Pantos, plays and pirouettes: The essential guide to Herts’ seasonal theatre
- Credit: Archant
It’s the season of cheer and goodwill and thoughts turn to a good old dose of shouting and booing. Well, and laughter, clapping, singing and people in very bright costumes and outrageous wigs. Yes, its panto time again and here’s your guide to the best in the county as well as seasonal theatre and ballet
Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage
Nov 28–Jan 25
Flying carpets, a lamp that looks a bit dusty and a have-a-go-hero – it must be Aladdin. This year he will be flying into the Gordon Craig Theatre, although he will have to get past the evil Abanazar first. This year the one to boo is excellent comic baddie Shaun Williamson (forever remembered as Barry from Eastenders). Shaun will be joined by Stevenage’s favourite Dame Paul Laidlau and Junix Inocian from Sky 1’s Sinbad as the Emperor. The show marks a remarkable 40 years of pantos at the theatre, which are renowned for their high production values.
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Watford Palace Theatre
Although many of us would appreciate a good nap during the fun, yet exhausting, series of Christmas celebrations, we might not expect to be woken from our slumber by a kiss from a handsome prince (more’s the pity). One of our all-time favourite fairy tales, Sleeping Beauty, is this year’s choice at the Watford Palace Theatre and with live musicians on stage, audience participation and fabulous costumes, it’s one not to miss.
The Watersmeet is proud of its panto track record, having put on a show during the festive season since 1978, with Paul Holman Associates producing every one for the past 15 years. This year’s panto promises a magical mystery ride with romance, adventure, oh, and plenty of slapstick and song too with a sparkling production of Aladdin. It stars Luke Roberts as Aladdin and Nigel Pivaro as Abanazar.
JACK AND THE BEANSTALK
Alban Arena, St Albans
Dec 5-Jan 4
Silly Jack, he’s only gone and sold the family cow for a handful of beans and his mother will be furious! Let’s hope for his sake they’re magic. For a giant pantomime which promises breath-taking special effects and a break-dancing cow (well, what else?), the Alban Arena is the place to head to for top-quality Jack and the Beanstalk fun. The cast includes Steve McFadden as the boo-able Fleshcreep, Cbeebies’ Rebecca Keatley as Fairy Sugarsnap and Morecambe star Bob Golding as Dame Trott.
The clock strikes midnight and a beautiful girl flees the ball leaving the handsome prince, who she has danced with all night, rather bewildered. This traditional feel-good pantomime comes to life this year at the Radlett Centre with plenty of magic, dazzling costumes and hilarious comedy. There will be plenty for the audience to cheer while rooting for lovely Cinderella to be reunited with Prince Charming and of course there will be a chance to boo the ugly sisters as they try and steal their stepsister’s beau.
CINDERELLA AND THE GLASS SLIPPER
Dec 6-Jan 1
Fancy having a ball this Christmas? Then join the cast of Cinderella and the Glass Slipper at Hertford Theatre who will take you on a magical adventure to snowy Austria, land of frozen forests and elegant Vienna with its sparkling palaces. It’s in the city that you’ll find an important royal ball where all your favourite heroes, heroines and villains will be assembled. Laughs guaranteed by the bucket load, catchy songs and great dance routines.
SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS
Harpenden Public Halls, Harpenden
Many of us could do with a bit of home help now and then but Snow White, in the face of adversity, has got the arduous task of keeping house for seven dwarfs of varying temperament. As well as her chores she has to be on the lookout for the wicked and jealous queen, determined to be rid of her. Starring Steve Leeds from Nickelodeon’s Go!Go!Go! as the prince and local singing star Sophie Massie as the lovely Snow White.
JACK AND THE BEANSTALK
Broxbourne Civic Hall
Dec 12-Jan 3
Amateur gardeners may boast some pretty big bean stalks but nothing can compare to the one grown from the special beans hapless Jack was given in exchange for his precious cow. Golden eggs wait at the top of the monster plant but has Jack got what it takes to slay the giant to find true love and live happily ever after? Broxbourne Civic Hall is looking for audiences full of beans to enjoy all the traditional panto fun of Jack and the Beanstalk.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
Wyllyotts, Potters Bar
Dec 12-Jan 4
What has happened to the once handsome prince and who is the hairy, grumpy beast wearing his clothes? Perhaps the beautiful and gentle Belle can help tame him. Another of our favourite childhood tales Beauty and the Beast comes to life in true pantomime style at Wyllyotts Theatre. Join them for a spectacular adventure and a lot of fun as Dame Derriere and her son Potty Pierre cause slapstick chaos at the chateau.
