters…

Cinderella, Watersmeet Theatre, Rickmansworth, 4-31 Dec

cinderella watersmeet

And Cinderella is popping on her glass slippers in Rickmansworth, too.  Sandra Dickinson will be starring as the Fairy Godmother, with Hollyoaks hunk Stefan Booth singing his way into Cinders’ heart as Prince Charming, and Suzanne David as Cinderella.

Snow White, Radlett Centre, 5-30 Dec

SnowWhiteCast radlett

Hi ho!  Snow White and her seven diminutive friends will be livening up the stage at the Radlett Centre this year. Cheer for Snow White – she’s so lovely – as she escapes the Wicked Queen and for her little big-hearted friends.  Keep an eye out for the magic mirror, too!

Sleeping Beauty, Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage, 27 Nov-24 Jan

sleeping beauty gordon craig

Corny Street’s Wendi Peters will be Caraboose, Danielle Piper will be Belle, Aidan O’Neill as Chester the Jester – and Paul Laidlaw as Nellie Night Nurse will, so I’m told, by searching the audience for  a man!  Sleeping Beauty is coming to Stevenage – with a swash-buckling prince and a snoozing heroine, as well as plenty of cheesy jokes and goings-on.

Aladdin, The Wyllyotts Theatre, Potters Bar, 11 Dec-3 Jan

aladdin wyllots potters-bar

Pop on your magic carpet and head to Potters Bar for the story of Aladdin, the genie, and a beautiful princess in search of a husband.

Aladdin, Eric Morecambe Theatre, Harpenden Public Halls, 11-22 Dec

 LOC aladdin harpenden

Aladdin is flying into Harpenden, too – with Michelle Heaton from Liberty X, Eastender Peter Dean, Ernie Almond from BBC 3 Counties, and other local folk.  Brace yourself for the corniest of jokes…

LOCAL THEATRES

Dick Whittington, Boxmoor Playhouse, Hemel Hempstead, 4-13 Dec

Boo the baddie King Rat – aah at the beauty of Dick’s beloved Alice – and cheer our hero, Dick Whittington, on his road to London and his fortune.

Dick Whittington and His Cat, The Community Centre, Kings Langley, 7-9 Jan

You get a free choc ice to go with your Dick Whittington in Kings Langley.  I know!  What more do you need?  Join the Kings Langley Players for some jolly local fun.

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Sleeping Beauty, Bull Theatre, Barnet, 8-30 Dec

It’s an all-singing, all-dancing (and all-sleeping?) production of Sleeping Beauty at the Bull Theatre this year.  They’re promising magical mayhem, rollercoaster romance and big battles – sounds good.

Beauty and the Beast, Spotlight Theatre, Broxbourne, 14-31 Dec

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There’s an actual magician heading up the cast of Beauty and the Beast in Broxbourne this year – with a ton of panto goings-on in this out-of-the-ordinary choice.

Aladdin, Spotlight Theatre, Broxbourne, 8-10 & 14-16 Jan

And if you’re in Broxbourne, and happy to hang on until after Christmas, you can enjoy Aladdin as well.

Cinderella, Hawthorne Theatre, Welwyn, 16 Dec-3 Jan

LOC hawthorne cinderella

There’s romance in the air for Cinderella – despite the best efforts of her shockingly ugly sisters – this year in Welwyn.  Just be careful when you book, ok?  There’s also Cinderella Unbuttoned — which is a very different, strictly over-18 version going on as well.  Let’s put it this way, Cinderella’s in danger of losing more than a slipper…

Little Red Riding Hood, Market Theatre, Hitchin, 5 Dec-2 Jan

Little Red Riding Hood isn’t a panto you see very often, so this brand new version might make a neat change.  Rather fancy the idea of a pantomime wolf.

FURTHER AFIELD…

Cinderella, Grove Theatre, Dunstable, 11 Dec-3 Sun

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Anthony Costa, him from Blue, will be charming you all as the Prince in this production of Cinderella. Alongside him, check out former Eastenders Leslie Grantham (yes, Dirty Den) and Joshua Pascoe (Ben Mitchell) as – really? – the Ugly Sisters.

Aladdin, Milton Keynes Theatre, 4 Dec-10 Jan

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Big names abound in this production of Aladdin.  Priscilla Presley – yes, really – will be the Genie of the Lamp, Gary Wilmot is Widow Twankey (the mind boggles), and Wayne Sleep will be leaping around as the Genie of the Ring (what?).  Oh, and Ben Adams (who was in A1) is the love interest – with Kev Orkian as his brother Wishee Washee.  Not sure what else I can say about this one…

Dick Whittington, Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury, 11-31 Dec

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Always a goodie, this one.  This year, Dick Whittington will be featuring X-Factor winner Sam Bailey, and finalist Melanie Masson – as well as local panto regular Andy Collins who is always in it.  And he’s in it for a reason – he’ll have any kids you have in tow rolling in the aisles.

SOMETHING A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENT….

If you’re after something a bit different – not your traditional panto – this year, then there are some interesting choices around and about.

Santa’s Little Helper, Old Town Hall, Hemel Hempstead, 19 Dec-24 Dec

DIFF Santa-s-little-helper toth

Albert Tuttle, just 7 years old, doesn’t believe in Santa – what?! who doesn’t believe in Santa?! – but finds himself having to help a big fat man in red pj’s who turns up in his chimney on Christmas Eve.  Christmas denier to Santa’s Little Helper – it’s sure to warm the cynical old I-don’t-believe-anymore cockles of your heart.

James and the Giant Peach, Queen Mother Theatre, Hitchin, 10-19 Dec

Love a bit of  Roald Dahl, and especially James and the Giant Peach.  (Many a time, I’ve chucked my children’s cheeks while cackling ‘what a peach, what a peach’ – no, really, they love it.)

Santa Claus and the Magical Christmas Journey, The Forum, Watford Colosseum, 27 Nov-24 Dec

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Santa is flying high, doing his thing, but there are a couple of naughty elves on board the sleigh – and then the sat nav breaks down and… well… it’s a race to get the presents delivered in time.  Lots of festive fun, snow falling over the audience, and a chance to get a present from the big fella as well.

The Snow Queen, The Bull Theatre, 14-17 Jan

Following on from the whole Frozen frenzy – which goes on and on… – might be fun to check out The Snow Queen, which was the original inspiration for the whole Disney phenomenon.

The Elves and the Shoemaker, Library Theatre, Luton, 12-24 Dec

DIFF elves

The Elves and the Shoemaker is such a lovely story – and I keep leaving out unfinished things for a pair of helpful elves to sort out overnight.  They never come, though….

Through the Looking Glass, Barn Theatre, Welwyn Garden City, 12-31 Dec

Like the sound of this one.  Always up for a bit of Alice in Wonderland madness, and heading Through the Looking Glass sounds like a great way to spend a wintery afternoon.

Christmas Gothic, Maltings Art Theatre, St Albans, 25-26 Nov, 8pm

DIFF malting_Christmas_Gothic

You’d better book this one soon if you want to catch it – it’s only on for a couple of nights.  And flippin’ spooky nights they’re going to be, too!  Dyad Productions are getting all Victorian, with Christmas Gothic – a spectral narrator will be chilling your flesh and goosing your bumps with three tales of terror for a dark winter’s night.  Brings a whole new meaning to “it’s behind you” by the sounds of it.  Brrr….

Enjoy!

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