EastEnders star Rita Simons is 'one of the best pantomime performers'

PUBLISHED: 11:56 28 September 2016 | UPDATED: 12:01 28 September 2016

Rita Simons is starring as the Wicked Queen in this year's production of Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs at the Alban Arena.

Rita Simons is starring as the Wicked Queen in this year's production of Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs at the Alban Arena.

Danny Loo Photography 2016

EastEnders star Rita Simons is set to leave the BBC One soap. But theatre audiences in St Albans will be able to see the actress play a wicked role on stage this Christmas in pantomime.

Rita Simons is starring as the Wicked Queen in this year's production of Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs at the Alban Arena.Rita Simons is starring as the Wicked Queen in this year's production of Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs at the Alban Arena.

Actress Rita Simons is best known for playing Roxy Mitchell in EastEnders alongside her screen sister Samantha Womack, who plays Ronnie Mitchell.

But the award-winning TV soap star will be swapping Albert Square for The Alban Arena this winter.

She will be appearing as the Wicked Queen in St Albans panto Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs from Thursday, December 8 to Sunday, January 8, 2017.

Having won plaudits for her panto debut at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury last Christmas, she will reprise the role in St Albans.

Talking to the Welwyn Hatfield Times over lunch in historic pub Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, Rita said: “I’m so excited to play the role again.

“Obviously last year it was all new to me. It was my first ever panto and I was very nervous.

“I didn’t know whether I was going to be able to pull it off, the panto genre.

“As it turned out, I slotted right in and absolutely loved it.”

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She added: “So last year I was nervous and apprehensive.

“Now that I’ve done one and I am playing the same role, I’m just excited, which is such a nice feeling.”

Set to leave EastEnders in an explosive forthcoming storyline, Rita is looking forward to appearing on stage just 15 minutes from home.

Alban Arena audiences are becoming familiar with EastEnders stars making the short journey up the road from BBC Elstree, with Rita’s screen father, Larry Lamb, as well Steve McFadden, aka Phil Mitchell, and Jake ‘Max Branning’ Wood having also followed the same route out of E20 in recent years.

This year's cast of Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs at the Alban Arena.This year's cast of Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs at the Alban Arena.

Ian Kirkby, who will appear alongside Rita this winter, knows what to expect from the actress.

The Whitstable resident saw Rita in last year’s Canterbury panto and was blown away by the EastEnders favourite’s performance.

“I have to say I’m very looking forward to working with Rita,” said Ian, who will play Herman the Henchman in Snow White.

“She did it last year and she was absolutely fantastic.”

Evolution’s Paul Hendy, who will write and direct the show, also thinks Arena audiences are in for a treat, after first casting Rita in last year’s Kent production.

He said: “She was brilliant in Canterbury. She was one of the best performers in panto I’ve ever seen.

“Now bearing in mind I’ve been producing them for 11 years, and I was a performer in pantomime for 25 years, Rita is one of the best, if not the best, pantomime performer I’ve seen.

“She’s that good.

“Last year she was so nervous about going on and she just went out there and really nailed it.

“I think the people of St Albans are in for a real treat. They will be very surprised.”

• Tickets are available from The Alban Arena website at www.alban-arena.co.uk or by calling the box office on 01727 844488.

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