DICK WHITTINGTON AND HIS MAGICAL CAT
Rhodes Arts Complex, Bishop’s Stortford
Dec 13-Jan 3
Dick Whittington is on a quest to get to London and defeat RatPutin and his army of rats. accompanied by his special cat, they face danger at every turn. The audience will encounter a great show with laughter and suspense aplenty as they watch the intrepid pair attempt to bring order to the capital’s streets. Phil Dale, former long-term favourite baddie, this time dons a dress to play Sarah the Cook who does her best to help Dick succeed.
Hawthorne Theatre, Welwyn GC
Dec 20-Jan 3
This year the Hawthorne’s panto tells the sorry tale of what can happen when an evil fairy doesn’t get invited to a royal christening. Mean-minded Carabosse is so enraged she curses the princess to prick her finger on her 18th birthday and fall asleep for 100 years. Sleeping Beauty’s only hope is to be found by a prince and smooched awake. Panto favourites Nick Collett and Helen Crosse play Dame Kitty La Quiche and the wicked Carabosse.
Court Theatre, Pendley, Tring
Dec 27-Jan 4
The Court Theatre traditionally features the best of local talent in its family panto and has been doing so for the last 40 years. This year, Aladdin is the chosen tale and with the usual audience participation – including joining the cast on stage at the finale – there will be plenty of booing, clapping and he’s behind-ing you as Aladdin seeks his fortune and true love while fighting off the despicable Abenazar.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
The Barn Theatre, Welwyn Garden City
This year the Barn Theatre is bringing a touch of Victorian Christmas to the stage with its version of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Miserly Ebenezer Scrooge is preparing for another miserable Christmas when one night he is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future and is forced to rethink and search for his own festive spirit. This production is thought-provoking and full of joy, laughter and heart-warming moments.
THE SNOW QUEEN
Old Town Hall, Hemel Hempstead
Be transported to a land of ice-cold winter for the setting of Hans Christian Anderson’s popular story, The Snow Queen. When her friend is snatched by the wicked queen, Gerda sets out to rescue him. Along the way she meets strangers who warm to her charm and innocence until and help her reach the icy palace, where her friend is imprisoned. There will be the opportunity to sing along with the chorus songs and for children to participate on stage. The show promises a great experience for all family members.
HANSEL AND GRETEL
Trestle Arts Base, St Albans
For something different away from the dazzle of panto, Trestle Arts Base will be welcoming back the highly creative Horse + Bamboo Theatre Company. This year it will be performing a unique take on the classic fairy tale Hansel and Gretel, the Grimm story of a brother and sister abandoned in the woods, cold and hungry until they find what they’ve wished for – a gingerbread house. Masks, puppets, music and storytelling make up the magic ingredients to cast a spell on the audience at this special one-night show.
THE NUTCRACKER/SWAN LAKE
Two classic ballets come to Watford in the run up to Christmas Day, courtesy of the supremely-talented Moscow City Ballet.
The Nutcracker is a festive favourite featuring the much-loved Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. There will be plenty of magic too, including nutcracker dolls brought to life and the evil Mouse King who must be defeated.
Swan Lake tells the love story of Prince Siegfried and the Swan Queen Odette and their struggle with the evil sorcerer Rothbart. Both ballets feature magnificent scores by Tchaikovsky.
Highlights in neighbouring counties
Millfield Arts Centre, Enfield
Nov 27-Jan 4
Will good win the battle over evil? Can Auora be woken from 100 years of sleep? Mill Theatre is putting on a spectacular panto production that’s far from sleepy.
Chelmsford Civic Centre, Essex
Dec 3–Jan 4
When Peter Pan flies into the bedroom of the Darling children the most extraordinary adventure begins. With plenty of swash buckling magic and traditional panto fun.
Cambridge Arts Centre
Dec 4-Jan 11
Join the cast as they embark on an adventure of a lifetime. Joining in are an all-singing, all-dancing ensemble of professional dancers and talented local children.
Wycombe Swan, Bucks
Dec 13-Jan 4
With TV star Shane Ritchie joining the cast, this dazzling production is packed full of comedy, stunning sets and plenty of audience participation.