As the band began to play and the fake snow began to fall, you’d be forgiven for thinking Christmas had come again.
But since January has had little to offer in terms of merriment, the festive cheer was welcomed at The Maltings as an appreciative audience settled down to enjoy Spittal Variety Group’s The Snow Queen.
SVG has been bringing us pantos for decades, but what stood out this year was the quality of the vocals, especially from the lead players who capably took on the big show numbers.
She told us from the start that she was the star and Diane Renner proved it; expertly playing the evil Snow Queen and showing off her strong singing voice in several big solos.
The ‘children’, Gerder and Kai (Hannah Bass and Laura Stawarz), impressed too, with their Million Dreams duet a particular highlight. Hannah played the part of the sweet, but brave heroine perfectly, and Laura skilfully took on the principal boy role.
But panto isn’t panto without cross-dressing galore and cringe-worthy jokes. Making his debut as the group’s dame, following the retirement of SVG stalwart John Dougall, was Jonathan Scott – and he made it look easy. His silly banter with the audience and natural warmth meant he could soon cast off his ‘L’ plates.
His partner in comedy crime was dippy grandson Helmut, played by Morgan Flannigan, who has spent rather a lot of his young life on The Maltings stage and who never disappoints. The two of them had great chemistry and entertained us with their witty wordplay, one-liners and flossing.
Good fairy Snowdrop (Denise Clarke) spoke almost entirely in rhyme in her crisp voice, which helped us keep up, while Murray Mackay also narrated as storyteller Hans Christian Anderson.
Jennifer Greenwood and Keith Fraser were hilarious as the spaced out Sunbeam and Ziggy, who led their bell-bottomed buddies in a chorus of All You Need Is Love.
Lee Robson was suitably wicked as Henrik, cow-towing to ‘Her Frostiness’ with his terrible trolls. Bandit Fredrika (Georgia Young) turned out to be a poor robber, but great at singing and dancing (along with her chief Aimee Southwood). Then there was the mysterious Caw (Nicola Hastie), a helpful crow, who had the audience in stitches, and whimsical Blossom (Fiona Dunn), who spoke exclusively in flower puns. Sharon Young, as Rufus the Reindeer, also stood out as an experienced performer.
It was all really rather silly for a January evening, but by the end we were challenging each other to a Rufus the Reindeer song-a-thon and loving it. Who says Christmas comes but once a year?