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Gingerbread man, anyone?

It’s no secret that I love a good panto – and I’m working hard to make sure my children love them too (whether they like it or not).  Judging by my daughter’s reaction to Hansel and Gretel at Hertford Theatre this weekend – “I’d give it 100 out of 10” – I think I’m doing a pretty darn good job of it.

Hansel & Gretel- Robert Oliver and Natasha Brown

Robert Oliver and Natasha Brown as the bickering siblings

I don’t think I’d ever seen Hansel and Gretel as a panto before – and it did deviate a wee bit from the traditional fairy tale – but it worked.  It was set in Iceland (the country, not the shop… their gag, not mine…), and the whole show had a neatly Nordic feel to it.  Think Ana in (dare I say it?) Frozen and you’ve got a good sense of the costumes right there.  Oh, and there were trolls.  Loved the trolls.

Licorice the Troll- Michael Watson-Gray

Michael Watson-Gray doing a fab job as Licorice the Troll (that is a fake nose, right?)

I think I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to cross-dressing (there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write), and the Hertford panto doesn’t – gasp! – have a pantomime dame.  Nope, no middle-aged chap dressed up in a garish dress and spectacular fake boobs.  What it does have, though, is a deliciously wicked witch – Grimmelda – who is gloriously evil and ends up getting her fiery  comeuppance as well she should.

Grimmelda-Hayley-Jo Whitney

Hayley-Jo Whitney is deliciously wicked as Grimmelda

It’s a redhead’s dream, this panto.  The flame-haired Martha – Hansel’s love interest – runs a stall called “All Things Ginger” and the equally fiery Grimmelda is after the last jar of ginger in the country.

The costumes and set are gorgeous – beautifully designed and perfect for the story.  When the cage comes down to trap poor clueless Hansel (bless ‘im), there was actually a gasp from the audience – including from my daughter, who then booed the witch for all she was worth.

Ma- Victoria Waddington

Victoria Waddington as Ma — whose late husband’s chopper was the subject of, well, of one or two gags (God rest his tree-felling soul…)

There are loads of songs in this panto – and lots you’ll recognise.  My absolute favourite, though, was Minty the Snow Fox totally rocking “All About the Bass” – or should I say, “All About  the Fox.”  It was hilarious.  She was a definite highlight, and the look on my 5-year-old’s face when she came and sat near us in the aisle was a picture.

Minty the Snow Fox- Geri Allen

Geri Allen was *brilliantly* foxy as Minty the Snow Fox — it was, for sure, all about the fox

One of the things I really enjoy about the Hertford Theatre panto is that it’s professional but it’s not all about a couple of ‘celebrities’ off the telly heading up the cast list.  And the ensemble of young dancers was stunning – great dancing and very cool choreography.

Martha and Ensemble-Connie Jackson

Connie Jackson as Martha, with a couple of the fabulous young dancers — they *absolutely* stole the show in the big dance numbers

If there are any tickets left (and they’re going fast, apparently), I’d definitely recommend this one (oh yes I would).  It’s maybe not chock-full of belly laughs and innuendo (although the father was a woodcutter, so there is the odd ‘chopper’ joke in there now and again), but it’s a fun story full of strong performances and great songs.  Get your tickets, grab a gingerbread man, and head off into the Icicle Forest.  Just be sure to leave a trail of pebbles, won’t you…?

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