The Snow Queen : Rock ‘N’ Roll Panto – Icy Thrills!

The Snow Queen is playing at The New Wolsey Theatre until 24th December 2020 (click here for more details). The Snow Queen is a brand new re-imagined piece, written by The New Wolsey Theatre Artistic Director, Peter Rowe.

This Rock ‘n’ Roll panto features iconic songs like Let’s Get Loud, If I Had a Hammer, I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), I Can See Clearly Now and Love on Top, The Snow Queen’ and is a mix of music, mischief and mayhem. Continuing the tradition of the theatre making their productions accessible to all. All performances either live or live streamed, will have captioning and audio description options for all performances with a British Sign Language (BSL) version on 23rd December at 7pm (which will replace the captioned element for this performance).

Each performance is available to book for the auditorium (limited seats due to the excellent Covid restrictions that the theatre has put in place) or to watch live from home. Each live stream is not simply a camera pointed at the stage but an experience for all using a great interactive approach making it enthralling and enjoyable for both the auditorium audience and the audience at home.

If you book for a live stream performance, the link for the performance is sent to you in good time before the performance enabling you time to log in and get ready to watch.

The New Wolsey Theatre is a great venue in Ipswich and has been a champion of making the performing arts accessible to all and is aiming to normalise the presence of deaf and disabled people on and off the stage and is one of the founding members of the ground breaking Ramps On The Moon consortium. It has a 400 seat main auditorium and has developed a reputation for producing excellent musical productions, often employing actor-musicians for its annual Rock ‘n’ Roll pantomime and this year The Snow Queen is no exception.

The story begins in the peaceful little town of Ballbroken, where Gerda is about to be crowned the Queen of May, the blacksmith’s apprentice Simon Clinkerbin is hoping to graduate from Blacksmith College and get his very own hammer, and Dame Sigrid Smorgasbord has prepared a magnificent May Day feast. All is going well but when in an attempt to destroy The Snow Queen’s dark powers and banish her forever, Primrose, Spirit of the Spring, smashes the Snow Queen’s cursed mirror, only making matters worse!

With love is blossoming between Sigrid’s young son Kay, and Gerda, the blacksmith’s daughter, will revenge be taken by The Snow Queen? What will she do? What will happen? Will love win?

The set is a simple one which consists of two snow covered log cabins on stage left and right with the one on stage left having a set of stairs on the outside to the upper level (good for appearances of characters). Middle stage rear is the band area which are surrounded by a perspex screens (for Covid requirements) and at various times the actors take positions to perform and accompany the action. This area remains visible until the final scenes where, it is replaced by the Ice Kingdom’s Throne and steps area. Above the band is a projection screen where images and videos are streamed as needed for the production, such as The Snow Queen’s arrival on her sleigh or the trek to the Ice Kingdom by the Dame and Gerda. What works well is that when a video has a character disappearing on the left of the screen, that character will appear from the same side of the stage which adds to the realism of the effect. An interactive element is bought in on two accounts. Firstly at the interval there is time to vote (via Twitter or Facebook) for the name of the hammer used in the story and secondly, when you purchase a ticket to watch at home you can opt in to build a hammer which will be collected live and delivered to the set for use – a greta touch. Despite a simple set, it works really well for the production and is an excellent backdrop to the action.

A cast of five bring the production to life and are a talented bunch, switching between playing a character and becoming part of the band or backing singers during the song performances.

The Gang’s All Here!
From left to right – Gerda (Lucy Wells), Kay (Adam Langstaff), Dame Sigrid Smorgasbord (Steve Simmonds), Primrose (Natasha Lewis) and Simon (James Haggie)
[photo credit Mike Kwasniak]

James Haggie (playing Icicle / Simon and Guitar and Base) is great at the two roles. As an evil henchman, Icicle, in shinny silver and white frilled costume with a silver face, he manages to deliver the lines clearly and with enough evil to make the ‘boo’ character but nit ti scare the smaller members of the audience. As Simon, the apprentice blacksmith, he has a high pitched, squeaky voice that allows the audience to differentiate the two characters from the same but also creates a lovable, slightly naive character, that the audience warms to and shows this with the ‘ahhhh’ moments. As a member of the band he clearly knows the score well and this ensures that there is a great support from him in the band.

Lucy Wells (playing Gerda and Sax and Keys) is great as the love interest and strong Female lead character. She manages to portray the love for Kay (Adam Langstaff) but also that she is an independent woman too. She has a great strong singing voice and this is particularly noticeable in her duet with Primrose (Natasha Lewis) and during the finale. As a member of the band she manages to swap into character well from playing and has moments of genius on the Sax!

Steve Simmonds (playing Dame Sigrid Smorgasbord and Bass and Guitar) as the Dame he is excellent, being bold, brash, loud and comical. Using a deep voice and accent, he delivers some belting lines and jokes (some are aimed at the elder child or adult!) and manages to ad lib some lines too! In a bright costume, loud wig and make up he manages to be bold and brash as needed. He is one of the main characters within the panto, being on stage quite often (with one scene entirely to himself) yet he manages to ‘share’ the stage well and not take ‘over’ which can sometimes be the case with other shows I have seen. He brings the story along nicely and allows the cast to ‘fit together’ to make the scenes. I loved the amount of quick fire joke that came from the shopping trolley!

Adam Langstaff (playing Sven Lumphammer / Kay And Drums) is great as the elderly father of Simon (James Haggie) Lumphammer, who is old and frail and has an eye for Dame Sigrid Smorgasbord (Steve Simmonds). He manages too bring some slapstick moments too. As Kay, the love interest for Gerda (Lucy Wells) , he is both dashing and slightly stupid too which adds to the story line. He has a strong voice and that is used well for the character and for the moments of song, especially his solo number. As a member of the band he manages to swap between them

Natasha Lewis (playing Primrose and The Snow Queen) is great as Primrose, the Spirit Of The Spring, and manages to bring an air of lightness and calm to proceedings. She has a great voice that is used well for the songs and for the character. I loved her use of the stage and the use of the trapdoor for entrance and exits. As The Snow Queen she is bold and graceful and plays a good villain with an evil touch (her villainous laugh on exit at times works well). She has a great singing voice and this is used well especially for her solo numbers and for the duet with Gerda (Lucy Wells).

Overall this is a great fun production with catchy music, strong acting and a brings a breath of fresh air to Panto with its Rock ‘n’ Roll style. Yeah it’s corny in places, jokes abound and it’s fun to guess the song that maybe coming up but above all you’ll leave the production (whether life or streamed!) entertained, smiling and full of Christmas Panto warmth!

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