Dear Mummy, we’re very lucky with the wealth of pantomines on offer in Hampshire during the festive period. We visited Princes Hall in Aldershot to see their adaptation of Beauty and the Beast and were pleasantly surprised having never been to this theatre before.
Heading to the panto has become a tradition in our family and synonymous with Christmas. It was my first theatrical experience and always helps to get me in the festive mood! As soon as we walked through the doors at Princes Hall, staff were friendly and welcoming. Lots of people were dressed up in their festive best and even though it’s a smaller venue it made up for size in charm. We eagerly took our seats and joined a full house of families flicking through their programmes and playing with the many different light sticks available.
Led by ‘Fifi’ the French Fairy, we followed Belle and the cast on a wonderful rendition of the classic story Beauty and the Beast. The prince was placed under an evil spell by the enchantress. We follow the beast on his journey to love and be loved in return until the spell is broken. There’s a theme of inner beauty and kindness, such an important message for me to learn.
The performance packed a punch and was loud and proud as Robert Hopkins had “the best Dame in the business” Donovan Christian-Cary playing Rosie-Lee for this knockout of a show. There was plenty of slapstick comedy and some of the best dancing we’ve EVER seen in a local panto. The dance troop should be proud, they did an amazing job which even had my mummy saying WOW. The scenery and costumes made this a beauty of a panto to behold!
Beauty and the Beast marked Robert’s 25th consecutive pantomime at the venue as producer and director, as well as Donovan’s 15th consecutive show. He’s a very funny man too as the character of Coggins and the jokes were all family friendly without a hint of smuttiness or politics. Any Panto that manages to incorporate the Time Warp is a good one in my parents eyes but having YMCA as well was just genius.
Rachel Lea-Gray who played Belle gave a strong performance and her singing was great and had me bobbing along to Panic at the Disco and other chart including songs from Ed Sheeran and Take That. However our favourite characters were Kluane Saunders, as Fairy Fifi and Tom Capper as Flambé, with ‘Allo ‘Allo! French accents which had my folks raising a smile.
It was hard to beat a Disney adaptation of Beauty and the Beast and it had my folks comparing it to the film, however they did a pretty good job. Looking around at the audience throughout the night, there were nothing but smiles, wide eyes and hooting with laughter especially when we heard another rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas. We particular liked the Strictly Come Dancing-style version of Belle and the Beast’s first dance together which had me reaching for my invisible scorecard.
There were a number of occasions where I literally couldn’t stay in my seat I was so engrossed in the performance. We all left the theatre buzzing and as we drove back home. We even tried singing their version of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’. It’s a great introduction for kids into the razzle dazzle of theatre and we loved that they helped raise money for The Rock and Pop Foundation. Clearly Princes Hall is a theatre that keeps on giving well after Christmas.
Love Bella x
Disclosure: We were invited to see the performance in order to review. All smiles and hand clapping were our own.