PANTO REVIEW: Doncaster Cast's Jack and The Beanstalk is a giant success!
It's panto time again - oh yes it is!
It doesn't seem five minutes since I was sat in the stalls at Cast last year, awaiting curtain-up on Doncaster's 2015 seasonal spectacular.
But 12 months on, here we are again for another festive helping of slapstick, silliness and songs and a dip once more into the very traditional world of the British pantomime.
With such a tried and tested rigid format, it can be hard to come up with new ideas and keep the crowds coming back year after year when the show is pretty much the same tale.
Good vs evil, men dressed as women, women dressed as men, corny gags, singalongs - yes, they are all still present and correct in Cast's festive fayre - but there's so much more to enjoy too.
For this year, Cast can quite rightly give itself a well-deserved pat on the back, for this year's show is Britain's first fully British Sign Language integrated panto.
With Doncaster being home to one of the biggest deaf communities outside London, show organisers have taken upon themselves to make sure every performance is signed - and no signer at the side of the stage here - Fairy Fingers (Becky Barry), who has the unenviable task of spending the entire night on stage, is right in the thick of the action throughout.
Set in Beancaster (wonder where that could be), Jack is played with gusto and refreshing Yorkshire grit by Emma Swan, coupled perfectly with Chris Hogben who takes on the traditional dame role with plenty of sauciness, crackers costumes and seasonal smut.
What makes Cast's pantos so special is that the entire ensemble also provide the music themselves - singing and playing a wide variety of musical instruments to keep the show ticking over at a brisk pace.
There's plenty of slightly amended chart hits helping to tell the tale - and of course, the traditional singalong bit towards the end that leaves everyone exiting into the cool night air on a high.
Of course, there's the usual chance to boo and hiss - Esther Grace Button (Penny Pincher) and Nicholas Coutu-Langmead (Mean Melvin) work perfectly as money-grabbing tax collectors while Niall Kerrigan is at the centre of possibly the highlight of the show, a comical market scene involving potatoes. But we'll not spoil the jokes and leave it at that!
Elizabeth Robin completes the main cast as Princess Bette and delivers a polished performance as the archetypal damsel in distress - as well as showcasing a superb singing voice.
There's audience participation (worry if you've got tickets for the first few rows) and plenty of little tricks and treats that will have you gasping and giggling.
All in all, Cast has once again produced another panto that's at the very top of the Christmas tree - a giant success and a big hit. Oh yes it is!
And here's what our junior reviewers made of it...
LUC BURKE-LEJEUNE, 12
"It was really funny. The best bit was one they got someone on stage - I thought that was brilliant. There were some good jokes and the songs are great too."
ALEXEI BURKE-LEJEUNE, 10
"The scene in the market with the potatoes was really funny - I was laughing my head off at that bit. I really enjoyed it."
KATIE PEARSON, 8
"It was awesome. I loved every minute of it. The dame was really funny."
* Jack And The Beanstalk, by Matthew Bugg and Tobias Oliver, runs at Cast until December 31. Tickets are available on (01302) 303959 or at www.castindoncaster.com