Danielle Wright meets the star of the Royal New Zealand Ballet's season of Angelina Ballerina's Big Audition and finds out why she encourages children to talk through her shows.
Ballet has never seemed the easiest of professions. Add a mouse costume and a heavy mask and it's no wonder Bridgett Letters, who plays Angelina Ballerina in the production, gets a bit of audience encouragement.
"It's great when the kids clap along with the music, cheer the characters they know and shout out whatever they think during the show," says Letters.
"It's so funny to hear the children's version of the story and see they are enjoying themselves. It's great to hear that."
Having her husband in the production in the role of her on-stage prince must also help. She also mentions the thrill of seeing a sea of mouse ears and ballet skirts when the lights go up, which stops her feeling too nervous. So remember to dress up a little on the day.
For those who have somehow escaped the charms of Angelina Ballerina, she is the mouse made famous by Katherine Holabird and Helen Craig's picture books and later franchise, including television programmes and merchandise.
Angelina Ballerina's Big Audition is the stage-version, originally an English National Ballet production, which features dancers from Australia and New Zealand, plus a cast who performed with the English National Ballet.
The plot revolves around Angelina preparing for her most important performance - in front of a judge from the Camembert Academy. She wonders whether she will be good enough and if her dreams will ever come true - thoughts many of the young audience will identify with as they will her to do great things.
Apart from the sweet story featuring many of the old and new friends fans have grown to love, such as Alice, Marco, Gracie and Vicky, there's also music from many different ballets, including The Nutcracker, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.
It also features a diverse range of dance, from tap to hip-hop, traditional ballet and contemporary dance.
Royal NZ's managing director, Amanda Skoog says, "Angelina Ballerina's Big Audition doesn't try to be clever or go off on a tangent.
"It's a true rendition of the books and doesn't dumb it down. It's about quality for the younger audience."
This is something the adults in the audience will no doubt also be grateful for.
If you have a ballet-mad daughter or son, grab your mouse ears, put on your best ballet skirt and head along - it's one of the only times you'll be able to encourage your children to shout out at the ballet.
To the pointe
Angelina Ballerina's Big Audition is about an hour long with a short interval, and is constructed for preschoolers up to 9 years old. Dates are:
Palmerston North: March 18; New Plymouth: March 21; Rotorua: March 23; Tauranga: March 25; Whangarei: March 28; Hamilton: March 31; Napier: April 4; Hastings: April 6; Auckland: April 11-13; Takapuna: April 15; Wellington: April 19-21; Blenheim: April 24; Ashburton: April 28-29; Invercargill: May 2; Dunedin: May 4; Timaru: May 6 .
For booking information visit nzballet.org.nz
Group bookings of more than eight available.