With three successful pantomimes already under its belt it’s hardly surprising that producer Chris Haylett’s Guild Hall Productions should gain confidence with each successive year.
So apart from a few new faces, a couple of more current songs, the mysterious loss of the golden egg-laying hen and a slight tweaking to the apparently compulsory ghost sketch, it’s business very much as usual.
That means Ted, as Dame Trott, predictably fluffing some of the gags that even the youngest kids can quote verbatim (but they love him all the same) and the strange panto habit of bursting into pop songs at less than the slightest excuse.
Leah Bracknell (Emmderdale’s former Zoe Tate – above left) is a highspot as the giddiest Fairy Peapod this side of Amanda Barrie in her prime and Blackpool favourites The Harper Brothers are also winners (particularly in a Lord of the Dance routine) even if they do increasingly come over as a young Cannon and Ball – but then as they’re Bobby Ball’s sons that’s no shock.
Jodie Hamblet as Jill is a likeable Charter regular and once Thomas Milner) either learns to deliver a joke or stops telling them at all he’ll be more relaxed.
Children In Need’s Pudsey Bear makes his mostly silent pantomime debut and Joseph Cawley is unsung “hero” as a most impressive giant.
Plenty of able support (notably Lucy Faint as Lucy and Warren Donnelly as a none-too-scary Fleshcreep) plus attractive senior dancers and well drilled juniors from the Sandham Fitchett School of Performing Arts makes for a quality addition to the North West’s panto canon.