Aldershot’s festive offering is a traditional, vibrant and very polished panto. There’s not a hint of smuttiness and the performances are all strong. The cast members are completely in control of the chaos, handling the audience interaction with warmth, good humour and confidence.
Rachel Lea-Gray’s Belle isn’t looking for a handsome prince, she just wants to find someone kind. She initially falls for the Beast’s extensive library and is soon dancing with him round his elegant ballroom.
The pace of Robert Hopkins’ production hardly ever flags and James Barry’s script is peppered with entertainingly modern references and local jokes about the relative attractiveness of people from Woking.
There’s an entertaining Strictly Come Dancing-style treatment of Belle and the Beast’s first dance together and the music is a delightfully diverse selection from Ed Sheeran to Wilson Phillips to the Nolans.
The highlight of the show is Kluane Saunders’ turn as Fairy Fifi and Tom Capper as Flambé, with the cranking up up their French accents to ‘Allo ‘Allo! levels. Samuel Wright as conceited Gaston, who jeers at the audience’s “predictability” for booing him, delivers a winning combination of wit and wickedness.