PORTSMOUTH, 1817, and Madame Crummles’ travelling theatre troupe are in town.
It is into this Dickensian world that Beauty and her brother Will get swept up – and before they know it, they’re lost in the Forest of Bere and taking refuge in a mysterious castle.
And so the scene is set for The New Theatre Royal’s Christmas show – a reimagining of Beauty and The Beast, written by Scott Ramsay, the theatre’s chief executive.
Scott has gone back to the story’s roots and adapted it to take in the local area, and even refer to real-life period events.
Scott said: ‘Beauty and the Beast felt right for the New Theatre Royal this year. People think they know it well and they’re comfortable with it.
‘It’s 60 years since it was done here as an in-house Christmas show as well, so that had a nice ring to it.’
‘It’s very much a family Christmas musical – lots of entertainment, lots of slapstick.
‘It’s a cross between big musical extravaganza, entertaining, lots of comedy, but it’s not quite panto, but there’s an equally strong character in there – Madame Crummles.’
He’s also been keen not to follow the typical panto path of casting celebrities.
‘It’s been great fun and I like to build the cast’s personalities into it – they’re all really strong performers,’ he added.
‘We’ve not gone down the route of getting someone who’s come from a reality TV show, or something like that. We’re concentrating on quality, because we want the strongest show possible – at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.’
Beauty will be played by Kirsty Anne Shaw, while Beast is played by Craig Golding, and both are keen to get acquainted with the area when they’re down here for the show.
‘This is my first time in Portsmouth,’ said Craig. ‘I trained in Guildford, so I wasn’t too far from here. I’m looking forward to exploring the area when I’m down here again.’
Kirsty added: ‘I’m from the other end of the country – Scotland. I’ve never been here before either. I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far, so I can’t wait to come back for the show.’
The show will run at the Guildhall Walk theatre from December 14 to 31. Preview tickets start from £14.
Go to newtheatreroyal.com or call the box office on (023) 9264 9000.