The Snow Queen

Date 8th December 2021
Society Sleaford Little Theatre
Venue Sleaford Playhouse Theatre
Director Joanne Moules
Musical Director Joanne Moules and Kelsey Pakes
Choreographer Kelsey Pakes

Report

Author: Jules Jones

What a blast! I can’t begin to tell you how much I enjoyed this production of The Snow Queen. Firstly, the story was ingenious. A fairy tale for a modern audience. A tale to reflect the changing attitudes, a moral story for young and old, where the girl is strong and independent, the love of family, friendship, and honouring each other with tolerance, are key to the whole adventure. Other themes were caring for the community and the environment. What a wonderful opportunity and I am very envious of the talents of your writer, Kei Bailey, who managed to create a script with all these elements and more.

This genius also played Auntie Pru, a delightful Panto Dame, whose costumes (I counted 11 changes) were only just outshone by his talent. Kei’s easy banter with the audience, his extraordinary acting skill, his remarkable chemistry with other players, ensured everyone on and off stage had a successful evening.

The set was tremendous, well done to the whole team. Clever, decorative, and enhanced by a well-executed lighting plot.  Slick scene changes and cunningly crafted stage props were managed smartly. Well done to the backstage crew, under SM Tom Creasey, challenge accomplished. The costumes were charming, with wigs and make-up all combining to enhance the characters. The crowns and headdresses all looked astonishing and well crafted.

Kelsey Pakes played our hero Gerda Merryweather. I’m sure she relished playing this strong female lead, not often included in a traditional pantomime cast. She was confident, polished and sang like an angel. Her bewitching performance had pace and passion, excellent. Laura Griffin playing Jamie Dodger, Aunty Pru’s lazy but loveable nephew was also a strong performance. She managed the complicated props, the singing, the dancing, the gymnastics, and above all she engaged with the audience completely. Indeed, Jamies’ first entrance was from the auditorium, clambering over the seats and charming everyone on the way down. Laura responded really well to the catcalls and jokes with the audience, masterful. A shining example of the pantomime clown. The scene with Jamie emptying the shopping bags to enhance Aunty Pru’s story, the abominable snowman, ‘it’s behind you’ scene, and the sing-a-long with the audience were lovely.

Cora the Crow (Jess Albuixech) and Kay Merryweather (Fin Barnes)  played each of their roles with passion and confidence. Fin is particularly believable in his trance-like state. Both these characters enhanced the environmental protection theme in the story. Jess flitted about the stage and performed some impressive stunts. Both these young actors excelled. Prince Frederick (Hayley Goymer), Private Grubb (Linda Mallet) and Captain Karina Keen (Helen Pack), made an amusing trio. Both in physicality and vocality, they were a polished team. A little reminder of Dads Army as they marched, saluted, postured, and hunted around the stage.  You would normally expect the prince to be the hero, but he never quite made it to that lofty status. Yet he was at the centre of this adventure and key to the story. Lots of laugh-out-loud moments and especially from the deadpan Private Grubb, who I adored. A mix of clever timing and looks into the audience to enhance the humour.

Cryogenica and her sidekick Jack Frost shone as the baddies the audience loved to hate. Caroline Johnson played to the audience with confidence and relished all the booing and hissing. Kirk Bowett was the consummate collaborator in the evil plot. He carried out Cryogenica’s instructions, organised the other goons, and kept the peace when Cryobenica became angry. I particularly enjoyed the parody of the vessel with the pestle, Danny Kaye skit. The bowl with the mole for making the elixir, with Odd Bob (Craig Pakes) getting it all wrong. It was brilliantly written and timed to perfection.  Rob Norris, Nigel Guilliatt, Jonathan Hoare, and Amelia Nott completed the set and enhanced the music number and chase scenes with aplomb. To balance the evil, we met the enchanting Fairy Sunbeam (Rebecca Clark) who introduced the story, moved the plot along, and cheered up the flagging adventurers with a song and dance routine.

Other outstanding performances were the townsfolk, Emma Hoare, Harriet Tacey, Charlie Harris, Lucy Pell, and Tori Raynor, the choreography by Kelsey fitted very well with the music and themes in the story, the dancers demonstrated skill and emoted well through their performances. A special shout out to Nate McAlpine who dressed the Dame. A stressful job at the best of times, but with all those changes and such elaborate costumes, I really don’t know how you did it. Excellent.

Thank you to Joanne and her team of cast and crew, I couldn’t have asked for more.  All in all an excellent evening’s entertainment, and I felt uplifted by the end of the show, what a wonderful way to start the Christmas season. A modern pantomime, yet with enough set pieces to ensure it was familiar to your audience. I received a warm welcome at Sleaford Little Theatre, a stunning location (built in 1825), run by volunteers.